Have you ever won something extremely cool and extremely valuable and extremely unique, and then just… watched it fall to the floor, before your every eyes? One Smash Ultimate player grinded to the top at Evo, only to have this exact scenario befall him (mind the pun), as a golden Pro Controller toppled in the hands of one he trusted. And it’s all caught on Twitch.
At Evo Japan, thousands of players signed up for the event’s first-ever Smash Ultimate tournament. And of course, it was a fantastic battle—but in the end, Shuto “Shuton” Moriya took the prize with an incredible Captain Olimar win. And that prize he took? A gorgeous Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, officially done, with a golden Smash logo and embellishments.
When the top eight players took to to the stage, a surprise presenter approached: Masahiro Sakurai, the game’s director. He handed the players small prizes from the official Nintendo World Japan store and shook their hands, likely fulfilling many of their dreams.
Then, Shuton took photos with Sakurai, first with the glass trophy, of course. A handler, with gloves and all, cautiously grabs the trophy so Sakurai can hand him one of our story’s victims—the prize controller, nested in an open box. Shuton holds it up for the cameras, understanding the importance of this moment: Him, the winner, on the stage, with an official Nintendo custom controller.
And then Shuton hands it off to the handler—who tilts the box forward. And the controller falls.
It’s a bit of a frightening moment: everyone around the situation is bent down while the handler picks up the controller. But eventually it gets picked up. It’s a bit of a disruption for the show, but! The show must go on, and it does.
We have no word from Shuton about whether the controller still works! Hopefully, though, the Nintendium vibes are real with this controller, unlike with the left Joycon’s stick.
“But wait… was that really the grand prize?”
Yep! A Smash-themed controller really was the prize for Evo. And yes, like other Evo events, many of the other games’ tournaments handed out cash prizes. But it makes perfect sense that Nintendo opted for a physical prize instead.
Japan has a pretty wide umbrella of anti-gambling laws that include money exchanges for contests. This is allegedly meant to water down underground yakuza efforts. However, unfortunately, this means esports events were caught in the mix of legal frustrations.
It wasn’t until last year that esports events could offer up money. There were some weird legal catches, though, the main being that developers had to hand “union licenses” to players in order for them to earn money from dev-sanctioned events. Some players feared that this worked against the FGC’s tradition of “open events,” where anyone can show up and win.
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And last year, this issue did come to a head when a non-licensed player won Evo’s Street Fighter V event. There were fears that the player wouldn’t actually get his money. However, everyone found a loophole: the event was paid for by sponsors and players, not just the developer. Or something like that. So technically, he didn’t need the “license” for the game. Eventually, he did get his money.
It seems that physical prizes are a loophole for this issue. For instance, a Dota 2 tournament called Mara Cup, held in Japan, gives away hundreds of dollars worth of oysters as a grand prize. And since it’s not officially held by Valve nor endorsed, it slips through the country’s legal loopholes.
Likely, Nintendo kept Smash Ultimate out of last year’s Evo Japan due to the controversy. Or, it could have been that it was just too soon to permit the game on the big stage. Either way, this year, Sakurai made sure that players knew they were appreciated — even in the slip-ups.