Former Panda CEO Dr. Alan Bunney has released his full statement regarding the cancelation of the Smash World Tour, his interactions with tournament organizers that led to allegations of “strong-arming” for the Panda Cup, and how Nintendo played into it all. And, while the statement does answer some questions, it has left the community with more questions that have yet to be answered—including multiple instances of TOs pointing out contradictions.
To start, Bunney once again confirms he’s no longer the CEO of Panda—specifying “lies, falsehoods, and bandwagon character attacks” as the reasoning. Additionally, he will not return to the Smash scene after this situation resolves and plans to sell his shares of Panda in the future to fully divest from the company in connection to the restructuring that the org announced on Sunday.
After briefly summing up how Panda started discussions with Nintendo in 2018 and ramped things up in 2019 ahead of the eventual Panda Cup announcement in November 2019, Bunney goes on to discuss how he first heard about the SWT and how its leadership “never talked to Nintendo about it.”
Bunney claims Nintendo heard about this and reached out to the VGBootCamp team and everyone involved, asking them to wait for approval to announce the event, which they didn’t do. According to the ex-CEO, this was the “perfect gambit for VGBC” as they could either run their event without getting a license, pressure the company to let them be due to potential social media backlash, or get shut down and become a martyr for the community at the hands of Nintendo.
“To recap: SWT Leadership had intimate knowledge that Nintendo was working on an officially licensed circuit with Panda months before launching,” Bunney said. “They were told to wait for approval but announced anyways, and knowingly did multiple things that has prevented Nintendo from issuing licenses to events before.”
Bunney goes on to call out SWT’s attempt to get a license in such a quick timeframe, and once again backs the fact that Nintendo and Panda were surprised by the shutdown of the 2022 Championship because Nintendo confirmed to Bunney that no cease and desist was verbally levied for that event.
At its core, this portion of his statement is largely insinuating the SWT team were “prepared to get shut down” since being launched in SWT in 2020 and that they were aware and potentially willing to blow up in a way to also bring down Panda and Panda Cup—which doesn’t entirely add up based solely on both his lack of evidence and how much VGBC stood to lose.
“Both Panda and I as the former CEO have done absolutely nothing to harm SWT in any way, nor sabotage any SWT business efforts, license efforts, or otherwise. Period,” Bunney said.
The next big segment addresses the interactions with Beyond the Summit and discussions of streaming rights that involved not just one TO but multiple TOs across the scene.
The BTS segment largely focuses on Bunney being “stonewalled” by former BTS producer Ken “Hot_Bid” Chen and denied in his attempts to “forge a relationship that accomplished both of our goals.” This included alleged yelling on the part of Chen and constant rejection despite reworking deals to favor BTS—including a deal that could have seen BTS become the official analyst desk of Panda Cup for every single stream on a multi-year contract with around $40,000 being offered per event.
There is also a legal issue, which Bunney refuses to elaborate on but might imply broadcasting rights, that has “significant implications for the revenue of most major events in the community” and noting that refusing deals with third parties would bring scrutiny to that issue meaning “Ken was willing to jeopardize the entire Smash community with reckless abandon.”
This has been one of the most heavily pushed-back aspects of this statement, as Chen himself posted a long thread on Twitter discussing his side of the interactions with Bunney—stating that threats from the ex-CEO were involved regarding broadcasting rights, no yelling on his part, cutoff messages, and more inaccuracies that have also been backed by multiple other TOs and parties.
Onto the “Strong-Arming” section, Bunney mostly includes interactions and instances where he helped TOs run tournaments more efficiently thanks to covering areas such as broadcasts, casters, and even sponsors—potentially spending over $90,000 supporting events at times. This also includes a variety of screenshotted images with TOs discussing joining the Panda Cup and connecting others to Nintendo for licensing talks, with the acknowledgment that “TOs by nature are a careful bunch” and his approach may have been too strong.
And, while once again he claims that he did “not strong-arm, threaten, or otherwise try to pressure events to join” Panda Cup, TOs are flocking to Twitter to say otherwise due to his language—which still includes multiple instances of parties noting that he openly stated the SWT “won’t exist anymore” dating back as far as November 2021.
The final section about Nintendo doesn’t give much insight into the larger conversation, mostly talking about the red tape that anyone has to work around when dealing with IP rights and large companies, along with stating that the Big N spent “more money on the Smash community (to help save events money) this year than any other organization in the world outside of the Panda Cup.”
This mostly boils down to Bunney comparing Smash to other esports that all deal with their publishers and larger companies to sustain a competitive circuit or commercial activities—something most of the Smash community has never wanted in the first place.
And, again, his claims of not wanting “the whole pie” and that the identity of the Smash community is at risk with proper licensing regulations—while noting that Panda would take the burden of fixing that—have also been subject to backlash, with TOs bringing up that a number of them had not only felt threatened by Bunney and Panda Cup but that he brought up potentially buying out their events entirely back before COVID forced a “more backdoor approach.”
At this point, Bunney’s statements do provide some insight, but his claims seem to rest on the fact that VGBC was willing to cancel its own events to an extent to take down a competitor and that BTS was unwilling to negotiate with Panda despite the active changes and deals being offered. At best, this paints him as someone who was well-meaning but overly aggressive in his approach to building things out, while at worst this is someone who wanted to be the one person holding the keys to the community.
As a result of this, the community at large feels still feels like there are some key factors missing from this story and are demanding more information from those involved—which it is getting now thanks to TOs speaking up about Bunney’s actions to an extent. Now the rest of the situation sits with the SWT/VGBC team and Nintendo, to an extent.
No matter how truthful Bunney’s statements end up being, the fact that players and staff at Panda were doxxed and he had to up security for his own family does show that the reaction to this situation has gone far beyond just the community and is now actually putting people at risk.
“Regardless of what my statement says, I do not want the same thing to happen to BTS, to VGBC, or to anyone,” Bunney said. “Please do not harass any groups, do not dox anyone, and do not attack whomever you perceive to be the villain of the hour. Smash has to change. Smash has to be better than this.”
Update Dec. 7 5:15am CT: As has been done with each additional statement regarding the Smash World Tour since its initial cancelation on Nov. 29, the team behind the event series has released a response to Dr. Alan’s post.
Right from the start, the SWT does agree with a single point that Bunney made—specifically in regard to the doxxing of Panda players and staff.
“We are hopeful this is the last response needed, now that all sides have spoken their piece,” the SWT team said. “One thing we want to make clear at the outset: we do not condone any harassment or doxxing of anyone; we 100% agree the Smash community is better than that.”
From there, the team voices their disappointment in Bunney’s claims against them and the lack of evidence to back up some of the statements he made. Additionally, they specifically point out how he initially claims he was not aware of most of the SWT conversations with Nintendo and yet openly “speculates on numerous topics regarding those conversations.”
This includes openly insinuating that the SWT did not in fact book out a block for the event in its main hotel for the Dec. 9 to 11 event in San Antonio. Something that has been proven by members of the community who were going to be in attendance prior to the SWT team showing additional evidence.
Bunney’s allegation about both the lack of hotel reservations and the overarching gambit he implied “baffled” the team, who confirmed they had just paid off the final payment plan for said hotel block that they are still on the hook for despite not running the event—all while showing the receipts in the statement document.
“To be clear, we are also losing significant sponsorship revenue tied to the 2022 SWTC as well as absorbing massive sunk costs this year due to canceling the event,” the SWT team said.
“Not to mention the additional hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in sponsorship agreements for 2023, as well as multiple years of work poured into Smash World Tour – especially the 2021 Tour which was a very challenging labor of love where we organized around 25 events due to COVID’s effect on in-person tournaments.”
To Bunney’s claims about communication with Nintendo being clear and not involving a verbal shutdown notice, the SWT team confirmed once again that it had been in mostly positive talks with Nintendo throughout the year prior to the last-minute message the night before Thanksgiving.
This includes reiteration that the team asked for clarification and Nintendo responding to the idea of running events without a license to end 2022 and through 2023 while working toward a full licensing agreement for 2024 with stating those “times are over.” Additionally, the SWT team themselves clarified they never claimed Panda undermined a potential relationship with Nintendo, but rather shared that Panda undermined the SWT’s relationship with TOs by saying the circuit would be shut down.
“Multiple organizers specifically did not join the Smash World Tour this year due to these warnings,” the SWT said. “This is also the reason we brought this concern to Nintendo directly (and they said it would be addressed), again as mentioned in our original statement. Multiple tournament organizers corroborated our claims, which is why we felt we could even come forward with it in the first place.”
To the entirety of Bunney’s statement, the SWT team—and specifically the VGBC portion of it—couldn’t find the right angles to respond to being accused of organizing this as a blame and gain situation as over three years of the SWT building has now been devastated along with the damage done to the wider Smash community because of this.
They also point out that Bunney doesn’t actively bring up how the entire 2023 SWT was canceled and the VGBC issues that the team has openly communicated, rather, the ex-CEO has a focus on “winning” as the outcome in most of the accusations.
“There are so many resources that have been irreversibly destroyed, and so many who have been permanently hurt,” the SWT team said. “It is incredibly frustrating that he would claim that all of that was one giant “coordinated lie.” We are struggling to even see the gain or “win” he repeatedly mentions – this has been awful for us, as well as the entire Smash community, which is why we have been continually urging change.”
In closing, the SWT team once again urges Nintendo to reconsider its current plans and relationship with the Smash community in light of all the information being shared—thanking the community for being so understanding and urging everyone to support the scene wherever they can moving forward.