Earlier this week, we posted about a free fan game that mashes up elements of Mario games and the space-exploration sim No Man’s Sky. While those projects are cool, Nintendo’s lawyers are less pleased.
Indie-game site Game Jolt claims that it will have to take down more than 550 fan games because of a notice from Nintendo. In the notice, which the company’s legal counsel filed as a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request, the publisher claims that Game Jolt is hosting content featuring protected materials from games like Mario, Zelda, and Pokémon. This sort of action isn’t totally new for Nintendo. It has previously used DMCA rules to takedown videos featuring its games from YouTube and other sites. The publisher also recently blocked the distribution of the free fan-made Another Metroid 2 Remake.
Game Jolt plans to comply with the notice, but it’s going to do so in a way that enables the developers of the fan games to keep their data.
“We are required to act promptly on requests like this and remove any games included in the notice,” reads the official Game Jolt blog. “When a DMCA takedown request comes in, we will ‘lock’ any of the games in the notice. This will result in the game page being accessible by the developer and no one else. Developers affected by takedown notices should never lose data. The games will still show in your dashboards for historical purposes.”
In total, this will block 562 games. They are all listed in the DMCA filing, and they include fan projects like Mario Editor, Sonic vs. Mario, and Zelda: Trident of Light.
Nintendo has every right to protect its copyrighted material even if fans are giving away their games for free. And by clamping down on how its IP is used, Nintendo can potentially argue in any future court cases that it clearly sets a standard for how the public is allowed to use its characters. But, at the same time, Nintendo is hurting its biggest fans. Most of the people who are making Mario and Zelda fan games do so because they are nuts about source material. And the publisher has an alternative. It could create a set of guidelines for fan games similar to what CBS and Paramount Pictures has done with Star Trek fan films. Those rules would also show that Nintendo has a public standard while simultaneously empowering fans to express their love of goomba-stomping plumbers and heroes of time.