Nintendo has recently caught themselves up in some controversy throughout the months of November and December for actions that have left a sour taste in community members and gamers alike. While Nintendo has a history for causing strife within their fanbase, recently the consecutive actions of the company have left fans questioning the morality of the company they love.
Recently, the Super Smash Bros. competitive scene has been forced to hold tournaments online due to the COVID-19 pandemic still present in the US. Naturally, tournaments have been hosted to keep the competitive fire alive; however, there was one game that had not seen the competitive light since the start of the pandemic. Super Smash Bros. Melee, released in 2001, did not have an online mode, so there had not been a major tournament for 8 months.
However, Jas “Fizzi” Laferriere, a software engineer and fan of the game, created a mod for the game called Slippi. This modification allowed players to play Super Smash Bros. Melee online, with anyone around the world. The community was grateful for this, and it was used in the season’s biggest tournament, The Big House 10. It was scheduled for Dec. 4-6 and included Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the most recent installment of the series with its own online mode, and Super Smash Bros. Melee, using the new Slippi program. After months of preparations and announcements, Nintendo ordered a “cease and desist” stopping all operations of the events immediately.
The Big House announced on Nov. 19 that due to the usage of Slippi, they were not allowed to host or broadcast the event. This sparked a lot of issues in the community, and most were not afraid to voice their issues with the choice that Nintendo made. Some professionals made their statements, and countless others made memes, poking fun at Nintendo. Out of this event, the hashtag, “FreeMelee” went trending on Twitter.
While Nintendo had the right to end the tournament, as it is their intellectual property, many fans argued that there is no other way to play the game. Until now, the game has been played on the console it was made for, in person, for the past 20 years. Many argued that emulating the game is not illegal if the game is owned, and many claim the cease and desist was issued due to the lack of knowledge Nintendo has on the Slippi mod.
Nintendo has a history of taking down fan mods of games, such as taking down fanmade games of Pokémon and Super Mario 64.
“People are trying to have tournaments on a game that’s almost 20 years old, without an online system, so when they shut it down during a pandemic, it’s not cool,” Prep sophomore Aidan Richter said.
This hashtag sparked another controversy in a different gaming community. Splatoon 2, a game on the Nintendo switch, was holding an online tournament. The North America Open was scheduled for Dec. 5-6 and had many of the game’s top teams participating. There were no issues in the tournament itself; however, Nintendo ended up canceling the livestream of the finals. Pro Player and Commentator, SlimyQuagsire, announced that Nintendo had cancelled it most likely because 30 percent of the teams in the tournament had names in support of Melee,with some teams fully changing their name to include “FreeMelee.” As a response to Nintendo, the community hosted an unofficial event for Splatoon 2, including the top four teams in North America. The community raised over $28,000 for the tournament prize pool in a few hours. They capped the pool at $25,000 with any extra money going towards charity.
However, what caught most fans off guard was the cease and desist Nintendo issued to custom shells made for the Nintendo Switch controllers, the Joy-Cons. The shells were made in honor of a Nintendo fan Desmond Amofah, who died in June 2019. Desmond made videos under the YouTube username “Etika” and was considered one of the best Nintendo YouTubers by the community. The shells were designed to raise awareness and money, with proceeds going to the JED Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that is set to protect emotional health and prevents suicide in teens and young adults.
Community member CptnAlex made the Etika themed shells and said that Nintendo made him change his design due to the use of the Joy Con logo on controller. The controllers were a case of copyright infringement. The cease and desist sparked outrage in the community, primarily because the controllers raised money to be donated. CptnAlex assured the community that he is making a new design; however, many community members and gamers alike were enraged by Nintendo as all these events had happened in the span of two-and-a-half weeks.
While Nintendo has the legal right to enforce these cease and desists, the fans bring up an issue of morality. Many say that just because Nintendo can do it, doesn’t mean it should be done. It brings in the concept of legality vs. morality. Unfortunately, Nintendo has always had a history of this.
Aidan Richter said,“Overall, I love Nintendo, but they suck when is comes to this kind of stuff.”