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What is Your Take on Fanmade Nintendo Games and How Nintendo Handles Them? [roundtable]
 
IGN posted a story today about how files of a fanmade Pokemon game dubbed Prism were leaked onto the internet. The project was recently shut down after Nintendo sent the leads a cease and desist letter. This story is the latest in a long line of Nintendo fan projects that have been shut down by the company for infringing on their intellectual property.



It was just in August that the Metroid 2 remake project was similarly stopped by Nintendo. This project, in particular, was viewed very fondly by the community and Nintendo drew a lot of criticism from people.



Nintendo does not always take down these projects, though. Some like the Mother 3 translation still exist and as far as I can tell have not been interfered with by Nintendo.

So the question for discussion is what do you think about this behaviour? I personally am a bit ambivalent. These games look well crafted and some would be fun to try. Understandably though Nintendo worries about their intellectual property. Their stable of franchises is the best argument as to why someone should buy a Nintendo system. Is it just simply a matter of what they view as competition within their own brand? They have seemingly no issue with fan art or covers of their songs. They try to get a cut of ad revenue on videos using their products but I think with these fan games they are usually free for people to download. Does the shutting down of these projects hurt Nintendo more than it helps them?

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Posted: 12/30/16, 21:22:09  - Edited by 
 on: 12/30/16, 21:21:52
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I don't play fan-made games so I don't really know enough about the subject to comment. At first glance, my only thought is that it's tough for me to find fault in any company protecting their copyrights. As a recent Secret-Tunnel article explained, Nintendo gotta protect the value of their franchises.

My other thought is that in this day and age, people making fan games would probably be better off creating their own character(s) and actually trying to sell the game, something much easier to do now.
Posted: 12/30/16, 21:33:24
@Mop it up

Yeah, I don't think Nintendo has much choice here. If you don't defend your copyright even in small dumb cases, you lose legal ground to defend it where it matters.

I was just reading an article by one of my favorite game designers where he mentioned how as much as he loves Pokemon Sun, he'd rather just battle online with one of those unofficial in-browser Pokemon games. I've gotta imagine he's not the only one.

I wonder if the Mother 3 translation has gotten by due it just being a text patch for the original game? It's not actually a game itself, just a "mod" for it.
Posted: 12/30/16, 21:54:49
For Mother 3, one reason Nintendo may not care about that one is because the game is not available for sale outside of Japan. So they're not really losing sales from people playing the translated ROM, not to mention it's pretty much impossible to stop a ROM from existing. The Metroid 2 remake is a bit of a different case, something more tangible to shut down and also Metroid II is for sale on the 3DS VC.
Posted: 12/30/16, 22:10:28
@Secret_Tunnel While this is sort of true legally, almost no other company is as diehard about shutting down fan projects as Nintendo. But presumably they need to protect their IPs too. Makes me wonder what the difference is.

The weird thing to me is that people keep openly moving forward with Nintendo fan projects knowing that this is how Nintendo operates. Why not keep it under wraps until you're ready to debut it?
Posted: 12/30/16, 22:21:02
@Zero

Do other companies have fans making as many projects based off of their IPs though?

Of course, I do think Nintendo's policy on Youtube videos is pretty backwards, so maybe I shouldn't give them the benefit of the doubt.
Posted: 12/30/16, 22:23:07  - Edited by 
 on: 12/30/16, 22:24:12
I mean my usual stance would come down to are these guys making money off of it? If yes, then it's wrong, if no, let them be...but as ST points out that may have legal ramifications I'm not qualified to understand.

I wonder if they ever contemplated the Valve approach though? Like with Narbacular Drop. Gabe Newell ended up hiring the tream behind that and they ended up creating Portal.
Granted, this is Nintendo's own IP so it's a little different, but if the game is good enough would they consider offering a deal and making the game officially? That'd be pretty cool.

...Although then the floodgates may be opened for every wannabe designer to send their unsolicited half-assed design documents to Nintendo's mailbox. They might want to avoid that.
Posted: 12/31/16, 02:37:45
@Secret_Tunnel Maybe? Valve seems to just hire the people who make cool stuff with their IPs.
Posted: 12/31/16, 02:39:43
I think an IP lawyer would explain that they need to set a legal precedent that shows they attempted to stop projects that infringed on their IP. If someone does try to really rip them off and Nintendo has to go to court, then they need to show a history of protecting their IP.
Posted: 12/31/16, 02:52:00
Eh... you kind of get what's coming to you if you spend all your time making a video game that's trying to piggyback on someone else's intellectual property. I mean, I know these are fan projects and are often the smallest of small-time hobbyist developers. But they're still kind of parasitic - riding on the coat-tails of Nintendo's property with their own projects. Why invent your own thing if you can borrow from someone else and get access to a portion of their audience, right away?

On the other hand, it's really hard to get noticed and a lot of people whose work I love got their start with projects that borrowed from other people. I think of Danger Mouse and the Grey Album, which absolutely rode the coat-tails of Jay-Z and the Beatles. And, yet, once he caught the attention of the music industry, he went on to do much more original work.

So I guess my attitude is that it can help a talented person get noticed. And that's a valuable thing, not just to the world to to Nintendo. But not everyone's a Dangermouse. if Nintendo shuts you down, you're sorta getting what's coming to you. You really have no right to complain about it.

I wonder how T-Bun feels about this. He's obviously a highly talented cartoonist, but I always wondered what was going to happen if Nintendo's lawyers got to have their way with him. I'm sure there was someone in their IP department who just saw red every time a new Brawl In the Family was released.
Posted: 12/31/16, 03:08:32  - Edited by 
 on: 12/31/16, 03:10:03
@kriswright My very simple understanding of a very complex issue is that using IPs for comedy / parody is ok, so Bun would be safe there.
Posted: 12/31/16, 03:13:50
@Zero

For parody, sure. But I'd say Bitf was more of a straight gag strip, which I'm not so sure would be protected by those laws. I mean, otherwise I'm gonna start drawing Simpsons comics in the local paper.

Not trying to harsh on T-Bun, of course. He knows how strongly I feel about the high quality of his work.
Posted: 12/31/16, 03:17:26
I am a full proponent of "Create your own stuff, we need more originality and creativity in the world." So in that regard, I'd rather companies who own the actual IPs being used shut down unauthorized use of them. I think unauthorized use of other people's work for your own gain (even if that gain is mere likes on a webpage) leads too often to a world that thinks laws are dumb and they don't have to listen to them.

Also it kind of drives me a little crazy when really great artists make some serious money off doing commission fan-art of other people's characters. That's... not cool to me. Those people worked very hard to create those characters and that universe. Create your own and sell that art. Combining Star Wars with Disney (pre-buyout we saw this a ton) does not give you the A-ok to sell both IPs you don't own just because you combined them.

As far as stuff like Brawl in the Family, I definitely think that falls under the realm of parody. I was once highly for parody, but since then I've come around to feeling the same as above: Original work is just better for everyone. I enjoyed the heck out of BitF and am glad it existed, it brought me a lot of joy, but I'm also glad Tadpole Treble wasn't just a Nintendo fan-game. It was its own thing, and better for it. I'd rather see more like that as I get older.
Posted: 12/31/16, 03:50:18
My take on Nintendo fan-games: They can be real good! I quite liked AM2R and Newer Super Mario Bros. Wii. I don't have any issue with someone using a property they love to test their game design chops and share the result with people for free. Especially when it's a kind of game the IP owner hasn't used in a while, like 2D Metroid.

My take on how Nintendo treats them: I feel like I read somewhere that the whole "have to demonstrate that you're protecting your IP from free fan-games to protect your IP from for-profit ripoffs" isn't as crucial as people seem to think. Whether or not that's true, I certainly have no problem with Nintendo doing it. If they have their own 2D Metroid remake in the oven, they probably don't want the competition from AM2R, and they're within their legal rights to C&D. Same with Pokemon Prism or whatever potentially siphoning off interest from Pokemon Sun and Moon.

That said, I think it's fantastic when an IP holder chooses to reward the fan-tinkerer instead of opposing them (or at least in addition to it). A handful of guys who made retro Sonic fan-games for years and years have been tapped by Sega to make Sonic Mania, possibly the most anticipated Sonic game in over a decade. Valve and Blizzard and Bethesda are known for hiring modders and the like. Even Nintendo is rumored to have brought on one or more of the Dolphin emulation staff to work on Gamecube emulation on Switch. If Nintendo doesn't have any 2D Metroid games in the oven, I'd love to see them commission fan-developers like the AM2R project staff to make one, now that they've proven then can put together something solid (although, it did take them like ten years...)
Posted: 12/31/16, 04:58:44
I think they are completely in their right, however I do think that they shouldn't completely ignore people who make fan games and should instead give the talented people who make the good ones a chance or something because there are some talented people. AM2R has flaws, but it has a lot of heart and shows a genuine passion for the Metroid series.

And as a counterpoint to people saying to make your own game, I do agree with that in most circumstances. Pokemon ROM Hacks and fan games have been popular seemingly since the dawn of ROM Hacks because it's a type of game we don't get many of, and making one from scratch takes a lot of work. With stuff like AM2R though, that wouldn't be what it is without being Metroid. It's a Metroid 2 remake and it kinda needs to be Metroid for that to work.

@kriswright
I disagree that they are trying to ride on the coat tails of someone else. A lot of people do these with no expectation of donation and instead do it as a way to experiment. Sure it acts as a good thing on the portfolio, but the main reason is passion. You don't spend 10 years on a project like AM2R without loving what you are doing.
Posted: 01/01/17, 11:29:41
I feel like releasing Super Mario Maker was Nintendo's reaction to all of the ROM hackers of Mario games out there. And then the homebrew NSMBWii level editor called Reggie! on Wii made it even more accessible for people to make their own levels. Nintendo probably wouldn't admit it because they don't want to acknowledge the existence of that stuff, but it seems likely to me that it had a hand in their decision to make SMM as a more legitimate way for fans to create levels.
Posted: 01/01/17, 21:47:25
kriswright said:
Eh... you kind of get what's coming to you if you spend all your time making a video game that's trying to piggyback on someone else's intellectual property. I mean, I know these are fan projects and are often the smallest of small-time hobbyist developers. But they're still kind of parasitic - riding on the coat-tails of Nintendo's property with their own projects. Why invent your own thing if you can borrow from someone else and get access to a portion of their audience, right away?

So I guess my attitude is that it can help a talented person get noticed. And that's a valuable thing, not just to the world to to Nintendo. But not everyone's a Dangermouse. if Nintendo shuts you down, you're sorta getting what's coming to you. You really have no right to complain about it.

This says pretty much exactly how I feel on the subject. I, personally, have zero interest in anything fan made. That's not at all a judgement on the potential quality of the projects. I'm sure some are great. I simply prefer the vetting of having gone through 'professional' means.
Posted: 01/02/17, 01:22:45
Came across something interesting today before getting down to start work in earnest. Here is a fascinating little video on Miyamoto's process. What I thought pertained to this thread so well was the bit at the start about Donkey Kong. Originally, they wanted to make a Popeye game, but couldn't secure the rights. Instead of just taking the Popeye assets like our world today, they invented Donkey Kong, which lead to Jumpman, who we know as Mario.

This is not always the case, and it would be extreme to say so. However I think it's VERY wise to note that we could live in a world without Mario if Miyamoto had either just gone ahead and created a Popeye game regardless of IP rights, or even if they had secured the Popeye rights they tried to get. That, to me, is astounding.

#originalIdeasFtW
Posted: 01/16/17, 18:06:32
I briefly thought about this thread while watching the Awesome Games Done Quick 2017 speedrun of Super Metroid Rotation, which is Super Metroid but rotated 90 degrees...and it's still totally playable! (as long as you can walljump really really well)

#fangamesFTW
Posted: 01/16/17, 18:27:31
@nate38

If that's what the fan game scene is about, I'm clearly missing nothing at all.
Posted: 01/16/17, 18:54:32
@Koovaps Nah, Super Metroid Rotation is someone having a funny idea about of the most well-designed games of all time. Most fan-games have a little more creativity put into them (though I'm sure SM Rotation still took a lot of work).
Posted: 01/16/17, 19:04:32
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