Game On: Nintendo wages an ongoing war against its own consumers
Thu., April 27, 2023
Nintendo is often considered the Disney of the video game world. Both have dozens of instantly recognizable properties, products with mass appeal to children and older fans alike, endless streams of merchandise and even their own theme parks. Oh, and both companies will sue the pants off of anyone within reach, issuing cease-and-desist letters faster than you can say “it’s-a me.”
Nintendo has been a litigious beast for decades, but this month they worked overtime to remind gamers to be afraid of them. On April 15, a YouTuber with 1.6 million subscribers, Eric “PointCrow” Morino, announced that Nintendo had taken legal action against dozens of his uploaded videos featuring commentated gameplay of Nintendo games despite his strict adherence to both Nintendo’s End User Agreement and the company’s “Game Content Guidelines for Online Videos & Image Sharing Platforms.”
Nintendo sent out a “copy-strike,” removing over two dozen of PointCrow’s videos by utilizing a clause in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. YouTube has a well-established pipeline for copyright holders to do this, and the process is so straightforward that Nintendo was able to pull the cheeky move of issuing two copy-strikes – one for one video and a second for all the rest.
This puts PointCrow at risk of his account being deleted entirely should he be found in violation a third time. Since he’s worked hard to ensure his videos adhere to both the letter of the law and Nintendo’s legal guidelines, one might think a simple appeal is all it would take for matters to be fixed.
Unfortunately, the appeal process for creators on YouTube is little more than a formality. It’s incredibly rare for a YouTuber to win an appeal, even in instances where it’s far more obvious that they’ve been wronged.
But PointCrow’s misfortune at the hands of Nintendo’s sue-happy legal team is far from an isolated incident. That same month, Croton, another prominent YouTuber and Nintendo content creator, had 10 of his streams and two of his videos deleted on Nintendo’s behalf.
It’s worth noting that both of these creators often feature modified content – that is, Nintendo’s games played with additional features introduced by third-party software. Importantly, all of these mods are free – no one’s stealing money from Nintendo. It’d be easy to attribute the deletions to the mods, but both YouTubers also had videos removed that displayed default gameplay alone.
Curiously, both personalities cater much of their content to the 2017 game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, whose followup The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom releases on May 12. The timing is as if Nintendo abruptly decided they needed to defend the IP’s legacy, and that anyone playing Zelda games in a way they didn’t intend is tantamount to treason – despite such creators being some of their biggest fans.
On April 18, Nintendo hacker Gary Bowser was released from prison following a 40-month sentence for his part in the pirating/hacking group Team Xecutor, which modified Nintendo Switch consoles to download and play even brand-new Nintendo titles free of charge. Was his jail time deserved? Absolutely – pirating old, unsupported software is arguably a moral gray area, but aiding thousands in pirating brand-new games is theft, plain and simple.
But not satisfied with marking Bowser a felon and having him imprisoned for nearly four years, Nintendo has also been allowed to take 25-30% of his gross monthly income until his $10 million debt is paid off. Bowser stated that his job in federal prison enabled him to pay all of $175 toward his debt thus far.
During his sentencing, Nintendo’s lawyer Ajay Singh said in a court transcript that the company wanted to “send a message” to Nintendo hackers. Apparently “sending a message” includes cruel and unjust punishment – certainly this man’s piddly $25 per month is meaningless to Nintendo’s deep pockets, and as a felon, there’s little chance Bowser will ever repay his $10 million debt for the remainder of his life.
It’s a shame that so many fantastic games are created by a company whose greed has given way to full-blown villainy. Nintendo’s continuous, morally dubious business practices provide consumers with a tough choice – can a person forgive themselves for purchasing good products from a bad company?
Riordan Zentler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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