Every fall since 2011, some of the best Super Smash Bros. Melee players in the world would flock to the Ann Arbor/Dearborn, MI area for a major tournament known as The Big House (TBH).
The ongoing pandemic forced the organizers to pivot to an online tournament this year. However, a cease and desist order from Nintendo quickly erased those plans for the Melee tournament.
Last night (Nov. 19), an announcement of the event’s cancellation was posted on The Big House Twitter account, citing a cease and desist order from Nintendo of America.
Without any additional background, this may seem like deja vu of EVO 2013 where Nintendo almost shut down the Melee stream and tournament.
But this time around, the situation is a bit different since tournament entrants weren’t going to be playing on legitimate GameCube setups. Since the classic Nintendo console has no built-in option for connecting to the internet, competitors would be required to play using an emulator on PC.
The latest Melee mod that this tournament was going to require players to use is named Project Slippi. The biggest feature of this fan-made mod is the addition of rollback netplay which allows for nearly lagless online play. It’s currently the best alternative to playing Melee in person on a CRT.
While Slippi itself is not technically illegal, it can currently only run on a PC that’s using a ROM of Super Smash Bros. Melee, which is not a legal version of the game. Occasionally, people will make the argument that ROMs as backups are completely fine, but Nintendo has made it clear that they don’t necessarily agree.
When Slippi launched back in June, many professional players sang its praises with one (Leffen) even calling it the future of Melee. But even back then, the legal standing was a bit unclear. Still, tournaments have been going on using the mod since this summer with absolutely no intervention from Nintendo.
Everyone was shining, shield dropping, and wavedashing to their heart’s content. That is, up until the honeymoon period ended last night with a single tweet.
In an instant, it felt like Melee was going back to the dark times where Nintendo was trying to shut down tournaments and #freemelee was even trending on Twitter. But, we all really should have seen it coming.
If Nintendo of America (NoA) had tried shutting down tournaments and streams that used completely legitimately obtained games and hardware in the past, then there should have been no doubt that they were eventually going to come for Slippi tournaments.
On top of that, NoA doesn’t have a great history with fan-made projects. The takedowns of Another Metroid 2 Remake (AM2R) and the HD Super Mario 64 remake are glaring reminders of what Nintendo is capable of doing to fan-made projects.
There was writing all over the wall that Nintendo was eventually going to put their foot down on Slippi tournaments simply because of their history with fan projects.
While it’s not entirely shocking, this cease and desist order is absolutely disheartening to the Melee community.
There’s currently no way to play Melee online that’s 100% legal and now NoA has set an extremely discouraging precedent with this cease and desist order that they will not allow online melee tournament streams if Slippi is being used.
Just to clarify, Nintendo hasn’t yet issued a cease and desist to the developers of Slippi and that seems unlikely at the moment since the mod isn’t the part that’s technically illegal.
And it appears that this only applies to North America since there’s currently a stream of a European-based Melee bracket running on Twitch.
Maybe European hosting will be the answer for the Melee community since they likely won’t be allowed in NA for the foreseeable future. Still, the Slippi tournaments had a good run while they lasted here, but we absolutely should have seen this coming from Nintendo.
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