Super Smash Bros. Melee is a 20-year-old Nintendo game with a huge cult following; it's considered one of the best fighting games of all time. Nintendo abandoned it years ago, but the fans have kept it alive.
Fans used Dolphin (an emulation environment that can simulate the Gamecube and Wii) and mods from Slippi that let users play head-to-head over the internet. This combo has enabled many gamers to turn pro, winning esports contracts.
All that was true before the pandemic. Now, with the world in lockdown, SSBM tournaments have only grown in popularity. The Big House was about to host one of the largest of these tournaments when Nintendo shut them down with a copyright threat.
In its statement to Kotaku, the company said it had "no choice" but to shut down the tournament because Slippi "requires use of illegally copied versions of the game" (this is categorically untrue).
I love the idea that the company has "no choice," as though an affronted lawyer is holding the entire executive team hostage with a suicide vest that'll blow if they don't sign off on the legal threat. Oh, you poor, defenseless, powerless things!
Slippi has allowed players to engage in competitive SSBM matches without risking life-threatening viral infections. The alternative to using Slippi is effectively abandoning SSBM.
Nintendo seems incapable of taking yes for an answer. A company that cared about profits - rather than soothing the ire of vindictive lawyers in suicide vests - would figure out how to harness this customer devotion, rather than punishing it.
They could license Slippi, or hire its developer, or incorporate it into a reissue of SSBM. They could sponsor the competition and use it to launch a mega-pack of beloved retro games. They could incorporate Dolphin into new consoles.
They could have parent-child tournaments where each team had one adult and one kid, and play required that they triumph in both a 20-year-old game and a modern update.
The existence of a viable 20-year-old product is a tiny miracle. Almost all creative works - books, games, music, movies - vanish after 10-15 years. The exceptions are the stuff that fortunes are made of.
Fuck, Nintendo could cash in by selling t-shirts and Funko toys. There are a million ways that the company could thank its most loyal customers for keeping the flame burning for DECADES. Instead, they're extinguishing the flame.
By pissing on it.
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