Massive streaming personality Tyler “Ninja” Blevins claims that he tried to give the prestigious Evolution Championship Series fighting game tournament (also known simply as Evo) a bonus $500,000 for its Super Smash Bros. prize pool years ago, only to get shut out by Smash developer Nintendo.
This was how Blevins recently clarified a 2018 tweet in which he promised to have “something cooking” for the competitive Super Smash Bros. community. At the time, the cryptic message stirred up a scene perennially hungry for both mainstream recognition and financial stability, but Blevins never announced his plans or even explained what he meant until breaking his silence at a poker event on May 1.
“That was on Nintendo, not me,” Blevins told fellow streaming personality Ludwig Ahgren, who himself has close ties to the Smash community. “I literally wanted to juice Evo [by] $500k, and they just ghosted us. I know I get memed about it all the time, but at the end of the day, I sat there in front of my team and I was like, ‘I want to make this happen, big money’ and Nintendo just never got back to us.”
Blevins added that Nintendo was “interested for like a minute” but stopped responding after his infamous tweet.
While Blevins declined to comment and Nintendo never responded to Kotaku’s inquiry, these claims do sound possible. Despite an obvious desire by Smash competitors for official recognition, the game’s developer has long been wary of sanctioning tournament play. Of course, this hasn’t stopped Nintendo from impacting the scene negatively from time to time, like when it almost shut down Evo 2013’s Super Smash Bros. Melee stream at the last minute and dictated harsh controller regulations at The Big House 7, a major grassroots event the company sponsored in 2017.
The conversation in question begins around the 5:45:35 mark if our timestamp doesn’t work. Hustler Casino Live (YouTube)
More recently, Nintendo kept Super Smash Bros. from being included in the Evo 2022 lineup after consistent appearances by the series over the last decade.
“While I’m unaware of what did or didn’t transpire in the past, Evo would love to work with Ninja, Nintendo, and anyone else interested in developing Super Smash Bros. tournaments,” Evo general manager Rick Thiher told Kotaku. “Having helped create Ninja’s Halo Throwback tournaments for Twitch Rivals, I’ve seen firsthand the positive vibes Ninja can create when he gives back to classic gaming communities.”
One possible reason Nintendo turned Blevins down (apart from its weird relationship with the competitive Smash community) may have had to do with the contentious comments the streamer made about keeping his streams men-only around the same time.
A few months prior to his Smash tweet in 2018, Blevins courted controversy by saying he avoided playing games with women out of respect for his wife. He reasoned that this hard rule prevented the possibility of the internet turning any minor moment of perceived flirtation into a controversy, but many saw it as harmful to the advancement of female streamers. Blevins has since collaborated with women and it wasn’t the end of the world.
Speculation aside, Nintendo’s inexplicable approach to Super Smash Bros. competition has been front-and-center within the community. Some believe official support is the only way for a game to survive in the hectic esports ecosystem, while others worry about the added oversight Nintendo’s money would bring. Juan “Hungrybox” DeBiedma, long considered one of the “gods” of Super Smash Bros. Melee competition, brought these issues to light at last month’s Streamer Awards, calling out Nintendo for its inaction while also pointing to the company’s official 2022 circuit as a step in the right direction.
“Smash is a beautiful game,” DeBiedma said. “It deserves to shine.”