Two weeks before the launch on Dec.7, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has leaked online. Copies of the beat-em-up brawler featuring gaming icons like Mario, Link and Wii Fit Trainer quickly spread through sites and apps like Discord, Reddit and Twitter. Playing the ROM requires hacking your Nintendo Switch, permanently barring your console from online play and pissing off one of the biggest names in gaming.
Nintendo has a strict anti-piracy policy and isn’t afraid to reinforce it. “Through education, raising awareness and legal actions, Nintendo is working hard to preserve the video game industry’s ability to make investments into developing new and exciting games,” Nintendo wrote on its anti-piracy website. DMCA takedowns, which stem from the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, allow creators who feel their IP copyrights have been infringed upon to get content taken down from YouTube. Strikes are extremely serious to content creators: get three on a single channel and YouTube will terminate it.
Once Smash Ultimate leaked, YouTubers started to upload the game’s content to their channels. There were videos showing off the story of the new World of Light Mode, collections of all the Spirits and their abilities and a huge collection of music remixes. Ultimate has one of the largest soundtracks of any game, with more than 800 tracks, including those from past Smash titles and classic games like Kirby’s Dream Land and Super Mario Odyssey.
YouTubers like Dystfizer, 31 Horas Mexico and Crunchii quickly flooded their channels with songs from Ultimate’s soundtrack. Each of their channels had tens of thousands of subscribers amassed over multiple years. It took them a long time to build that kind of following. Nintendo employees reacted quickly: filing copyright strikes across the platform.
Nintendo’s judgement was swift, devastating these channels and many others like them. Crunchi received more than 30 strikes and had hundreds of videos blocked, effectively ending his channel. In a Twitter thread, he said that he knew the risk but was not “expecting them to give out copyright strikes.” In the past, videos of his containing Nintendo music were blocked from being seen worldwide, but had not been subject to strikes.
31 Horas Mexico and Dystify will lose their channels by the end of the week. Dystify told Kotaku he felt he needed to upload the Ultimate soundtrack to keep up with other YouTubers. “Uploading the soundtrack on day (one), compared to when others uploaded it could have been a difference between 100 views per video and 100,000-plus.”
Zeki, whose channel Soniczeki has more than 100,000 subscribers, uploaded multiple videos containing music from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate . “After music files leaked Crunchii and other music channels started uploading so quickly,” Zeki told Newsweek over Twitter DM. “I couldn’t stand it because we needed to race each other.”
Nintendo filed requests to get the videos taken down, leaving Zeki with a single copyright strike, one million fewer views, 200 deleted videos and a barren channel. He says if he had known the potential consequences, he “wouldn’t have posted anything.” Zeki added, “I felt very bad, I know (the developers) worked hard on this game and I shouldn’t have uploaded all these songs.”
As the strikes rolled out across the platform, Zeki deleted all his problematic videos, which might have saved his channel. He plans to be more careful in the future. “Nintendo has rights to take down anything before their game released to avoid spoilers,” Zeki said. “I will continue making Smash content for sure.”
Some fans have criticized Nintendo for what they see as drastic action against these channels, while others believe the company wasjust following YouTube’s rules. Twitter user Stealth40K has amassed a small following talking about Nintendo on the platform. “I have it on good authority that Nintendo knows what the situation is with Smash Ultimate piracy,” he posted. “I just hope the punishment is swift and severe.”
In Twitter DMs with Newsweek , Stealth40K doubled down. “When you upload 100-plus pieces of illegally acquired music for a game that is not even released, the copyright strikes are going to come fast and furious.”
Newsweek has reached out to Nintendo for comment and will update with any response.