Copyright

by Timothy Geigner


Filed Under:
fan remake, fans, metroid 2, video games

Companies:
nintendo



Nintendo Shuts Down Fan Remake Of 25 Year Old Metroid 2 Game Because It Can't Help Itself

from the samus-on-you dept

For gamers who are fans of Nintendo, it's always helpful to remember that Nintendo hates you. The general idea behind that mantra is that Nintendo, when faced between embracing the creativity and love that comes from its fans and acting like over-protective toddlers when it comes to any sort of its intellectual property, will always choose the latter. The company has issued takedowns for fan-made Mario Bros. levels just as it released Mario Maker, it as made a habit of shutting down fan-films depicting Nintendo characters, and it has even shut down fan get-togethers centered around beloved Nintendo properties just because they aren't "official." To be clear, Nintendo certainly can ensure that all of this free advertising for its products is never seen or enjoyed by the public legally, but it doesn't have to. It could instead embrace the love of its fans and work out an arrangement that would protect its IP while still allowing its fans to be fans.

But that doesn't happen, because Nintendo just cannot help itself. And that continues to the present, with Nintendo shutting a fan remake of a 25 year old game just as it was released, citing intellectual property concerns.

AM2R is a remake of Metroid II: The Return of Samus, a sequel to the popular Metroid on NES, which Nintendo released on the Game Boy back in in 1991. The fan remake, in development since 2012, adds improved sprite graphics and new gameplay in the style of Metroid Zero Mission -- a remake released by Nintendo -- on the Game Boy Advance. Released on August 6, and just in time for Metroid’s 30th anniversary, filesharing sites hosting AM2R were notified to remove the game by Nintendo’s legal counsel according to Polygon.

“Nintendo’s broad library of characters, products, and brands are enjoyed by people around the world, and we appreciate the passion of our fans,” reads a statement provided to IGN by a Nintendo representative. “But just as Nintendo respects the intellectual property rights of others, we must also protect our own characters, trademarks and other content. The unapproved use of Nintendo’s intellectual property can weaken our ability to protect and preserve it, or to possibly use it for new projects.”

As we have detailed entirely too many times in the past, that last bit about fans making fan works weakening IP protections and preventing new projects isn't remotely true. There are many avenues a company like Nintendo can pursue in reaction to this. DMCA takedowns and legal threats are but one of those avenues. Another would be to offer these projects a cheap license to make them "official" while still letting the projects go off unhindered. That Nintendo wishes to pretend like that avenue doesn't exist is disappointing, but not surprising.

Keep in mind that this game is decades old and was released for free, making it a non-commercial venture that was little other than an expression of fanship and love from dedicated gamers who are (were?) fans of Nintendo. What business sense it makes to stomp on those fans' devotion is a complete mystery to me.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 9:04am

    The assholery tree needs its roots watered frequently by ignorance and greed.

    Nintendo has both in vast quantities.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 12:23pm

      Re:

      Fully supported by people that keep giving them money.

      You are clearly in the minority. Nintendo has no reason to be nice to their fans. Fans eat their shit like its candy and beg for more.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 9:10am

    Nintendo just doesn't like being shown up is all. I mean if fans can create better games and events than they can it might lead to awkward questions like "Why can't you get with the times?" an Nintendo would rather avoid those.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 9:15am

    Probably the saddest things I saw about this were:

    1) The people defending Nintendo's actions by claiming that Nintendo could lose their copyrights if they didn't defend them.

    2) The people saying that the game maker should have known this would happen and that if they had wanted to make a game they should have made their own original game instead of stealing Nintendo's IP.

    The first one is sad because that's how badly some people understand copyright and what is and isn't required for it.

    The second one is sad because they just can't comprehend that fans like to do fan works for a series, and this game was as much a fan work as any fan art or fan fiction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:19am

      Re:

      The first point is what happens when copyright, trademarks, and patents are treated as interchangeable terms and the folks doing so aren't immediately corrected on their mistake.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:36am

      Re:

      "The second one is sad because they just can't comprehend that fans like to do fan works for a series, and this game was as much a fan work as any fan art or fan fiction."

      Honestly, no, this was even more of a fan work, because it takes art, story, sound, music, and programming all combined to create a fan game. This was a decade long labour of love from someone who just got shit on.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 12:27pm

        Re: Re:

        This was a decade long labour of love from someone who just got shit on.

        It's cool, they enjoyed being shat upon.

        I am one of the "sad" guys made in point #2. They are stupid for doing work on someone else's IP, and yes they should have known! And yes I fucking comprehend it, cause I have done it myself. I have created mods and hosted pirate servers on some games, but I knew the risks when I did them. It did not stop me.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 1:48pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          To be fair, mods and alternative pirate servers are a bit different than completely recreating a game with improvements...

          They didn't technically use nintendo's IP unless you mean recreating all the artwork, graphics, game mechanics, and world from scratch...

          They didn't really copy anything other than the ideas behind the original game.

          Now, I realize that because it used all the same aspects of the original game, it's considered a derivative work, but it didn't outright take any of the components from the original, but rather painstakingly recreated them from scratch.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Thad, 17 Aug 2016 @ 2:04pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Aren't many of the graphics pixel-for-pixel recreations of the ones from Metroid: Zero Mission? They sure looked like it to me, though I haven't replayed it recently.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 2:28pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              I'm unsure, as I haven't played Zero Mission (although, I used to play M2 a lot when i was younger).

              Based on reading the blog posts, it sounds like the author of the game accepted artwork from 3rd party contributors, so it's possible that they ripped it from another game verbatim.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 9:30am

    The bigger issue surrounding this particular takedown comes not from Nintendo’s protection of its IP—which is still an issue, mind you!—but from its lack of giving a shit about that IP.

    Nintendo has a nasty habit of ignoring the Metroid franchise. Its last major release, Metroid: Other M, landed with a dull thud on the gaming world. Samus Aran is a heroine near-forgotten by Nintendo, sidelined to the Smash Bros. franchise. So along comes AM2R, right on a major anniversary for the franchise, to revive interest in said franchise with a remake of an often-ignored entry in the series. Having played the remake, I can tell you that the developer shows a real appreciation for the Metroid franchise; AM2R feels like a new 2D entry in the series, thanks in part to gameplay mechanics lifted from games that came after Metroid II (including the much-lauded Super Metroid). This would normally be the kind of game that sparks renewed interest in a franchise—that gets people interested in seeing Nintendo make (and sell) a new Metroid game.

    But Nintendo can’t see beyond its own myopic “protect everything at all costs” view on IP. AM2R now stands as more of a “fuck you” statement to Nintendo vis-á-vis the company’s negligent treatment of the Metroid franchise than as a “thank you” to Nintendo for creating the franchise in the first place.

    Why should anyone bother making anything involving Metroid—art, fanfics, game remakes, original fan games—if Nintendo only wants to shit all over the franchise’s fans for it? Why should anyone bother even caring about the franchise any more, for that matter?

    If Nintendo doesn’t want fans to celebrate Metroid, why should we even acknowledge the series’ existence?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:33am

      Re:

      Whoa there, they're giving us Federation Farce any day now! I mean, a 4 player co-op squad tactics game is totally the same as an exploration based platformer with a strongly player driven narrative!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Archillies, 18 Aug 2016 @ 7:37pm

      Re:

      Needless to say it is a great tribute to the game and I do not plan to delete my copy to support Nintendo's foolishness.

      Interesting to note that Nintendo had no plans to celebrate the anniversary themselves.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    seedeevee (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 9:57am

    Why?

    Lawyers get paid for filing forms.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:17am

    "from the samus-on-you dept"

    That pun unfortunately doesn't make sense, but you were close!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:20am

    This reminds me of the old adage: The definition of insanity is repeatedly banging your head bloody against the wall expecting a different outcome.

    Sorry, while Nintendo could use a chill pill, the problem isn't actually Nintendo. It's all the fan(atics) that keep making all this content when they know full well what Nintendo is going to do then go nuts when Nintendo does it. Walk away people and hit Nintendo where it hurts, in its pocketbook. Cuz it's not going to change its tune otherwise.

    Do I expect that to happen? No. Fans prove repeatedly that "fan" is just a shortening of "fanatic". People love being abused and then complain about being abused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:27am

      Re:

      It's not insanity, it's a combination of love for the game (NOT Nintendo), and a sense of civil disobedience. When a stupid law exists, it's the responsibility of EVERYONE, including fanatics and nerds, to flaunt said law at every turn.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:29am

    For anyone who's interested, the latest version of AM2R, version 1.1, is available via torrent from the pirate bay. demonoid, or the author's own forums.

    All IP stupidity aside, it's a fantastic game, and the best Metroid game since Prime 1/2, especially if you play on hard difficulty. (Warning, hard is actually hard)

    Nintendo really needs to take a page from Capcom's book in regards to fan games. For Megaman's 25th anniversary, Capcom decided that instead of shutting down the fan game Street Fighter X Mega Man they would promote it, use it as free advertising, and publish it themselves. This generated decent hype, lots of goodwill, and got everyone thinking about their series again, at a time when Capcom was doing jack with it. (They're still doing nothing with the series these days, but they've allowed plenty of good fangames to keep their interest and sales up)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:51am

    We all saw this coming...

    The moment I saw the announcement about the fan-made game I thought "Wow! They not only made it, but they're telling Nintendo they made it (by making a public announcement)? This will last about 2 days, which is how long it'll take the C&D to arrive."

    And it looks like I was right.

    Nintendo has been consistently in the camp of "Gotta catch 'em all!" when it comes to other people using derivatives of their IP. They want to control not only their own works, but also their brands. And Metroid is definitely a brand. It's no different than what Disney does with anyone attempting to depict its characters. Want to do a fan remake of Steamboat Willie? Good luck with that....

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sam, 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:56am

    Seriously, stop beating up on Nintendo!

    It's Nintendo's property. They have every right to defend and protect it. I love fan projects and enjoy them while they last but I hold no grudge against Nintendo because I understand that it is theft of IP. Would you like it if someone broke into your house and stole something? I can answer that for you: no.

    I'm also sick of the argument if Nintendo did this like that company. Nintendo wants their IP to all be done internally because they make the hardware and want it only on that system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:12am

      As long as they keep walking around with a 'Hit me' sign...

      10/10, excellent poe, would chuckle again.

      I love fan projects and enjoy them while they last but I hold no grudge against Nintendo because I understand that it is theft of IP.

      Theft is it? Wow, I had no idea Samus and Metroid ceased to exist for Nintendo once the game came out, that the ones making the fan game were now the only ones who had access to the characters and world. Here I was thinking that it was simply an act of copying, modification and addition, I had no idea that it was actually a case of stealing the very characters and world itself and depriving everyone else of both.

      Also I find it rather funny that you say you 'love fan projects', given if every company and creator had Nintendo's mindset those project wouldn't exist.

      Would you like it if someone broke into your house and stole something?

      Few typos there, might want to look into either typing slower or replacing your keyboard if the keys are sending the wrong signals. Pretty sure you meant to write:

      'Would you like it if someone, from the comfort of their own home, made a copy of something in your home?'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Sam, 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:28am

        Re: As long as they keep walking around with a 'Hit me' sign...

        What is this? High school? Typo? Everything is spelled correctly.. so..? Your point? Seriously. Are you even contributing to this discussion? No. You are a troll.

        Intellectual property (IP) theft is defined as theft of material that is copyrighted, the theft of trade secrets, and trademark violations. A copyright is the legal right of an author, publisher, composer, or other person who creates a work to exclusively print, publish, distribute, or perform the work in public.


        Thank you! I SO hope you have a great day!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:53am

          Re: Re: As long as they keep walking around with a 'Hit me' sign...

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 12:26pm

          Re: Re: As long as they keep walking around with a 'Hit me' sign...

          Contributing to the discussion? You mean like comparing copyright infringement to breaking and entering? Mind, I have seen worse(rape and slavery as two examples), but if you're going to go full hyperbole don't be surprised if the responses to your claim are more than a little snarctastic or sarcasm filled.

          I've said it before to others and I'll say it again here to you: if you don't want to be called out on your absurd comparisons and word use use the right words. It's 'copyright infringement', not 'theft'.

          You may like the emotional appeal you think calling it theft gives your argument but I would be greatly surprised if you would want it to be treated as theft(no statutory damages and a requirement to show harm as just two examples), and as such using the word is misleading at best if not actively dishonest, neither of which are conductive to a productive discussion or even people taking you and your claims seriously.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Thad, 17 Aug 2016 @ 1:21pm

          Re: Re: As long as they keep walking around with a 'Hit me' sign...

          The point is, both "IP" and "theft" are misnomers, and they are not neutral. They are misleading and are used by people to push a particular agenda.

          "IP theft" is what some people call copyright infringement. Those people are dishonest and should not be trusted.

          Out of curiosity, where's that quote from? Couldn't help noticing you didn't cite the source.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:17am

      Re: Seriously, stop beating up on Nintendo!

      I own my couch, and can set it on fire if I choose. That in no way makes setting my couch on fire the optimal usage of it.

      Further, there is no THEFT in IP, only infringement. I'd suggest reading some of Rick Falkvinge's work. https://falkvinge.net/

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:25am

      Re: Seriously, stop beating up on Nintendo!

      ...unlike Capcom, who took the Megaman vs Street Fighter fangame and made it official.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:49am

      Re: Seriously, stop beating up on Nintendo!

      You're comparing making a fan game to breaking into someone's home. When you have to say that sort of idiotic shit to make a point, your point is probably bullshit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 12:29pm

      Re: Seriously, stop beating up on Nintendo!

      Would you like it if someone broke into your house and stole something?

      There is no theft in this fan art. it is much more like a visitor liking they decor of your house, and going home and creating the same decor in their own home.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      techflaws (profile), 17 Aug 2016 @ 10:04pm

      Re: Seriously, stop beating up on Nintendo!

      because I understand that it is theft of IP.

      Actually, you don't.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 Aug 2016 @ 1:14am

      Re: Seriously, stop beating up on Nintendo!

      "Would you like it if someone broke into your house and stole something? I can answer that for you: no."

      Well, you got the correct answer. Now, can you use you psychic skills to work out how idiotic that comparison is, how in no way are the two analogous and how dumb you look for thinking they are? Go on, you got off to a good start, carry on all the way!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:00am

    Nintendo also lost out on free/cheap advertising for Mario and other Nintendo IP in the movie Wreck-it Ralph.

    Nintendo wanted to force the story to be about Mario saving the day. So when the movie studio said no, Nintendo wouldn't let them use anything. That movie could have had Samus, Donkey Kong, Mario, etc camios but instead that whole companies IP was missing.

    Greed and stupidity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 12:43pm

      Re:

      "Nintendo also lost out on free/cheap advertising for Mario and other Nintendo IP in the movie Wreck-it Ralph.

      Nintendo wanted to force the story to be about Mario saving the day. So when the movie studio said no, Nintendo wouldn't let them use anything. That movie could have had Samus, Donkey Kong, Mario, etc camios but instead that whole companies IP was missing.

      Greed and stupidity."

      Did we watch the same movie? Bowser is blatantly in the Villains group meeting sitting beside Zangeif.
      The Producers also have stated they had access to the Bros but didn't put them in because they felt that their inclusion would merit something more than a minor cameo but they couldn't find a proper place for them so they were only mentioned.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 11:42am

    They took out Pokemon Uranium too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 12:18pm

    > What business sense it makes to stomp on those fans' devotion is a complete mystery to me.

    The difficulty is that you are treating "Nintendo" as if it were a single monolithic entity.

    Instead, try asking a different question: what business sense does it make for *Nintendo Legal* to issue these takedown notices?

    Does it provide extra work (billable hours) for Nintendo Legal? Check.

    Does it increase the "siege mentality" at Nintendo thus increasing the importance of Nintendo Legal? Check.

    Does it confirm Nintendo Legal's own sense of importance? Check.

    Does it risk Nintendo Legal clearly overstepping the bounds of normal legal advice and leave them subject to claims of poor representation? Not really.

    Does it harm Nintendo as an organization overall and thus risk eventually reducing the amounts they can spend on their legal team? Perhaps -- and this appears to be the sole factor arguing against taking this action.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 1:13pm

    A little disappointed Nintendo has such an attitude about these fan projects, but at least they showed some restraint and waited until after the project was released before unleashing the hounds.

    They didn't pull a Square-Enix and fire off a C&D BEFORE its scheduled release date. (rip Crimson Echoes '04-'09)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Thad, 17 Aug 2016 @ 1:36pm

    Copyrights and trademarks

    It sets my teeth on edge to see so many people defend this by saying "Nintendo has an obligation to protect its IP" -- including, annoyingly, the dev himself.

    No. Nintendo does *not* have any obligation to protect its IP. You can't lose a copyright by choosing not to enforce it. (You can lose a trademark if you don't enforce it, but the risk of that is vastly exaggerated, and anyway that's irrelevant since we're talking about copyright infringement here, not trademark infringement.) Nintendo had the option to ignore this -- indeed, there are fan-made Mario and Zelda games that it's been ignoring for decades at this point, and it doesn't seem to have hurt those brands.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Aug 2016 @ 1:38pm

    You should probably also mention the other Nintendo fangame pokemon uranium

    http://kotaku.com/pokemon-uranium-creators-pull-game-after-1-5-million-do-1785258831

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Matt, 17 Aug 2016 @ 3:45pm

    Thanks for writing this. NoA has been at this for a while. Two years ago out of nowhere they forced me to take down my free fan game Pokemon Fusion Generation after 10 years of hard work. We are tired of the excuses. Nintendo should be held accountable for their regressive policies and lies that fan works somehow harm their intellectual property. Since they are not going to stop this anytime soon I hope Techdirt will continue covering Nintendo's attempts to suppress fan games.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    David Ihnen (profile), 18 Aug 2016 @ 9:43am

    Why not approve?

    They make this statement that they can't allow it without approval. That's all well and good, but why is it in that status?

    The question to ask is, why didn't Nintendo already view the content when they saw it existed, and approve it proactively?

    Surely there is no legal status that stops them from doing that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Candied Hat, 23 Jan 2017 @ 2:28pm

    I doubt Gunpei Yokoi, Hiroji Kiyotake, Makoto Kano and Hiroyuki Kimura would do that

    They were the developers of the game. So, do you think they'd take it down? I doubt it. I would love to see people recreating MY old games and improving them. And I love to do the same thing. The Legal Team at Nintendo needs to be replaced. At LEAST their brains do. I don't think they really have any. They must only be thinking about how to keep everything legal, not profitable.

    The Legal Team must not care about anybody but themselves. Selfish lawyers. Ask Gunpei Yokoi, or Hiroji Kiyotake, or anyone else who developed Metroid II. They would probably love to keep AM2R up and running. If I were Milton Guasti, I would have ask the developers of Metroid II if he could release the remake. They would have worked something out.

    Gonna go work on my The Legend of Zelda remake... And make sure I ask Koji Kondo and Shigeru Miyamoto about Copyright Infringment first.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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