It's Amazing All The Cool Stuff We Could Have If Nintendo Didn't Insist On Nintendo-Ing

from the mine-mine-mine dept

Perhaps because the stories we routinely do on Nintendo doing the Nintendo come out at a clip somewhat spread out, and perhaps because the ultimate reality is that Nintendo’s Nintendo-ing is legally something it is allowed to do, I believe the wider world really doesn’t understand just how much cool stuff the public is deprived of. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, some percentage of Nintendo’s rabid fanbase likes to try to do cool stuff with Nintendo properties as an expression of their fandom. This means creating interesting new games, or trying to get Nintendo classics to work on laughably aged hardware just for funsies. Or celebrating Nintendo game soundtracks. The point is that fans do fan things, right up until Nintendo’s lawyers come calling and shut it all down as copyright infringement.

Again, just so we’re absolutely clear: Nintendo can do this. But it doesn’t have to. Plenty of other gaming companies have carved out space and methods by which they can still protect their intellectual property but allow fans to make fan creations. Nintendo refuses to do this and the result is that we lose the opportunity to see and have cool stuff. One example of this was a group in Australia’s attempt to get the original Donkey Kong game working using only some recent tools Facebook provided.

Created by developer ‘bberak’, this React Native version of Donkey Kong isn’t an emulation, it was created from the ground up for iOS and Android and documented in a detailed post on Hackernoon in April 2018. Perhaps a little unusually, given the risks associated with stepping on Nintendo’s toes lately, the original repo – which was now been taken down – basically acknowledges that parts of the project may infringe copyright. The game’s code may have been created independently but the visual and audio assets are undoubtedly Nintendo’s. And the repo happily pointed to the company behind the project too.

“Copyright Notice: All content, artwork, sounds, characters and graphics are the property of Nintendo of America Inc, its affiliates and/or subsidiaries,” the repo read.

React Native was created by Facebook to allow developers to make new and better stuff for mobile OS. It’s no surprise that someone explored the platform by trying to develop a decades old classic game for it, if only just to see what the platform could do. This is classic nerd stuff.

Sadly, the copyright notice on the repo didn’t do what the developer thought it might do and Nintendo DMCA’d the project anyway. Instead of figuring out some way to celebrate this effort and make it legit, the whole thing just goes away. That sucks.

And I imagine the exact same thing is about to happen to another very cool project that is just dripping with nostalgia. An animator who has worked in the gaming industry for years, Jesus Lopez, is creating a brand new Mario game with his kids… and styling the entire thing after the Super Mario Bros. Super Show! of the 80s.

The fan game is being developed by Jesus Lopez, an animator who has worked on various video games including The Simpsons Tapped Out, Ducktales Remastered and Shantae 1/2 Genie Hero. He is working alongside his two young children, who are helping with artwork and programming. He has been working on the project for nearly three years.

YouTuber SwankyBox recently contacted Lopez and uploaded a video showcasing new footage of the game, behind the scenes documents and early artwork.

Here’s the video, which shows gameplay footage. If you were a fan of the show when it came out, as I was, you’ll be struck by just how amazing it looks.

But if you’re anything like me, your first thought on seeing this coolness was something like, “We’re never going to get to see this completed, because Nintendo will nuke it.” And I’m not the only one. Sites entirely dedicated to Nintendo fandom are also predicting this project’s demise.

The project is a long way from completion, and if Nintendo’s track record is anything to go by, we imagine this will be available for a day or two before lawyers’ letters are sent. It’s a position Nintendo must maintain if it wants to protect its IP from more nefarious types of infringement, but we do hope we get to try this out one day.

The shame of it is how resigned to all of this we’ve become. Nintendo somehow gets a PR pass when it comes to its overly aggressive IP enforcement. While it’s within its rights to kill off these kinds of projects, nothing stops the company from working with fans to both allow and legitimize them instead. The explosion of good will and fan expression that could occur would make Nintendo quite possibly the king of fandoms.

Instead, we just lose the chance to have nice things.

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Companies: nintendo

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Comments on “It's Amazing All The Cool Stuff We Could Have If Nintendo Didn't Insist On Nintendo-Ing”

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32 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Gary (profile) says:

Article I, Section 8, Clause 8

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

Not to stifle competition and discourage creative and geeky projects. Not for Life + 70 years. And "authorship" meant books, not music movies and games.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Article I, Section 8, Clause 8

I notice one big thing that happens with the kind of copyright theft Nintendo et al commit, is that it ludicrously claims that all the hard work of creative fans is completely valueless; That only the tiny portion that was $company’s matters.

Kind of fucked up.

Rekrul says:

Re: Article I, Section 8, Clause 8

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.

That’s the old definition. Here’s the new one;

"To promote the progress of corporate bank accounts, by securing for ridiculous lengths of time to shareholders the exclusive right to their wage-slaves’ work."

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Nintendo absolutely has the right to “protect their IP”. And we absolutely have the right to criticize Nintendo for making foolish decisions.

Nintendo could’ve gotten on board with the people behind Another Metroid 2 Remake (AM2R) and let them port their creation to the 3DS or something under the company’s banner. Considering the drought of Metroid titles and the quality of AM2R, legalizing the project would’ve given Nintendo a hefty amount of good PR (not to mention potential sales). Instead, Nintendo crushed the game after its release.

Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should do it. Nintendo can absolutely crush fan projects using copyright law — but whether it should do that is the real question.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Nintendo absolutely has the right to “protect their IP”.

I’d call that a privilege rather than a right. The Constitution only says Congress may create copyright laws. And actually, case law says Nintendo has to consider fair use before using the DMCA against people, even if no courts have slapped them down so far.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Congress did enact copyright laws, and those laws give Nintendo the right to “protect their IP”. As for the Fair Use thing: Fair Use is only a defense in court, and someone copying an entire Nintendo game in the context of this case is not Fair Use. But even though Nintendo can nuke it from orbit just to be sure, that doesn’t mean it should.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

As for the Fair Use thing: Fair Use is only a defense in court

No, it’s also something a copyright holder has to consider before issuing DMCA takedowns.

someone copying an entire Nintendo game in the context of this case is not Fair Use.

As you said, you don’t get to make that call—it needs to be decided in court. But copying a whole work does not rule out fair use. This is a highly transformative work, one factor weighing in favor of it.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

I question your assumption of transformativeness. It is a Metroid game, using art that represents derivative works of the Metroid franchise, that functions with the same core game play and the same general plot. While AM2R made significant changes to the flow and reworked some map elements, as well as adding a few pieces of connective tissue providing added value, it doesn’t largely add new expression or meaning, and given the large amount of infringement core to AM2R, that factor is unlikely to weigh in favor of fair use.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I meant the Mario game from this article. It’s a whole new game using Mario Super Show artwork. They’d have a stronger case if they were making fun of or otherwise commenting on it, but anyway, that’s for DIC, Saban, and Viacom to complain about. It doesn’t borrow much from the Nintendo’s Mario games.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Daydream says:

What a world we live in,
Where you can make something beautiful to share with others,
A corporation can demand that you destroy it because it’s too similar to something they sell,
And you are, somehow, a horrible villain for making and sharing this thing you made.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Certainly not Nintendo’s. Hell, the very title of their first major videogame success announces that it borrowed liberally from King Kong (to the point where they were sued by Universal).

Like Disney, the company has had some amazing original ideas and revolutionary groundbreaking work in their field, but they’re the wrong example to hold up if you want to just talk about success based on original ideas.

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If you want to make something great then come up with your own ideas instead of stealing IP’s and ideas from others.

Yeah, see, nobody does that. Everyone works from inspiration; they pick and choose bits of what they like and put it into their own work. And yes, some people directly build on the works of others, copyrighted or not — but I fail to see how something like AM2R, the Mother 3 translation hack, or the React-based Donkey Kong remake should be vilified because they happen to violate an imaginary “property” right.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Standing upon the shoulders of giants, some like to proclaim the awesomeness of how they pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps becoming one of the very few self made successes.

Most adults have realized this is just not the case at all and these narcissistic liars have very fragile egos, so tread lightly when you correct their errors.

How does one steal an idea? Just curious to see the inner workings of someone who thinks this way. Once one person has an idea, no one else can ever even think about that idea or suffer the consequences of the IP Police. Stop resisting!

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ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

thats funny..
As do you think anything you have said is original??
Very good chance its not.

So I ask you to take it down, and threaten you with my lawyer??

If you understand tech, Mechanical hardware and then Software..
90% of it isnt original. How many companies have Created POS systems?? They do the same thing. Are they taken to court? NOPE.
Most games have the same concepts, ideas, do the saem thing as others…Only a few things change. Something New may be added, but its the SAME THING.
Ask Atari, about its first games, and how they have gone after others that recreate many of them…Only because Atari re-makes them for every device to sell at CHEAP Prices..You get he Whole collection.. Making money from programs created on the Atari 2600.. 40 years ago.

ECA (profile) says:

Re:

thats funny..
As do you think anything you have said is original??
Very good chance its not.

So I ask you to take it down, and threaten you with my lawyer??

If you understand tech, Mechanical hardware and then Software..
90% of it isnt original. How many companies have Created POS systems?? They do the same thing. Are they taken to court? NOPE.
Most games have the same concepts, ideas, do the saem thing as others…Only a few things change. Something New may be added, but its the SAME THING.
Ask Atari, about its first games, and how they have gone after others that recreate many of them…Only because Atari re-makes them for every device to sell at CHEAP Prices..You get he Whole collection.. Making money from programs created on the Atari 2600.. 40 years ago.

Anonymous Coward says:

it's all about monetization

As soon as Nintendo discovers how to monetize these ‘fan projects’, they’ll stop suing these ‘fan projects’.
Image a Napster type set up where you pay to Upload your project and others can download and play your project for free.

This all reminds me of how Prince used to sue his fans for trying to put his songs on Youtube?

Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

Nintendo owns the rights to an entire backlog of games that it could put on the Switch Online service with a metaphorical snap of its fingers. Instead, it doles out those decades-old games in small numbers, with new ones arriving in batches of two or three every month. The NES alone spawned some 700 games; to date, a Switch Online subscriber can play 48 of those games, or around 7% of all NES games (which is also about half of the number of games available on the Virtual Console). Nintendo waited a year(!) to unload 20 SNES games onto the Switch Online service — or around 2%(!!) of the 721 SNES games released in North America. And nothing indicates that Nintendo plans to release Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, or Nintendo 64 games on Switch Online any time soon.

If any video game company is set up to offer a “Netflix for videogames”, Nintendo is that company. That it refuses to do such a thing, for whatever reason, says a lot about its ass-backwards approach to modern gaming and the Internet. Is it any wonder, then, why piracy of its classic library still runs rampant?

Igualmente69 (profile) says:

"It’s a position Nintendo must maintain if it wants to protect its IP from more nefarious types of infringement, but we do hope we get to try this out one day."
This is NOT true. They don’t have to shut down fan-made games to retain control of their IP.
It is bothersome that this canard continues to be out there, I am sure encouraged by lawyers for companies like Nintendo.

Anonymous Coward says:

For Nintendo's legal team, it was just a Tuesday

Nintendo has treated their IP this way since the 1980’s. They’re not interested in supporting fan projects, and they don’t want unlicensed creations based on their IP, period. If it came down to it, I think they would actually prefer to entirely lose the type of fans who would create these projects rather than allow them.

Considering Nintendo has enough cash already to continue operating for decades, and they have a mega-hit console and games that are raking in millions more every day, I doubt they’ll care or even notice any backlash that comes from shutting down these guys.

Steady as she goes, Furukawa san

Rekrul says:

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; When working on a project using copyrighted material, DON’T ADVERTISE IT! Work on it in secret, finish it, test it, test it some more, really test it, and then release it. When the legal notices arrive, take it down secure in the knowledge that thousands if not millions of people will have already downloaded it and your project will continue to be shared long after the original download is gone.

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