By Liam McKelvey
Ah Nintendo, never change your ways.
People love you and express it by creating their own fan games and how do you respond?
You shut them down and ignore all their work.
Nintendo is notorious for targeting fan projects based on their properties and striking them down with legal action, to the disappointment of many.
The latest project to fall victim to this was a game called Pokémon Prism.
Prism is a fan game, or ROM Hack, of the Gameboy Colour Pokémon games which was planned to include new towns, dungeons, moves and feature Pokémon from across four generations. But of course, they announced the game was near completion and Nintendo reacted by swiftly sending them a DMCA and the project was cancelled.
Nintendo did this to other projects earlier in the year; most notably they sent a cease and desist to the developers of Project AM2R, a HD remake of Metroid 2. Nintendo was also rumoured to be involved in the shutdown of Project M last year, which was a massively popular mod for Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
As you would expect fans were not pleased when they heard this news.
But there is a reason why Nintendo goes after fan projects so often and with little mercy.
Copyright law says that if a company does not protect their properties then they become available to use by anyone under fair use. However, are fans really right to use another company’s established work as a base for their own?
This area is pretty grey and the legality of the situation isn’t that clear cut. There isn’t much precedent set around ROM hacking. Currently ROM hacking existing games is perfectly legal, with the condition that they are distributed for free and no financial benefit is gained from doing so.
On the other hand, ROM hacks such as Pokémon Prism can be considered derivative works. If this happens to be the case and a court rules it so, then projects like Prism can be shut down. But if a court rules that the fan game has a degree of originality to it, then the project can legally continue on.
So Nintendo is justified in their actions, it’s just that they are pretty harsh in the way they handle everything regarding their IP.
Nintendo never actually acknowledges the projects and doesn’t give any credit to the fans who more often than not, pour their heart and soul into these projects. It wouldn’t hurt Nintendo to offer some condolence or support to the creators of projects like Prism or AM2R; a little fan appreciation can go a long way these days.
This example simply represents the latest effort by Nintendo to shut down fan projects which possibly infringe on their properties.
Similar criticism has been levelled at Nintendo in the past for their harsh treatment of fans and general disregard of their community. People have argued that Nintendo are behind the times when concerned with community interaction and that they really need to rework their internet strategy.
It really shows how behind Nintendo are when they refuse to adopt to the internet age and refuse to give their fans credit, when Sony and Microsoft actively try to show some goodwill towards their audience.
Really, it would be best if Nintendo just take a step back and have a think about how to interact with their fan base on a more positive level. But realistically Nintendo is a business after all and businesses will do everything in their legal power to keep their IP’s protected, even if they end up looking like the evil corporation in doing so.
What do you think about Nintendo’s interaction with fans and their projects, do you think they are harsh or are they in the right?
Let us know what you think down below in the comments.
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