Nintendo’s War Against Player-Made Content Will Hurt The Company In The End

Nintendo's attempts to suppress player-made content might blow up in the company's face.

Story Highlights

  • Nintendo has a history of targeting Let’s Plays, and modded videos of its games.
  • This is starting to negatively impact how fans feel about the company and its titles. 

Time and time again we’ve seen games get given a new life thanks to fans and modding communities. Some studios like Bethesda pretty much develop their titles expecting fans to fix them using mods. So seeing Nintendo having such a backward approach to modding and player-made content is definitely weird. The company has constantly been involved in taking down videos from fans and sometimes even taking legal action.

Earlier last year, Nintendo pointed its aim at Eric “PointCrow” Morino, a YouTuber with a following of over 1.6 million. Morino had long been involved in the making of a Breath of the Wild multiplayer mod. But after Nintendo sent Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown requests to his channel, he had no choice but to remove the videos involving the mods.

YouTube video

In a now-delisted video, Morino essentially begged Nintendo to stop, and how his multiplayer mod came under the banner of fair use. However, despite PointCrow’s efforts to change things, Nintendo’s fixation on going after player-made content has not changed. If anything, it’s only gotten worse over the years. And this will end up hurting the company in a big way. Here’s why.

The Company Has Had A History Of Doing This

Fans are picking up on the fact that this isn’t the first time Nintendo’s been outright demanding creators to take down their content. For example, back in 2013, when the “Let’s Play” trend first became popular, Nintendo enforced copyright laws on any game featuring content they owned. This meant that any ad revenue generated from those videos would go to Nintendo, not the creator.

The controversial Nintendo Creators Program.
The controversial Nintendo Creators Program.

Nintendo also introduced a “Creators Program” in 2013, which only aimed to make the company more money. It stated that creators could feature Nintendo-owned content in their videos, as long as they gave 30 to 40 percent of the revenue they earned from them. This is unheard of for any other video game company to demand. Essentially when Let’s Plays can be considered free marketing for most of them.

This has gone on for years, and the Morino incident is only one of the many. Fans are clearly not having it anymore, but it doesn’t seem like Nintendo has any intentions to change its approach. If anything, the company has now begun targeting more than just Let’s Plays. It’s also going after modding communities, even if they aren’t making any money from their work.

No Mods Allowed

While Nintendo didn’t give a specific reason why Morino’s videos were taken down, it’s clear that the fact that he featured modded content was what got Nintendo’s attention. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, the company has, in the past, called mods and emulators the “greatest threat to date to the intellectual property rights of video game developers.”

LoveRetro's final message prior to being shutdown.
LoveRetro’s final message prior to being shut down.

Nintendo has also been quick to shut down popular ROM sites, showcasing that it takes this stuff very seriously. Now, the thing is, despite at least with mods, even despite the fair use argument, infringement in some way, is still involved. Even if a modder uses original assets, they are still adapting a work that is copyrighted. And the owner of that copyright may choose to enforce it if they wish.

And even if the mod owners are able to prove their stance in court, the cost of litigation is often so much that it’s simply not feasible for them to contest their argument against a multibillion-dollar company. As such, the most reasonable choice for them is simply to remove their work and buckle under the sheer pressure that Nintendo generates. 

This Limits Artistic Growth In Fan Communities

Modding, when done right, helps fan communities to grow artistically. It provides an avenue for fans of a title to express themselves while still using the existing world of a video game. As I’ve mentioned, companies like Bethesda have made mods a part of their approach to development. While we can argue on whether that’s a good choice or not, it’s clear that at least, it respects the mod creators to an extent.

Nintendo’s approach of simply removing any and all modifications for their video games, not only lessens the respect that gamers have for the company, but it gives their games much less playability and engagement overall. No one wants to spend hours of their own time developing a mod for a title when they know they might eventually be handed a cease and desist letter.

Palworld is Pokemon with guns.
Palworld is Pokemon with guns.

Again, while Nintendo might be in the right in how it handles copyright, it still isn’t doing the company any favors in the eyes of fans. And with folks now going out of their way to make titles that better align with their values, and offer more freedom, like Palworld, it’s clear that Nintendo’s long-time reign might eventually get shaken a bit.

This too, by the same fans the company has attempted to control and go after over the years.

So while it might have managed to protect its IP, and ensure that they have full ownership of the trademark, who’s to say, those IPs will still retain any value when fans seek other games and titles. It’s clear modding and player-made content isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it will become easier to work on in the future instead. So, companies that learn to embrace this will likely be the ones that see success. 

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Danish is an opinion piece writer at eXputer who loves sharing his takes on the industry. He is a long-time PC gamer with a passion for delving into the discussion and discourse surrounding the titles that he plays. Often eager to jump right into the fold and formulate his take on the latest topics, his noteworthy presence on gaming forums, and keen insight help him understand the gaming community in a thorough manner. This helps him provide a more nuanced look into any topic or discussion.

Writes Opinion Pieces at eXputer || Education: Bachelors in Mass Communication.

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