2016 has been an interesting year for Nintendo in regards to its relationship with its longtime fans. This year brought to light many great games, including AM2R, a.k.a Another Metroid 2 Remake, No Mario's Sky, and Pokémon Uranium. It's often said that imitation is the sincerest for of flattery, but in Nintendo's case, it's anything but.
As Nintendo takes steps to bring the beloved franchises that it has created over the years to smartphones and tablets, the behemoth decided it's time to clean house. In addition to issuing AM2R with a takedown notice, Nintendo also had more than 500 fan games removed from Game Jolt.
After AM2R was shuttered, the developers behind Pokémon Uranium decided to cease hosting downloads to the game on their site, but decided to keep the game's online component active, as well as continue to provide patches for existing players. And on September 21, the game's official Twitter account posted the following tweet:
A Sad End for Pokémon Uranium
It's rare to see fan games with particularly long development cycles, but Pokémon Uranium was one of the rare few that did. The game was developed over a period of nine years, in which an entire Pokémon universe was created. Save for the usage of Pokémon in the title, this was essentially an original game. Over the course of development, the team created almost 200 original Pokémon, eight new gyms, new towns, and even a new Professor to send you on your journey. They even created a new Pokémon type: Nuclear.
When the game was finally released to the public, it was an immediate success, boasting more than 1.5 million downloads. Once the developers decided to stop hosting the downloads on their site, the game appeared for download on many other sites, and was still completely functional.
The Future Of Fan Games
Fan games aren't a new subject in the gaming world, but seeing takedown notices being issued on such a large scale is. Companies like Sega have found ways to both respect the fan-game community and even manage to profit from it (think Sonic Mania). What Nintendo has done, though, sets a new precedent.
It's understandable that Nintendo has to aggressively protect its intellectual property now more than ever, considering Mario is making his iOS debut later this year, but now that puts other game giants in an interesting spot: Protect their IP and set a standard, or let the fans run wild and free. While I would love to live in a world where anyone can make and release Mario fan games, I know that isn't a realistic expectation. Companies like Nintendo have a brand to protect and an image to maintain.
A lot of what went down with Pokémon Uranium could have been avoided if Nintendo had decided to license the game or if the developers had given it different branding, though there's no saying how well either of those options would have ended.
It's always sad to see a fan project laid to waste by way of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (either direct or indirectly) but it helps to lay a path for future fan game developers, complete with ideas on what not to do. Hopefully one day the developers of Pokémon Uranium show up again with another great game that takes the internet by storm.
In the meantime, we always have Pokémon Sun and Moon to look forward to. Look out for its release on November 18.
And don't gorget to tell us in the comments section what you think about fan-made games.
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