A good chunk of the gaming community really seems to enjoy throwing Nintendo under the bus. It’s been this way for quite some time now, but the amount of negativity surrounding the company has seemed to have increased over the last few years. I don’t think I can recall a day when I signed onto to a general gaming site and there wasn’t at least a few articles throwing shade at Nintendo and/or its systems. Criticizing is one thing, but bashing is something totally different.
With all that said, it isn’t fair to say that some of the negativity isn’t warranted. While bad news surrounding the company is constantly sensationalized and exaggerated, there are some genuine issues that have arisen. One of them is the way that Nintendo handles fan-made content; honestly, it sucks.
In honor of the Metroid franchise’s 30th anniversary, a fan released a project called AM2R. Being a remake of the original Metroid II, the project was met with praise from the community. To the dismay of many, the party was over almost as soon as it began. Nintendo sent DMCA notices to the project creator just a few hours after release, forcing him to remove the download links to the game. This isn’t the first time this has happened; there are many other instances where Nintendo has snubbed a fan project after it started getting lots of attention. Time and again, the community throws the company under the bus for these occurrences.
Due to the Virtual Console service, many of Nintendo’s decade old titles are still readily available for purchase on its modern systems. Because of this, it’s understandable that the company would be sensitive to attempts at modifying the content of its original games. But the thing is, most of these fan projects tend to add some new features of their own. True, at their core these are still the original games, but aren’t the changes that are made enough to consider them being “transformative works”, at least?
Regardless, it’s definitely a blow to the fan community. Situations like these only add to the already oversaturated pool of negative Nintendo-related content; and in this case, it’s the company’s own actions which cause the issue to arise. I understand that Nintendo wants to protect its IPs, and it has every right to dictate what can-and-can’t be done with them, but this just comes off as being draconian. Nintendo should take notes from its former rival turned comrade—SEGA.
SEGA is usually used as the textbook example of what not to do as a video game company, but credit should be given where credit is due. Unlike Nintendo, SEGA is pretty lax when it comes to fan content. This is evidenced by the Sonic the Hedgehog fan community.
The Sonic community has a bad reputation for being filled with some of the most ‘cringe-worthy’ individuals and creations, but this just happens to be a small, yet very loud and dedicated sector of the whole group. What I’m really referring to are the talented individuals that have created various remarkable projects. After the Sonic series began its decline in the mid 2000s, the rise of media websites like YouTube allowed many talented ‘basement creators’ to get some decent exposure.
There are dozens of Sonic fan-games out there, some of which rival (and even surpass) some of Sonic Team’s titles. One example of this is Sonic GL. Developed by an individual that went under the name of Bosser Jerome, taking a glance at the game would lead you to believe it was the early version of an official title. The project’s popularity soared back in 2006 when it was first revealed. Unfortunately, it was never released. According to Jerome, the reason for this was because he didn’t want the project to go up against Sonic 2006. While it’s unfortunate that the public never got to play it, that’s probably a good thing; it would have been an even more embarrassing situation for Sonic Team had a fan project bested their own works. With that said, SEGA has actually acknowledged some of its talented fans.
An official game being created by talented fans. That’s not something you see every day; take notes, Nintendo.
The upcoming Sonic Mania, which was announced last month, looks strikingly similar to the majority of fan-made Sonic games and ROM hacks. That’s no mere coincidence—the development team consists of former Sonic fan community developers. From the gameplay to the audio, all of that is being done by talented creators who got their humble start entertaining other members of the community. The fact that SEGA went to the extent of hiring them for an official project is the perfect example of good public relations; it appreciates the work of its fans and decided to allow them to use their talents to an even greater extent.
So, what’s your excuse Nintendo?
As flawed as SEGA was (and still is), that’s a very commendable strategy that it has implemented. If Nintendo had the same attitude, things would probably turn out even better. The company owns a plethora of different IPs, most of which have laid dormant for years now. Not to mention the fact that many of Nintendo’s franchises are industry staples. If the company were as lax as SEGA is, there’s a good chance that the hidden talent of the fan community would flourish in no time. As many Sonic fan-games that are out there, a lot of them being very good, they haven’t had any noticeably adverse effects on the official titles. There’s a pretty good separation between the two worlds. Likewise, there’s no way that a Mario or Pokemon fan project would take any heat away from the announcements of new first-party entries. Going back to the factor of the VC service, almost all of the original Sonic games have been touched-up and ported over to modern platforms, yet SEGA still hasn’t put a stop to any fan projects. Again, these projects add to and enhance the experience; they don’t try to outright copy the original works.
At the end of the day, Nintendo will most likely continue to stick with this attitude. In its eyes, its franchises are probably too precious to try and be exploited by the fan community. But, this only adds fuel to the fire. The talent is out there, the tools are more readily available than ever. Fans aren’t going to want to stop creating, so we may continue to have these situations time and again. Hopefully Nintendo will get the memo one day. Instead of hunting down fan projects, it should be way more concerned about the titles that are actually trying to rip-off the original creations.