Nintendo Plays 'Control Inception', Cancelling Splatoon Broadcast After Teams Protest Canceling Smash Bros. Tourney

from the will-slip-through-your-fingers dept

If you're one of what I assume are zillions of folks who come here for my rants about Nintendo, I owe you an apology. While I'm usually pretty good about bringing you every instance of Nintendo doing the Nintendo all over itself and its fans, one such instance from last month slipped through the cracks. The Big House is a high profile Super Smash Bros. tournament series and host. Unfortunately, Nintendo shut down what was supposed to be the latest tournament and broadcast of The Big House via a C&D notice. At issue appears to be the use of a mod called "slippi", a fan-made mod that basically unbroke the nearly two decades old game when it came to online play. Without getting too technical, the mod simply made the game perform well over internet connections, whereas it was previously essentially unplayable. Given that The Big House tournament was rendered virtual this year due to you-all-know-what, the mod was essential to running the tournament. From Nintendo:

Unfortunately, the upcoming Big House tournament announced plans to host an online tournament for Super Smash Bros. Melee that requires use of illegally copied versions of the game in conjunction with a mod called ‘Slippi’ during their online event. Nintendo therefore contacted the tournament organizers to ask them to stop. They refused, leaving Nintendo no choice but to step in to protect its intellectual property and brands. Nintendo cannot condone or allow piracy of its intellectual property.

Which is a misleading statement at best. While The Big House confirmed most of those details, it's also true that digitizing one's own video game collection is not "illegal copying". Unless Nintendo has reason to think players in the tournament were simply pirating the game, which would be insane, given the high profile nature of the tourney, that part of its statement is nonsense.

Nintendo does, however, meticulously control its image, how its games are broadcast, and any modifications to its games, a la the slippi mod.

And, apparently, it may also play authoritarian when it comes to how the players of its games choose to express their displeasure at Nintendo's actions. That's the speculation, given that just this past weekend, Nintendo pulled the broadcast for a Splatoon 2 tournament that was notable pretty much solely because a healthy chunk of the participating teams chose team names protesting the cancellation of The Big House.

Word of an issue broke to the public at large on Saturday evening when a gamer who goes by the name Slimy Tweeted that “the Splatoon community, in support of the Smash community, has 30% of the top teams in this weekend’s Spl2 NA Open with Team names in support of Melee and Smash.” They then noted that Nintendo then canceled plans to livestream the event. The tweet went viral.

Was it really the existence of team names such as InC #FreeMelee, Melee Nation, and #FreeMelee 227 that made Nintendo drop the stream? The company isn’t saying and hasn’t responded to Kotaku’s requests for comments.

Notably, when gaming sites asked Nintendo whether this was the reason, the company responded: "La, la, la, I can't heeeeaar you!" Battlefy, the company hosting the event on Nintendo's behalf, issued a vague statement saying the broadcast had to be cancelled due to "unexpected executional challenges." Few in the Splatoon community appeared to believe this.

A fan-run streaming organization, however, had no issues taking over... and taking a shot at Nintendo at the same time, with more clever naming of this replacement tournament.

On Sunday morning, EndGameTV, a fan-run Splatoon and Smash streaming organization not connected to Nintendo, announced that the group, with the help of fans, would hold its own Splatoon 2 finals. The event would be called “The Squid House” a direct reference to The Big House. The Splatoon 2 teams who were supposed to play that day in the official Nintendo event dropped out of the tournament just hours before they were supposed to play, leading to the event not being held. On the Battlefy page for the event, the top four section seems to have been removed.

The Squid House competition, which was organized overnight, was held as planned on December 6, with team FTWaveDash winning the event and the prize pool of $25,000, which had been raised by fans during the tournament. The competition also raised over $3,000 for charity. According to Slimy, The Squid House prize pool was the largest seen in any western-held Splatoon 2 tournament.

And so, in an effort simply to play Grand Moff Tarkin and squeeze its fist around its own community, Nintendo instead allowed a fan-run streaming site to put on what might be the most successful Splatoon 2 tournament in our hemisphere. Success, it would seem, just not Nintendo's.

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Filed Under: cease and desist, mods, slippi, splatoon 2, super smash bros., the big house, tournaments
Companies: nintendo


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  • icon
    Samuel Abram (profile), 9 Dec 2020 @ 6:31pm

    What could be done?

    This raises the question: what could be done? Nintendo will have to know that this hurt their bottom line, but there was a similar brou-ha-ha over Pokemon Sword and Shield and those games sold like gangbusters when they were released. Pirating the games will lead Nintendo to be be Nintendo. While this current kerfuffle went viral, twitter isn't real life, and a small minority of Nintendo's customer base knows about this scandal and an even smaller minority cares. It seems like Nintendo can get away with their strict and draconian IP enforcement that would land as PR nightmares for other companies because they can get away with it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Max, 9 Dec 2020 @ 8:05pm

      Re: What could be done?

      Ideally, as a bare minimum, Congress would amend the law to directly classify broadcasting and recording video game gameplay as fair use. This would directly foreclose any attempts by game producers to control streaming of their game.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Dec 2020 @ 9:38pm

      Re: What could be done?

      Pirating the games will lead Nintendo to be be Nintendo.

      Which is the best answer here.

      Nintendo already blames it's poor performance and sales on "piracy." (Note: Just like any other media industry company does when they fail to meet projections.) Nintendo also treats it's customers as de facto common criminals. May as well own it.

      After all, Nintendo isn't going to change until it's behavior hits it's pocket book directly. We've also had plenty of people (even YouTubers) call for this already. It's not a new concept. Will it effect Nintendo's behavior at all? Probably not, but at least they'll be getting less money over all, and at this point, that's a good thing.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Knott Yet-Cott, 9 Dec 2020 @ 9:37pm

    Think you intended to write "modifying":

    digitizing [?] one's own video game collection is not "illegal copying"

    No idea what "digitizing" already digital bytes could mean other than that you were drunk when wrote.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Knott Yet-Cott, 9 Dec 2020 @ 9:37pm

      Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

      Anyhoo, assuming "modifying", then NO... But whenever copies of the file are made for other than your own private archiving, it's ILLEGAL. So says me, millions of copyright owners including Nintendo, and nearly every US judge: the few judges who don't will be corrected on appeal.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Dec 2020 @ 10:00pm

        Re: Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

        whenever copies of the file are made for other than your own private archiving, it's ILLEGAL.

        Which would also make any use of such archived copies illegal. As they were no-longer solely being used for archival. As such there's no reason to make them.

        A.K.A. The obvious contradiction in the law created by the DMCA that SCOTUS refused to clarify and deferred back to Congress over 15 years ago. Still waiting on a response.

        Meanwhile pretty much everyone, the public and the industry, agreed that pursuing clarification would be a bad idea. (Everyone would walk away from that legal and lobbying fight very unhappy.)

        Sorry. Not buying it. Your argument is effectively: "It's still my house after first sale. So the current owner cannot paint it in a way I disapprove of." (House = Game data, paint = diff file applied with a patching program.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 10 Dec 2020 @ 4:58am

        Re: Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

        "So says me"

        I do love it when people argue from authority without stating what their authority is. It helps work out who is arguing in good faith, and who can be safely disregarded.

        "millions of copyright owners"

        Millions of other copyright owners support DRM-free, CC licenced or otherwise less restrictively licenced works, and believe that archiving culture is more important than profit. Yet, they are ignored...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Samuel Abram (profile), 10 Dec 2020 @ 5:01am

          Re: Re: Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

          Millions of other copyright owners support DRM-free, CC licenced or otherwise less restrictively licenced works, and believe that archiving culture is more important than profit. Yet, they are ignored...

          I am one such person.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Knott Yet-Cott, 9 Dec 2020 @ 9:40pm

      Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

      This isn't even a good rant. You seem to be avoiding your usual "medieval-ish technobabble", and oddly, so too do "accounts".

      "what I assume are zillions of folks" -- HA, HA! Masnick won't tell you, or us, even vague number of page views any more because it's LOW and continues to drop. If even one percent of readers comment, it's REAL LOW.

      Would have been one comment except whatever mystery process didn't accept it until cut down and "Resend" six or seven times.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Max, 9 Dec 2020 @ 9:40pm

      Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

      He is referring to copying the game from the optical discs on which it was originally sold to other storage media so as to play the game through an emulator.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Knott Yet-Cott, 9 Dec 2020 @ 9:42pm

        Re: Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

        He is referring to copying the game from the optical discs on which it was originally sold to other storage media so as to play the game through an emulator.

        A) That's still digital, isn't it? What, you put the CD on scanner bed and "digitize" it? Or use a normal drive?

        B) THEN IT IS ILLEGAL.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          TFG, 10 Dec 2020 @ 8:16am

          Re: Re: Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

          A) That's still digital, isn't it? What, you put the CD on scanner bed and "digitize" it? Or use a normal drive?

          Don't be a putz. The cartridge, disc, what have you is "physical media."

          Transferring that to a hard drive or SSD or such is "digitizing it."

          B) THEN IT IS ILLEGAL.

          Calling your bluff: Quote law that says making digital backups of personally owned and purchased media for personal use is illegal.

          I'll wait.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Cdaragorn (profile), 10 Dec 2020 @ 9:36am

          Re: Re: Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

          It's called format shifting. Look it up. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Format_shifting

          Despite your continued insistence, archiving is not the only purpose recognized as sitting strongly within fair use.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Knott Yet-Cott, 9 Dec 2020 @ 9:46pm

        Re: Re: Think you intended to write "modifying":

        See you've been hanging around on this topic 35 minutes at least, "Max", and responded quickly in middle of US night. Looks like you're quite a fan of Techdirt.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    GHB (profile), 10 Dec 2020 @ 2:57am

    Let's not forget this

    They shut down Etika Joycons, as well as being a threat to abandonware.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    bwburke94 (profile), 10 Dec 2020 @ 2:58am

    Slippi the Red Herring

    Slippi is not a mod for the game; it's a mod for the emulator, which was legally reverse-engineered. This means Slippi does not include any of Nintendo's IP.

    Nintendo knows this, which is why their legal threat was against The Big House (for the monetized Twitch stream) rather than the developers of Slippi.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 10 Dec 2020 @ 5:05am

    Under EU law that sounds very much like a modification required for interoperability, which is explicitly excluded from copyright restrictions and anti-reverse engineering rules. That is, Nintendo appears to be claiming rights they simply do not have.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 11 Dec 2020 @ 8:39am

    Gotta love when these idiots leave tons of money on the table because of their greed to control every penny.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 11 Dec 2020 @ 8:48am

      Re:

      Yeah, in any sane boardroom, “people are doing this without permission because there’s no scenario where we let them pay for permission” should be a major red flag...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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