A Splatoon 2 tournament was supposed to conclude over the weekend in early December, but everything fell apart last minute — all because the participants wanted to show solidarity with a different competitive game.
The North American Open, which had over 291 teams competing for a chance to win a trophy valued at $200, allowed groups to register under whatever banner they saw fit. And so four top teams — FTWin, Enlightenment, Bocut Nation, and Southern Lights — all signed up under slightly different monikers. Respectively, these teams became FTWavedash, Slippi, Melee Nation, and Melee Lights for the event.
Why all the Smash Bros. references in a totally unrelated competition? Well, it was an act of solidarity. Recently, Nintendo came under fire after it shut down a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament that wanted to use open-source software called Slippi, which enabled the 2001 GameCube title to have online multiplayer. Organizers opted for Slippi primarily because of COVID-19, which made in-person competitions a health hazard. Nintendo’s decision to issue a cease-and-desist was therefore met with criticism, as fans were simply trying to find a healthy way to play an old game that they loved. The community felt that actions taken against the tournament were egregious, when the developer itself neglects Melee over newer iterations of the party fighter.
At first, the Splatoon 2 tournament started off fine, with brackets unfolding to determine who would be in the finals on Dec. 6. But then, reportedly, the livestream showcasing the top contenders got canceled over “unexpected executional challenges,” at least according to a screenshot of an announcement that transpired in the Discord group attached to the proceedings. Polygon reached out to Nintendo for clarification, but did not hear back.
So 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.— Slimy (@SlimyQuagsire) December 5, 2020
So what does @NintendoAmerica @NintendoVS do in response?
They cancelled their livestream for tomorrow's Finals.
The belief among fans is that, in actuality, the finals weren’t broadcasted because all the teams involved mentioned the recent Melee controversy in some way. Whatever the reason for the cancelation, all the top fighters dropped out and instead threw their own tournament, The Squid House, in reference to the canceled The Big House Melee event.
10am PT. Top 4.— EndGameTV (@EndGame_TV) December 6, 2020
The top four NA teams in Splatoon will face off in a grassroots invitational! (No unexpected executional challenges here.) #FreeMelee #SaveSmash #FreeSplatoon
Prize pool starts at $1,000; donations welcome throughout the stream!
: https://t.co/sSZoWiIz6J pic.twitter.com/DDnZCiEOJx
In an outpouring of support, this grassroots competition then saw a swelling of donations from fans who wanted to increase the prize pool. More than $25,000 dollars were raised, and the event organizers had to place a cap that directed any additional funds to charity. Even wilder is that, in short order, this last-minute event ended up offering the largest western Splatoon 2 prize pool ever, outstripping even what Nintendo has officially offered in the past. Viewer records were also reportedly shattered, as Smash Bros. and Splatoon fans came together to show support.
EndGameTV, the organizer, tells Polygon that teams who placed in the 5th through 8th spots in the Nintendo tournament were apparently invited to take the top four’s place after they dropped out, but in another show of solidarity, those teams also declined from participating. Nobody wanted to cross a figurative picket line.
“Splatoon wouldn’t be where it is today without the support and buy-in of the Smash community,” the organizer said on Twitter. “We love both games and have felt the effects of blocked event opportunities and stunted community development. We stand with #FreeMelee #SaveSmash. It’s for all of us.”
In the end, FTWavedash took home the gold. The tournament pool raised $25,000, with an additional $3,000 going to charity. “Turns out, when communities come together to face life’s unexpected challenges, we can pull off some legendary shit,” the organizers said on Twitter.
Correction: The overall pool was $25,000, split among participating finalists — not just the number one team. This story has been edited to reflect this information.