Nintendo Explains Why They Didn't Focus on Indie Games at E3


#1

We spoke at length with Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé about fan games, 'Animal Crossing' mobile, and the first public E3.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/43yzpm/nintendo-explains-why-they-didnt-focus-on-indie-games-at-e3

#2

Austin went hard on this one and I’m so glad he did. Reminds me of how frank Jeff Gerstmann is with Phil Spencer.


#3

Thanks much! Was definitely a fun one (and did get a little intense there!)


#4

Really glad you weren’t afraid to go deep in with the questions about AM2R and Nintendo’s attitude towards the fangame community; Reggie seemed to skirt around the rationale for calling it a “commercial product” when it was so clearly promoted as a free labor of love. One thing SEGA’s been doing exceptionally well lately is respecting and fostering their fanbase; bringing on Christian Whitehead and other passionate fangame devs to make Sonic Mania is incredibly heartening as a Sonic fan, and it creates this open attitude between fans and the company that SEGA needs to stay relevant.

I understand where companies need to protect their IPs, but I have plenty of issues with trademark/copyright law and how it stifles fan expression and creativity in media. I don’t expect this to change any time soon for Nintendo, but they could definitely benefit from a shift towards SEGA’s philosophy.


#5

AM2R is a weird case though, because Nintendo was literally making a Metroid II remake when AM2R was released. So while it’s not really for sale as a commercial product as a fan project, it was stepping directly on Nintendo’s feet as a competing offering.

“Why buy Samus Returns when AM2R exists?” is literally a question some people have asked.


#6

The problem there is that the people making AM2R could never have known that. And when Nintendo put the kibosh on it, no one BUT NINTENDO knew that that was the reason.

And honestly even now, we don’t know for certain because Nintendo refuses to be transparent about any of this.


#7

I am really unhappy with Reggie’s responses regarding AM2R here. He dodged Austin’s questions about the game supposedly monetizing their IP, which makes him look clueless on the whole situation. I have to wonder if he was even involved in what was going on with AM2R and just assumes it had to be some kind of black market bootlegger piracy stuff.

Turning it in to an issue of control doesn’t really help their case, either. This is supposed to be a new, more loose Nintendo who lets weird stuff like Kingdom Battle happen. He talks about how Nintendo lets fans pay tribute in other ways, and says that the lines are clear, but I don’t think he cleared anything up whatsoever.

It does lend credence to something I’ve thought for a while, though, and that Nintendo considers just about anything to me “monetization” because most free hosts profit off of ads that show up before they serve you the file. In order to distribute your game, money will have to change hands somewhere, and that’s money that isn’t going in to Nintendo’s pocket, ergo, somebody else is profiting from the game existing.

But that doesn’t explain why they issued a DMCA/Cease and Desist request to DoctorM64 (Milton Guasti)'s email address when he moved to simply sending people the game via email attachments. What a mess. Thanks for nothing, Reggie.


#8

I mean, we’re talking about a group who tried to cease and desist away a charity-driven Smash tournament at Evo only a handful of years ago. Maybe they thought a community run event was going to make a buck off their IP there? I dunno. The upside is that the backlash forced them to realize (seemingly for the first time) that there was a competitive Smash community, and they’ve since become a staple sponsor at most major FGC events. The downside is that they’ve bullied organizers into blackballing Project M out of events.


#9

Reggie’s response to the AM2R line of questions was disappointing but completely expected. He dodged the meat of the question and fell back on talk of controlling IP. They are within their rights to protect their IP, but, when taken in the context of their larger issues with, let’s say, overzealous control of fan created content, it still looks pretty lame.

Look, we get it, you were developing your own remake when AM2R came out. It threatened future sales and thus your ROI on your forthcoming project. That’s why AM2R had to be shut down even though it wasn’t being monetized by its fan developers.

I know it’s a counter factual, but what I would have liked to hear would be something along these lines: “We would have loved to work with the AM2R team, but we had our own project in the works at the time, and AM2R was infringing on that upcoming release’s possible sales, and so we had to take an aggressive stance on protecting our copyright. That’s unfortunate because of the time and passion that these folks put into their own project. Coming in and throwing our weight as a company around against fans is not something we do lightly, but it was a business decision that we had to make to protect our investment and IP. We are of course supportive of the creativity of our fan base, and we do want to help them when it makes sense for us, too. In this case, it just didn’t make sense for us, and, as I said, that’'s maybe a bit unfortunate on a personal level, but it was the best business decision for us at the time.”

A little forthrightness and a more conciliatory attitude would go a long way, I think. The people who are digging deep enough to listen to Reggie talk about this are savvy enough to grok what is going on, here, and recognize the larger context in which Nintendo’s actions like this exist. Then again, this was probably an unexpected line of questioning on Austin’s part, and so Reggie fell back on a stock, conservative answer (that would make sense, if things were as heated as Austin mentions they were). At any rate, I’m hardly up in arms over here, but I still think the response is pretty unsatisfying.


#10

To be totally honest, even as someone very liberal and anti-corporation I think Nintendo is entirely justified in the C&D. It’s really obvious how a freely distributed Metroid II remake could impact sales of an official Metroid II remake. While it would be great to work with the fan developers here, they’re in no way obligated to do so in order to make a remake of their own game.

I also don’t think Reggie did a good job answering those questions and totally skirted the issue.


#11

Odds are that Reggie probably knows it’s bullshit as well but has to tow the company line from NOJ. Reggie isn’t stupid and he probably knows that when something like this happens or smash tournament or all the youtube shit over the years it isn’t conducive to good business no matter what the copyright laws say. What can he really say here? “yeah, that kinda sucked but the leadership in Japan has an outdated look on business and the internet”? Don’t get me wrong, his answer sucked but I have a hard time seeing how he really answers that question without hanging NOJ out to dry or just giving up a bullshit answer like the one he gave.


#12

I mean, sure, I don’t blame Nintendo for wanting to put their official product before the fan game. When AM2R first got shut down I did a video about it, and the fan gaming community I came up in, plus my efforts to broaden the appeal of fan gaming in the media since then, and in that video I basically outline three essential rules to preventing a C&D:

  1. Don’t remake commercial products
  2. Don’t try to profit from your fan game in any way shape or form. No Kickstarters, no Patreons, etc.
  3. Communicate up-front in the game itself somswhere that it is an unofficial, non-profit fan project

And most fan projects in the last two years to get a C&D broke one of those three rules. Sometimes multiple. AM2R broke the first rule.

Reggie really had a chance to set the record straight here and he didn’t. It was just “Nintendo loves our fans” “We know where the line is” “But we won’t tell YOU where the line is” “Also AM2R was a commercial product if for no other reason than it was too good? I guess???”

And I just think of how many people who get scared away by this sort of confusion that don’t necessarily have to be. Fan gaming is what got me in to making my own games. I made life long friends through fan gaming community. The world is a better place with fan games, but that’s harder to do when there’s this level of miscommunication going on.


#13

It’s totally in their right but at the same time there are other companies that are way more understanding of the fact that there are fans who wants to pay tribute to their legacy that are outright ignored. AM2R wasn’t making money, it was a long time project and a damn good game at that. But more than that, the justifications by fans and a good number of people from the press is downright nonsensical :

  • Sega is letting fangames thrive, but somehow Nintendo is going to lose their IP if AM2R lives ?

  • Was Nintendo also in their right to remove AM2R from the fangame award in the game award ? AM2R should not even be called a fangame ? It should not be allowed to even exist ?

  • Where is AM2R commercially harmful ? It is now, because Nintendo created a burlesque show out of it, but the existence of the game and the broader recognition of Metroid 2 as a fantastic one is not what I would call a harmful game for M2 3DS.

It’s all in their right, of course, but one should remember it’s also in their right to : delete speedruns, tas or even random mario maker levels on youtube whenever they want, it’s in their right to take a hardline stance towards emulation while reaping the benefits of the scene for free without legal retaliation, because it’s the context that needs to be inferred here, it’s not so much that it is within their rights that we are all unable to mount a legal defense.

It’s a situation where no one can do anything against Nintendo to confront where the “rights” are in this digital age and in a community with a sizeable chunk doing their hardest to sink AM2R and the creator on behalf of the company, Reggie knows he doesn’t have to explain himself out of this one. It’s resolving itself until everyone forgets about the game or any of the company’s missteps for that matter.


#14

To be perfectly honest, I really don’t get the idea that AM2R would eat into sales for Samus Returns. The former is a free download that’s very in line with the classic Metroid style (it basically just does what Zero Mission did for the first game), while the latter has what might turn out to be much bigger changes. The only way I could see people wondering why they should bother with SR is if they know literally nothing about either one except them both being remakes of Metroid II.