After fans of the 12-year-old Nintendo fighter Super Smash Bros. Melee battled long and hard to get their game on the roster at EVO 2013, the industry’s premiere fighting game tournament, Nintendo pulled the plug at the last moment. The announcement appeared on EVO organizer Tom Cannon’s site Shoryuken.com:
“Regrettably, we’ve just been informed by Nintendo of America Inc. that we do not have permission to broadcast Super Smash Bros.Melee for EVO 2013.”
Melee would still be a part of the tournament, but it was removed from the streaming broadcast, rescheduled to an out-of-the-way time, and its audience left completely out of the picture.
A major backlash on social media hit Nintendo almost instantly and went viral.
Just three and a half hours after the initial announcement, Nintendo reversed course. Shoryuken updated its post:
“I’ve just received word from Nintendo that the Evo Smash Bros. Melee stream will be allowed to proceed. We will be restoring the original stream and tournament schedules. Obviously this is a huge relief for all of us here and we’re thrilled that the world will get to see the best Smash players fight it out this weekend. Thanks to everyone online who supported both Evo and Smash, and thanks to Nintendo for allowing us to stream their game.”
This marked Nintendo’s second major PR blunder in recent months. Last May, it decided to flex its digital rights by claiming revenue generated by YouTube videos featuring Nintendo games.
In two easy steps, the Kyoto-based company has burned some their best and most loyal brand advocates…fans who actively sought to evangelize Nintendo games and give them renewed exposure. Super Smash Bros. Melee’s appearance at EVO 2013, held in Las Vegas and streamed to a vast, worldwide audience, puts the aging game back on the international stage. By attempting to remove it from the schedule, Nintendo has only alienated their supporters at a time when the company needs them most. Sales of the Wii U console are still astonishingly weak.
It also suggests a certain tone deafness when it comes to what games as a service means. That could mean trouble for Nintendo’s future place in the game market, particularly given a recent announcement that its teams are developing a new free-to-play title. That genre relies heavily on a deep understanding of customer motivations and desires.
Nintendo has recently tried to establish more open communications with its community through its Nintendo Direct videos, but these recent actions show the conversation might be sadly one-sided.
EVO 2013 runs July 12-14.