The Breath of the Wild team told us a few weeks ago that they built an NES prototype to test out their ideas. One fan thought that was a great idea, and turned it into a fan game. The game has since been taken down, due to a complaint from Nintendo’s attorneys. However cool this game was, I think that the creator wanted this to happen. Fans should be cautious about fan games that can exploit their nostalgia and hype by using familiar characters without permission.
Breath of the Wild NES Fan Game Takedown
Yesterday, Nintendo sent the following to the creator.
This, of course, is a standard takedown notice that plenty of fan games have received over the years. You’d think this was normal, except for what the creator said before the takedown was generated.
Using the Takedown as a Means of Advertisement
He told Kotaku last week that “if Nintendo asks me to stop using their IP, I do plan to continue development with my own original characters.” This makes me think that he was planning on getting a takedown notice with the express intent of getting free advertisement and generating controversy about his game.
It’s a game that most people want. I think I said in one of our podcast episodes that I wanted to play the NES version of Breath of the Wild, and I’m sure there are loads others as well. A fan sought to fill this need, and we got this fan game.
Now, he had a few things to say about the direction of the project after the takedown was issued.
@RickSnyder3 (1/2)I'm no longer legally able to distribute Breath of the NES. But any donations you made will be spent working on the game!
— WinterDrake (@WinterDrakeDev) April 30, 2017
@RickSnyder3 (2/2) The game isn't dead, I just won't be using the Zelda characters. It will live on! 😀
— WinterDrake (@WinterDrakeDev) April 30, 2017
Then, he told Kotaku that he plans to shift the game to a 32-bit platform working with musicians to get a rich soundtrack for the game. Finally, he said “Ideally I’d like to make the final game a big cross-platform release on Steam. I may even start a Kickstarter once I can show off what the new game will have to offer.”
Even though he claims to have made the original game for fun and didn’t ask for any money, he’s now looking to turn the game into a full-fledged video game. It’s a logical pathway to take, but I can’t help but feel that it was his plan all along.
How He Could Have Done This From The Start
Consider the quote about making it a release on Steam. For originally being a “fan project” that only accepted donations, aiming for a Kickstarter and release on Steam so soon after the takedown makes me feel that he always wanted to make the 32-bit game and the popularity of Breath of the Wild helped get him the advertising that he needed.
His plan was probably along the lines of:
- Develop “fan game” based on a Nintendo franchise while also developing and planning original characters and concepts.
- Make sure all the gaming websites know about this game and get them to report on it. Make sure they direct people to your Kickstarter page, all while ensuring Nintendo finds out about the game.
- Act like you’re shocked when Nintendo issues a takedown, which ensures that people feel bad for you and donate more money to your cause.
- Replace the Nintendo characters with the ones you developed at the beginning, continue correspondence with the gaming websites, and cash in on the nostalgia and free press from using Nintendo characters back when it was just a “fan game.”
See where I’m coming from? Fans should be cautious for schemes like this!
Fans Should be Cautious With Fan Games
Don’t get me wrong, I think that fan games are awesome. I think that they can really help people explore ideas and work towards awesome original games. The problem, for me, arises when people use the community and intellectual property to their advantage.
We need to understand that Copyright law exists for a reason. Perhaps Nintendo is planning on making an NES-style Zelda game in the future and wanted to keep that option open. Fans really wanted this game after seeing it at Nintendo’s GDC presentation. There was a need, a fan created it, built a lot of momentum, and is now looking to make a profit based on the idea.
Fans of Breath of the Wild fueled this game and now he’ll probably have a successful Kickstarter and video game because of it. Maybe the game will end up being fantastic. I’m sure that many others have taken this route and many more will. I am just of the opinion that a game should be good on its own merit, and not gain momentum by directly using characters from companies like Nintendo.
I hope I’ve made myself clear that fans should be cautious with these games. They can be awesome, but often times the creators are just looking to use the free press for themselves.