The Big House Online was set to be the next major Super Smash Bros. online event, having events for both Ultimate and Melee before Nintendo completely shut down the tournament.
Nintendo issued a cease and desist order primarily due to The Big House’s planned usage of Slippi netplay, a mod of Super Smash Bros. Melee that allows for rollback netcode and integrated matchmaking.
The cease and desist applies to both the Ultimate and Melee events, despite the primary focus being Melee’s usage of Slippi, meaning the entire The Big House Online event has been cancelled.
This decision by Nintendo has drawn considerable backlash from the competitive Super Smash Bros. communities, as well as the broader fighting game community and esports scene at large. Several streamers have also come out in support of the Melee’s community grassroot efforts, with the hashtag “#FreeMelee” becoming a top trending tag in North America on Thursday.
Several were quick to point out this is the second major intrusion of Nintendo upon the competitive Melee community, after Nintendo attempted to stop the EVO 2013 Melee event from happening and being streamed.
While that ended up being overturned due to the negative backlash, this situation will be much more difficult due to the use of a modded version of Melee, as well as the additional issues involving the prize money with the competition.
The community expressed their anger at Nintendo for clamping down on Slippi due to its role in keeping the Melee community active and engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic; several people pointed out the positive effect of Slippi in keeping people indoors and safe when they would otherwise risk having in-person events.
Various members of the community claimed that the usage of emulators in the United States are legal, and that because isos can be ripped from legally owned copies of the game, Slippi wasn’t necessarily breaking rules.
Lawyers who weighed in on the subject pointed out that due to it being Nintendo’s copyright, they are within their rights to demand that the event be shut down, and that mods using Nintendo’s IP or coding is illegal. Others pointed out that, while modding happens all the time, most companies turn a blind eye to it unless significant money and attention is involved, as with The Big House Online. Nintendo is increasingly cracking down on the usage of their IP when it comes to content creators and other creative pursuits, and it appears this was next in the line of fire.
While the community continues to be vocal and push for options, it’s unlikely for the situation to be reversed at this time; the ground Nintendo stands on is much more solid than it was in 2013, and it’s unlikely that the grassroots organizers of Smash tournaments will want to go to court against a giant like Nintendo.
A more thorough look at the legal situation of The Big House Online can be viewed here.