Not too long ago, the fan games Pokemon Uranium and AM2R Return of Samus were shut down by Nintendo (for more on that, see these articles here and here). This move has sparked some controversy and a lot of people have come out and said that Nintendo should have let them be, or that Nintendo was well within it's rights to shut these games down.
Now that some time has passed and the initial reaction has died down, I think I should weigh in with my own two cents as to what Nintendo should have done. Personally, I am of the opinion that Nintendo should not have had these two games shut down and I'm going to tell you all why today.
I don't know about anyone else but when I see a group of people who have been working on a project that pays homage to a company they admire, only for that same company to turn around and shut them down, I don't think it speaks well of the company. Personally, I think it would have looked better for Nintendo if they had endorsed the games as opposed to shutting them down. That way, they could make themselves look like supporters of creativity.
By shutting these games down, I think Nintendo made itself look like an obsessive hoarder of its properties. This isn't the first time the company has done this either, not by a long shot. Does anyone remember that HD remake of Super Mario 64 that was being put together by fans? That was also axed by Nintendo. If they keep on like this, no one will want to make any fan games of Nintendo licenses for fear of being shut down and all their work going to waste. This flows right into my next point.
An interesting feature of fan games is that they give people an opportunity to experience a license for free (provided, of course, that the game in question is faithful to the source material). This makes them ideal advertising opportunities for people who are interested in said licenses but aren't quite sure if they want to risk spending money on a game they turn out to not like (not a nice feeling, I might add).
Someone who's never played Pokemon or Metoid could play these games and think “Wow, this is cool, I think I'll buy one of the games of this that are out.” Of course, those same people could easily say, “This sucks, I’m going to go read a book.” However, there is no risk for Nintendo one way or the other because their franchises are getting free attention for zero effort. If Nintendo keeps shutting down these fan projects, all that extra attention for their licenses vanish.
Showcasing new talent in the industry
Everyone has to start somewhere. Fan projects like Pokemon Uranium and AM2R provide an opportunity for budding game developers to sharpen their skills and gain attention for their abilities at the same time. These people are programmers, artists, designers, writers, and other things that game companies need in order to make good products.
In an industry that has people clamoring to be a part of it, getting noticed is important and these projects are a good way to get noticed by a potential employer. Now, imagine if said potential employer hits you with a cease and desist instead of a job offer, that doesn't make that company very attractive for any future talenty. Another point I want to make in this bit is that Nintendo is almost alone in it's attitude towards fan work. People make mods all the time for all kinds of games and the developers of said games are usually OK with it and sometimes even encouraging.
People will continue to download and play the game anyway
The heading for this point basically explains itself. When Nintendo shut down Pokemon Uranium and AM2R, they were basically already finished and released on the internet for everyone to enjoy. They can stop the creators of these projects from updating them further. However, they can not prevent tons of other people from re-uploading the games for download elsewhere.
Furthermore, by personally laying the smack down on these games, Nintendo has all but ensured that even more people will seek them out. Why? Well, when a company does something that makes people angry, they talk about it via Youtube, Twitter, Tumblur, you name it. Then, people will watch/read what these people have to say and they will spread the word to other people and so on.
So, in an effort to have these games shut down and forgotten, Nintendo has made sure that these games will be talked about and played and basically made themselves look foolish. What this all boils down to is that Nintendo seems to be going out of it's way to protect its licenses from something they don't need to be protected from. It's a waste of not only the company's time but it's an even bigger waste of time for the people who spent years making these games and making them available for people to play and enjoy.