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Nintendo cracks down on fan-made games

DMCA takedown notice prompts closure of more than 500 projects on GameJolt

It's not uncommon for fan-made games using big-name IP to get shut down as soon as they draw some interest online. It's less common for rights-holders to aggressively and indiscriminately squash those projects by the hundreds.

Freeware site GameJolt yesterday announced that it received a DMCA takedown notice from Nintendo for 562 projects infringing on its rights to the Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Pokemon franchises.

"These web pages display images of Nintendo's video game characters in connection with unauthorized online games that copy the characters, music, and other features of Nintendo's video games," Nintendo's representatives wrote in the takedown notice. "The web site at gamejolt.com generates revenue from advertising banners displayed on the site and advertisements played while users wait for the games to load."

GameJolt has removed public access to those games, but their creators can still access them "for historical purposes."

Nintendo has been cracking down on fan-made projects recently. Last month it squashed Pokemon Uranium, a PC version of the franchise nine years in the making that was pulled down less than a week after launch, but not before it was downloaded 1.5 million times. That was just a week after it had a free fan-made remake of Metroid 2 pulled.

Interestingly, Nintendo's GameJolt requests were limited to those three main properties. As of this writing, the site still hosted numerous projects based on franchises like Metroid, Donkey Kong, Earthbound, and Yoshi.

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Latest comments (9)

Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 6 months ago
I wonder what's happened at nintendo to make them suddenly go after fan-made stuff. They used to be fairly relaxed about people using their IPs for small or free projects.
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Aleksi Ranta Product Manager - Hardware 6 months ago
Maybe they had to go after a few projects due to them crossing some red line and then it was just best to take them all down?
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 months ago
It could be that monetization seems to be an issue in a few cases on GJ, itch.io and other sites. But I think it's also to do with those big three cash-makers (Mario, Zelda, Pokemon) where even a FREE game takes time players could be spending (along with money) on a new (or old) Nintendo title. With Mario Maker now 3DS-bound, I'm gathering Nintendo wants to see creativity there over seeing it elsewhere. But I'm probably wrong as usual, lol.

That said, I don't know why some of the smarter fans don't create original characters and stories that pay homage to the franchises they love and not just grab assets and music to slap into a project they think won't be touched because of "fair use". Games like Axiom Verge, UnEpic, Freedom Planet and more all do that homage stuff wonderfully and the folks who created them own that content forever.

Love something to death? Let it inspire you to craft your own worlds that you can share that won't fall into legal issues down the road.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 5th September 2016 5:39pm

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Show all comments (9)
James Boulton6 months ago
If you ignore copyright infringement then it becomes a problem if you then try and enforce it later. With the NX upcoming, and the release of the NES mini, Nintendo seem to be protecting their old IP more diligently as they see more value in it.
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Mario Tommadich Software QA Analyst, Indie Game Developer 6 months ago
@Andrew Watson:
It's quite simple, really. Fan art is bad. It's always been problematic for artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, since every bit of fan art produced nibbles a part of the artistic freedom of the original author away, intentionally or unintentionally. As an author or game designer, you suddenly need to be careful not to touch on or be similar to any existing fan art, just to avoid the subject of plagiarism. And you shouldn't have to. Suddenly your stories need to take twists and turns you wouldn't have chosen, but a piece of existing and publically available fan art may force you to do so. That is why it is, despite feeling honoured for the attention and love of your fans, that a copyrightholder needs to lash out and cull any fan generated content before it gets too thick to get around. It doesn't mean Nintendo doesn't love their fans.
For Nintendo this act was the equivalent of shaking off a growing number of cute kittens before getting crushed by their weight :-D
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TimothyJames Darcy Studying Computer Science (Games), University of Southern California6 months ago
@James Boulton:
Actually, the first part of that is a misconception (at the very least, that isn't how it works in the US; I can't speak to other countries). Trademark works like that, where you can lose rights by not enforcing the trademark consistently, but nothing but the end of the term (which is practically never these days) affects one's rights as a copyright holder.

That said, I don't think you're far off about their reasoning. There's really no question here of whether Nintendo has the right to do this of course, but it certainly seems to be generating a lot of ill will among gamers outside the industry, as well as amateur devs. One has to wonder if they're really making the wisest choice in this case.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 months ago
@Timothy: That "ill will" is a result of fans not grasping the law part and instead reacting to the games getting yanked part.
There's really no question here of whether Nintendo has the right to do this of course,
is Nintendo's stance, period

Personally, I feel they should go further and put up a post explaining all the legal reasons for the takedowns and other claims made on stuff like jewelry, t-shirts and such, as some fans are so nuts about this that they think doors will be kicked in just to grab someone's sketch book full of Zelda doodles or make others get their Bob-omb tattoos forcibly removed.
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I think the recent Mario iPhone announcement may explain the timing of this.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 months ago
@John Owens: I'm surprised they didn't release it today. December is only a few months away, but quite a lot of the comments I've read are from people who want it yesterday. Or on Android because they refuse to buy a new/another phone and contract for one game...

Annnnnd of course, it's coming to Android in 2017. Well, that's cool... waiting time aside for the impatient ones out there...

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Greg Wilcox on 9th September 2016 5:40pm

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