This year alone, fan games have experienced both a boost in popularity over the internet, as well as a huge backlash from the companies these video game brands originate from. The centre of this familiar controversy is Nintendo, who have lately taken down a large chunk of fan games revolving around some their biggest intellectual properties. Of course, after this happened the internet was set ablaze with angry commenters defending these games’ right to exist. But upon looking further, is all of this rabble actually just misinformed anger?
While its easy to see both sides of the argument, one side will always come out as the winner in a court of law. Even though most fan games are free, they are still being distributed without the permission of the owners of the title. But Nintendo didn’t take down these games simply because they could. Imagine if a studio wanted to build hype for a new entry in their franchise, only to have gamers become desensitised to that kind of game by them already going through dozens of fan projects. Not only that, but a casual player seeing a game called Pokémon Uranium, probably won’t be able to distinguish it as unofficial, thus creating a good amount of confusion in the market. Basically, it would have the same affect as the Asylum movies, which intentionally use misleading covers and titles to dupe people.
Furthermore, games like AM2R (Another Metroid 2 Remake) pretty much rule out Nintendo ever profiting from their own remake of Metroid 2, or the version they already had on sale for the 3DS. Sure these aren’t necessarily concrete arguments against fan games themselves, but they’re good enough to constitute the removal of some of them from the proper owners. And that’s not even getting into the fact that you simply can’t use names like Pokémon and Metroid without consulting for permission first.
However, what if a company instead chooses to embrace fan games? Well there’s the obvious effects of much a happier fanbase, but in the case of Sega and Sonic The Hedgehog, it resulted in a new official game being created. The developers of the upcoming entry Sonic Mania, have their roots in Sonic fan games and modding tools. Unfortunately though, not all stories end this way and you’ll still get people losing what they created.
In general, fan games are a risky business. At anytime you could have years worth of work stripped away with one cease and desist letter. For many people, it’s a baffling idea that talented developers would waste their time on such projects. A lot of these fan games that get attention are actually very well made, and fan developers could easily rework these projects into their own indie titles. But there’s something to admire and appreciate in all of this. These are fans so passionate about a series, that they’ll devote time and effort into creating their own game derived from what they love. However, if it gets taken down, don’t blame it all on the big ‘evil’ corporations, because their reasons aren’t so bad either.