The collapse of Panda’s efforts in Smash Bros dominated the news at the end last year. We’re still seeing the ramifications of that scandal play out, with old tournament organizers getting back up and running, while the community remains dented by Panda’s attempts at a take-over.
We still don’t know if the Panda Cup Finale will ever actually conclude. With players leaving, is Panda Global leaving Smash all together in 2023?
The reaction from a lot of players might pretty much react with “good riddance” if they do decide to pull out entirely. The team has been haemorrhaging players since the end of 2022, but they’ve just lost another one. Notably, this roster change wasn’t due to a player not wanting to associate with them anymore. Instead, it’s Panda dropping Smash players. It’s looking a lot more likely that Panda Global isn’t just stepping away from organizing Smash events, they might be pulling out of the game entirely.
If so, can Panda even survive in the wider fighting game community with their current reputation?
ESAM leaves Panda Global
ESAM is a Smash Bros player who has been active for over 15 years. He’s played in pretty much every Smash game but was particularly notable for his top-level performances in Brawl, Wii U, and Ultimate. While he isn’t one of the best Melee players, he’s excelled elsewhere especially in Smash for Wii U. The player has had no shortage of winnings, but he’ll be parting ways with his org.
ESAM recently announced that he’s leaving Panda Global. The player has been with them since 2015, so for over 7 years at a single Org. The player has also specifically said it wasn’t his decision. Although, he’s yet to clarify why he’s left the team instead focusing on Genesis over the weekend.
ESAM has had some controversies in the past, but Panda stuck by the player. Leaving the org now and forcibly is a weird move. It has led many to think that this might be Panda leaving Smash entirely.
Is Panda leaving Smash?
Panda operated the Panda Global Series but also held a roster in Smash and other fighting games. That’s been losing players fast since their scandal was unearthed in December. ESAM is the most recent, but he was preceded by iBDW, WaDi, and Plup who all left the org in the last few months. As of the moment, Marss seems to be their only remaining active player.
2022’s conclusions saw organizers make public details of some behaviour from Panda over the year. They’d attempted to run a kind of protection racket on other organizers. The backlash led to the cancellation of the Panda Cup Finale after a lot of players dropped out. The CEO of the company also stepped down in early December. This hasn’t quite been enough to launder their reputation though.
Panda’s behaviour in wrecking the last stage of 2022 Smash isn’t going to be forgotten quickly. It’s unlikely they’ll have much more success in the smash Bros sphere, especially as an organizer. While they could wait it out and continue to sign players, it’s not certain they’d be able to attract enough talent to rebuild their roster. They seem to have burnt most of the goodwill. If Panda gradually removes itself from the game as players leave, most fans probably wouldn’t miss them all that much. Panda leaving Smash would mean their other roster is all they have going.
Can Panda survive without Smash Bros?
Smash Bros might be difficult for Panda going forward, but surely the org has other interests? They do have teams and players that compete in some of the other top fighting games. They’re particularly active in other games. They’ve had players make the high points of the Capcom Cup in the past, and active rosters in Guilty Gear, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and more. Their reputation in Smash won’t necessarily transfer other to these other games and communities, but it’s going to make things an uphill battle.
Other games don’t have the same complex relationship with game developers and licensing as Smash Bros does. However, it’s hard to separate out their behaviour in Smash from other areas of fighting games. It raises the question of how Panda will behave if they ever reach an important place in another game’s community, will they once again seek to monopolize something built at a grassroots level?
Panda faces an uphill battle continuing to operate in fighting games as a whole. With their current roster in Smash looking so anaemic though, they might be leaving the game as a whole pretty soon.