Talking Point: As The Fan-Made 2D Metroid Prime Game Is Shut Down, Where Do You Stand On Nintendo’s Takedowns?

Metroid Dread EMMIImage: Nintendo

Earlier today we reported that another impressive-looking fan-made Metroid game — a 2D reimagining of Metroid Prime this time — has been shut down after the makers received an inevitable cease-and-desist communique. Nintendo wasn’t specifically named, but there are no prizes for guessing the “certain games-related company” which has put the brakes on this project.

It’s a story we’ve heard various times over the years, perhaps most memorably with AM2R, a 2016 fan-made remake of the Game Boy’s Metroid II: Return of Samus in a 16-bit Super Metroid style. Nintendo’s own remake of that game — MercurySteam’s Metroid: Samus Returns — was in development at the time and launched the very next year, but even if that hadn’t been the case, the lack of a similar project being developed internally wouldn’t have altered Nintendo’s response to a game that uses the company’s characters and intellectual property being made available, regardless of the quality. In fact, the quality and resulting confusion it could create — did Nintendo make this? — could conceivably draw even closer scrutiny from the Shuntaro Furukawa’s legal team.

Despite the fact that we’ve been here many times before, there’s inevitably a reaction from a group of fans that Nintendo is being overly litigious, unnecessarily fussy, and even downright spiteful when it comes to closing down fan projects or withdrawing support. The company has an uneasy relationship with the Smash Bros. fanbase, for instance, and pulled its support for a tournament that was using a modified version of Super Smash Bros. Melee.

We’d argue that the reason Nintendo gets so antsy about fan games is quite clear — not only will the company want to ‘protect’ its IP and reputation by avoiding associations with projects it hasn’t personally developed or vetted, but it must also be seen to be discouraging and seeking to prevent copyright infringements in an active manner or risk leaving itself vulnerable in future legal disputes. Turning a blind eye in a single case sets a precedent that opens the door to copyright headaches down the line with other potentially more egregious projects.

Nintendo must also be seen to be discouraging and seeking to prevent copyright infringements in an active manner or risk leaving itself vulnerable in future legal disputes

This doesn’t console frustrated fans who view cease-and-desists as unnecessary actions against fan communities who are expressing love for Nintendo’s games and characters. The most passionate developers invariably aren’t seeking to profit monetarily, so why shut down these projects?

Nintendo’s approach stands in stark contrast to Sega’s relaxed stance with Sonic fan games, that’s for sure. In fact, a Sega rep went as far as saying that when it comes to fan-made Sonic art and games, “so long as no profit is involved, there is usually no issue”. Sega and Nintendo are very different companies with very different outlooks and business interests,

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