Panda Partners with Nintendo America for First Officially Licensed Smash Bros. Tournaments
Panda (formerly Panda Global) revealed on Thursday they have agreed to a monumental partnership with Nintendo America. The world’s premier esports organization focused on fighting games announced a new Super Smash Bros. tournament circuit coming in 2022. It will be the first ever officially licensed competition in North America and will feature both Ultimate and Melee. It is a historic moment for the games and their players, which have been supported independently for decades.
A Historic Alliance
Panda partnering with Nintendo America means big things for one of gaming’s strongest communities. Smash’s competitive scene first took off in the mid-2000’s with Super Smash Bros. Melee. Starting from humble origins, the game would go on to be featured at MLG and EVO. Melee even remained the primary competitive Smash title over Brawl, peaking in popularity during the early 2010’s. Following the series’ resurgence with Super Smash Bros. 4, the esports scene for the modern Smash games began to match the scale of Melee’s. Since the release of Ultimate in 2018, both communities are thriving more than ever.
The most impressive part of the Smash community’s growth is that up to this point, they’ve done with little to no support from Nintendo. This has created long-standing tension between the game’s players and parent company that has come to a head several times. Panda’s partnership with Nintendo America hopes to mend that uneasy relationship and strive for a more collaborative future.
Tournaments and other competitions have been historically run by grassroots organizations like VGBootCamp and Beyond the Summit. The former even sponsored the first ever World Tour for both Ultimate and Melee, which is still ongoing. Although they lack financial support from Nintendo, Smash tournaments tend to be fairly lucrative. Smash Ultimate Summit 3 last August featured a $159,000 prize pool with over $47,000 going to first place.
Words from Panda CEO
Dr. Alan Bunney expressed his excitement in a series of tweets. Before founding Panda, Bunney was a former competitive smash player going by the gamertag “Samurai Panda.” After balancing a career as a full-time doctor and helping run team operations for several years, he became full-time CEO in early 2020.
Since Bunney moved into a permanent role with the company, Panda has strengthened its impacted on the Smash and fighting game communities, culminating in Thursday’s announcement.
“I never would’ve imagined back then that Nintendo would choose my team to bring greater support to the scene that I’ve loved so dearly,” Bunney writes on Twitter. “Smash changed my life. Smash is the reason that Panda exists today. And there are so many others just like me that Smash has impacted.”
Dr. Bunney also claims that the new tournament circuit is not only huge for the players, but everyone involved with operations.
He explains, “I’ve always dreamt of a Smash ecosystem that supports full-time careers… Benefits, 401ks, financial stability…” He states that while it will take “years to achieve,” he is confident that the Smash community will reach those goals.
The MD turned CEO highlights how Panda’s dedication to Smash and other fighting games have allowed them to give back to the scenes they hold so dear.
More details on event dates, locations, and prize pools have yet to be revealed. With 2022 on the horizon, you can bet on seeing some additional information from Panda or Nintendo soon.