Just days after being revealed, a fan-made Pokémon first-person shooter appears to have been issued a copyright claim by Nintendo
First revealed on January 17th, the most recent creation of amateur game developer “Dragon” puts a violent twist on the beloved monster collection title, tasking players with shooting the Pokémon who attack them.
As seen in the third party video above, the game’s guns are somewhat realistic, but outside of a brief splash of red blood appearing when they’re shot, the Pokémon appear otherwise uninjured before rag-dolling to the ground.
Though the game uses assets from other titles, Dragon has programmed enemies with an AI capable of doing more than just charging at the player. In Dragon’s preview videos, several mock bosses were shown using special attacks in a manner akin to what you’d see in Pokémon games and the anime.
According to Twitter, these tweets were removed due to “a report by the copyright owner,” while YouTube notes that Dragon’s upload to their platform “was no longer available due to a copyright claim by The Pokémon Company International, Inc. (TPCi)”.
Nintendo taking down fan games, or even minor mods made for official games no longer being sold at retail, is nothing new.
Notable fan projects which have suffered such a fate include Pokemon Uranium, Pokémon fan-game creation tool Pokemon Essentials, over 500 fan games from Game Jolt, and even a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament which attempted to use emulators in order to play online during the COVID-19 lockdown orders
AM2R (Another Metroid 2 Remake) was another victim, issued a cease and desist order right before Nintendo’s own official remake, Metroid: Samus Returns, was announced.
Some have suspected that being an open-world Pokemon game, Nintendo or The Pokémon Company feared uninformed consumers would mistake it for the upcoming Pokémon Legends: Arceus, with some fans joking that the video could be misconstrued as leaked footage from the game.
However, the real reason for Dragon’s copyright claims is far more pedestrian and predictable: Nintendo is strictly protective of its IPs, regardless of usage.
Bordering on stereotypical, the life of a Nintendo fan game is predictable, beginning when a project that features an abnormal concept compared to or offers more of a challenge than official games and inevitably gains the attention of gaming news outlets.
This is where the “Nintendo Ninjas” (the community dubbed name for Nintendo’s fast-acting lawyers) typically take notice of the game and slap it down with impunity, hitting creators with DMCA or cease and desist orders. Regardless of the differences in their offenses, pirates, hackers, emulators, and fan game creators are all treated the same.
This happens especially when a given project is discovered to be either being sold commercially or asking for money, such as donations to keep a website up.
In a recent example, a creator who reskinned Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons in tribute to the late YouTuber Etika and sold them to raise funds for the JED Foundation charity was “asked to stop” by Nintendo.
Even Kotaku has noted that whenever they covered a fan project, their top comments brought up how Nintendo’s lawyers would inevitably take it down. Sure enough, prior to its takedown, the Pokémon FPS had been covered by several major outlets, including IGN, comicbook.com, and Nintendo life [1, 2, 3].
The most bizarre aspect of Dragon’s situation is what Nintendo’s lawyers seemingly missed, as another Pokémon FPS from October 2021 and developed by creator Mix Morris – who has also added guns to Super Mario 64 and the world of Spongebob Squarepants – has yet to be hit with any legal action.
Morris notes that the models he used came from Pixelmon Reforged, a Minecraft mod that adds Pokémon to the popular block building game.
Interestingly, the original Pixelmon mod was also taken down by Nintendo, but the Reforged version has survived seemingly thanks to using original models – albeit still using the copywritten designs – made from scratch.
Whether or not this indicates that such a workaround is enough to keep the projects of Morris and other fans safe remains to be seen.
Those itching to mix cute mascot-like characters with heavy weaponry can look forward to Palworld by Pocketpair, wherein players appear to not only catch fantastical creatures, but use them to build structures, care for gardens, and – after being armed to the teeth – gun down opponents.
Hopefully the forced experimentation and slave labor seen in the recent trailer is what your character is trying to save them from.
Ultimately, fans are left to wonder what Dragon’s full project would have been like. A free fan game having fun with a concept completely left-field to the brand? Something that would have been reworked with original assets into its own game? We may never know.
Are Nintendo too harsh with how they treat fan games? Let us know your thoughts on social media and in the comments below!