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Nintendo Probably Wants To Forget This Was Trending

On Dec. 5, a livestream of a Splatoon 2 tournament, called the North American Open, was unexpectedly canceled the day before its final rounds. Then the hashtags #freemelee and #freesplatoon began to trend on Twitter, both of which catalogued decisions made by Nintendo widely perceived to be against consumer interests. IGN detailed in full the series of events, which began in mid-November and are still ongoing, that spurred this coordinated outcry against these and other acts by Nintendo.

First up — and the reason Super Smash Bros. Melee is relevant to a Splatoon 2 tournament — is the latest Big House, which is a "supermajor" Smash tournament, was canceled over a dispute with Nintendo. In accordance with the ongoing pandemic, the organizers of The Big House planned an online version of what had been an in-person event in years past. Unlike Ultimate, Melee includes no online functionality, so the Melee competitors were going to use a mod called Slippi that adds in the ability to play online. Nintendo, however, requested that The Big House cease use of the mod, given that it requires a pirated version of Melee to run.

When The Big House didn't comply, Nintendo sent the tournament a cease-and-desist. Its organizers then decided to cancel the tournament altogether, rather than litigate its use of Slippi or continue without Melee. This kicked off spirited debate between those supporting and condemning Nintendo's conduct. While some commenters defended Nintendo's right to impede the use of pirated software, the other side argued that a pandemic amounts to extenuating circumstances. According to these gamers, without Slippi or a similar solution, Melee players can't safely compete as long as the pandemic continues.

This discourse then set the stage for more public outcry. First, the Splatoon 2 North American Open tournament was canceled, with its organizers citing "unexpected executional challenges." However, soon after, Twitter user @SlimyQuagsire, in a widely-shared post, argued that the real reason for the cancelation was that Nintendo likely withdrew support after witnessing a number of teams with some permutation of #freemelee in their name.

Finally, unrelated to these instances but nevertheless in the same vein and occuring around the same time, Nintendo sent a cease-and-desist to a custom Joy-Con creator named CptnAlex. Nintendo was requesting that he stop selling a pair of Joy-Cons designed in memory of YouTuber Etika, with all proceeds donated to a suicide prevention charity. That happened in September of this year, but has reentered the discourse in light of the pair of tournament cancellations.

These aren't the only times this year that Nintendo has issued a cease-and-desist notice, either. Nintendo has yet to respond, other than reiterating its request that The Big House not use the Slippi mod back in November.