Nintendo’s New Controller Rules: A Barrier to Accessibility?

  • 25-10-2023 |
  • Kyle Robinson
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Nintendo's recent revision of its Community Tournament Guidelines has stirred up controversy, particularly amongst the accessibility community. The new guidelines limit in-person tournament participation to 200, prohibit the sale of merchandise, and ban third-party sponsor compensation. However, a specific rule has sparked a backlash for its potential to exclude some gamers from the community.

The point of contention revolves around Nintendo's decision to forbid the use of third-party controllers in tournaments. This rule, pointed out by accessibility advocate Arevya on Twitter, could exclude gamers who rely on custom control set-ups due to their accessibility needs. As per Nintendo’s new guidelines, any tournament that uses game consoles, accessories, or software not licensed by Nintendo could be deemed "illegal or offensive or otherwise inappropriate."

This implies that any controller that has been modified, even for accessibility purposes, is forbidden if it's not a stock-licensed Nintendo controller. Arevya explained, "Many disabled gamers (like myself) use third-party accessories to be able to game. This can range from foot-operated controllers, tools that allow character movement through straw-blowing, to 3D printed specialized equipment for regular Joy-Con or Pro Controller use."

While Nintendo's need to protect its intellectual property is understandable, the ramifications of these rules could be far-reaching. This decision could potentially exclude children, teenagers, and adults who rely on accessibility to engage in gameplay like everyone else. This has been seen as a significant setback, especially since controller modification for accessibility purposes has been gaining traction.

In recent years, both Microsoft and Sony have launched their own accessible controllers, acknowledging the importance of inclusivity in gaming. Nintendo's new rules, therefore, could be interpreted as a step backward in terms of accessibility. The gaming community now waits to see if Nintendo will revisit these guidelines and make amends to ensure that everyone, regardless of their abilities, can enjoy gaming equally.

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