When I started playing competitive Super Smash Bros at UT Austin, my first tournament wasn’t for the more popular Super Smash Bros Melee. I began with a game that the Smash community calls Project M, and didn’t switch over to Melee until several months later.
Project M isn’t a game in itself; it started off as an intense modification to the gameplay mechanics of the full title released by Nintendo, Super Smash Bros Brawl. Many members of the Smash community weren’t happy with the more slow- paced, less technical playstyle that Brawl brought to the scene (although I should note that this is a very brief summation of the issues surrounding Brawl, there are some much deeper problems involving Nintendo’s opinion on competitive Smash Bros that I won’t get in to). A team of community members consisting of artists, programmers, and managers took it upon themselves to alter the in-game mechanics of Brawl to make them nearly identical to Melee. The mod was called Project M, and could be downloaded and used by anyone for free.
Project M was very attractive to the Smash community: it took all of the new characters that came with Super Smash Bros Brawl and gave them the old, fluid mechanics they were used to and enjoyed competing with. The Project M team even began releasing characters that had been excluded from Brawl, like MewTwo and Roy, by importing them from melee and updating their textures and models. Due to all of these additions, Project M and its tournaments grew quite quickly, with the Project M tournament at Apex 2014 garnering over 50,000 live viewers on Twitch.
Unfortunately, Nintendo’s opinions of Project M seemed to be very negative. The company had already expressed a certain amount of disdain with the competitive Smash scene due to the image Nintendo thought it wanted, and Project M was essentially in a way like telling Nintendo “Hey, we don’t like your game, so were going to fix it and play it competitively in front of tens of thousands of people”. While we’ll never know exactly what Masahiro Sakurai (the lead production designer of the Smash Bros series) thought of Project M, the few quotes he gave on the competitive Smash scene were less than appreciative, and Nintendo began to take some silent action against the community modification.
The final nail in the coffin was the release of Smash 4 (or Smash for WiiU). Nintendo didn’t want any attention being taken away from their new release, so legal matters began to be taken behind the scenes. VGBootcamp, the largest Smash bros streamer and video producer, announced that it would stop streaming and uploading the weekly Project M tournaments, followed later by several other large Smash content producers. Twitch then disallowed the streaming of Project M tournaments on its platform (likely due to pressure by Nintendo), forcing Project M tournaments to be streamed on lesser known sites.
Project M still has a community, it’s just smaller than it was and smaller than it could have been. I personally love the game; it’s a shining example of a community coming together to create something spectacular for everyone to enjoy. While Nintendo has drastically changed its opinion of Smash Bros tournaments lately, I highly doubt that they will ever acknowledge Project M in any public manner.
On December 1, 2015, the Project M development team announced that no further development would be done on Project M, considering the mod finished and shutting down the download links on their official site.