Has Nintendo heard of the term "Streisand effect"?

So, you’ve heard that right: Emuparadise is gone, or at least shuttered its ROM operations. And so are the likes of LoveROMs whom the Big N slapped a hefty fine on. Is it a good thing? Yes if you really are strict about copyright, but what if you put things like preservation, cultural heritage, accessibility and fan or customer relations to account?

As a bit of a background, Nintendo has gained quite a notoriety for being the litigious firm that is known and scorned for. It won a case against Universal Studios over whether Donkey Kong was a parody of King Kong, sued Galoob for the Game Genie, which turned to be in vain as the courts decided that no derivative works were made from games being hacked by the cheat device, banned Japanese stores from offering video games for rent (because they need to PRINT MONEY!!!1!), and sued a Taiwanese bootlegging operation named NTDEC to certain death, not to mention that the bootlegging outfit’s name stood for NinTenDo Electronic Co.

Piracy is, by and large, illegal, and arguments have been made that authors, actors and companies alike amongst other things have invested millions into making the next blockbuster film or game possible. Which has a kernel of truth to it, I mean, Codemasters wouldn’t be renting a bunch of rally cars for analysis and recording so they can make the next DiRT game as authentic as possible. And hiring the likes of Nicky Grist and Kris Meeke as consultants and/or voice actors is no small expense either. That being said, there’s a fine line between enforcing your copyright reasonably and being a total Nazi about it and play the Metallica card by suing downloaders left and right. (hurr durr, Godwin’s Law invoked :P) And then there’s the issue of licencing. A rather convoluted and unnecessarily complicated web of rights issues, IP owners and conflict of interest, leading to a situation where one game or application is trapped in an intellectual property limbo, with little hope of being redistributed legally, if at all.

Yet people are compelled if not forced to pirate not necessarily because “I just wanted to get free games mate”, but they are unable to get their hands on one legally, even if they have the means to do so. Case in point Richard Burns Rally, which is no longer available through legal channels due to the current rights holder not doing anything about it. Nintendo, for all their rose-tinted admiration of their storied past, has bone-headedly provided a half-baked emulator service, and by extension, refused to adopt services and hardware that would make them as competitive as their rivals. Their excuse was they aren’t intending to go toe-to-toe, similar to how the White Star Line of RMS Titanic fame (or notoriety for that matter) prioritising passenger comfort over pure speed, but with third-parties being ultimately disenchanted from time to time, it all boils down to having to rely on their beloved Mario and Zelda. Many who have been out of Nintendo’s reach e.g. developing countries have known and loved Mario though bootlegs and multicarts played on work-alike clones, and it is through this, ironically enough, that made the series so popular. Sure, Nintendo didn’t profit from it, but some who have previously grew up on Famiclones eventually invested on a legitimate system and games.

Not only that their brutal game of whack-a-mole is hurting them on a publicity standpoint, it has a chilling effect on even those who do not in any way intend to illicitly download or traffic ROM images or other intellectual property. Besides the fact that they have been rather cold-hearted towards fans alike who made games or other works based on their IPs, in contrast to Sega who has been largely supportive of their fan base and even tapped into ROM hacking and fan games, hiring prominent Sonic fan game developers for Sonic Mania. The latter wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for talented ROM hackers and the community that cultivated this scene. Nintendo’s Mario Maker may have been something of a love letter to the same scene, but that seemed pretentious in comparison, at least in my opinion.

Change is constant, yet Nintendo has refused to keep up with the times and would defiantly shy away from things that would’ve left them a positive impression amongst their audience, like a solid online infrastructure or mobile games, the latter of which that the Big N reluctantly got into considering how kids are more into tablets and smart devices than on dedicated gaming hardware. They’re basically the video gaming equivalent of Harley-Davidson as how critics of the motorcycle firm have harshly accused them of, not to mention the loyal fanbase it has amassed. It is every company’s right to protect their assets, but certainly Nintendo needs to chill and re-evaluate themselves than to go the way of the dodo or be a software-only firm. ROM sites and fan works don’t necessarily mean a threat to their financial standing; they’re just a symptom of how they still leave a wide-open gap in the eyes of their fans.

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