When Mario Maker launched, Nintendo warned players it could remove stages from the game for a variety of reasons, including ones that were merely unpopular. Nintendo has made good on that threat, but folks in the Mario Maker community are upset because it's not really clear what "unpopular" means. Here's what Nintendo originally outlined:
Notice regarding course uploads
Please be aware that after a fixed period of time, courses with low popularity will be automatically deleted from the server.
Nintendo reserves the right to use uploaded courses and related data, either as-is or with alterations, for either commercial or noncommercial purposes without compensation to the uploader.
"Low popularity" was never defined, but it's reasonable to assume Nintendo is referring to number of plays, completion rate and stars. Combined, those three paint a picture of how Nintendo might determine if a level isn't popular enough.
(Of course, why it even matters if there are too many unpopular stages doesn't make much sense to begin with, but that's the world we're in.)
This all came to my attention, thanks to a Kotaku reader who wrote me an email:
Apparently, Nintendo is in the habit of deleting levels from the network permanently with the level marked in the player's save file with a ban from the network so that that it can never be uploaded again, even after it's edited to reduce difficulty or alter it completely. Now, I know this got some attention with players uploading levels exploiting glitches, but many of these deleted levels don't exploit glitches but rather haven't accrued any stars and have zero per cent completion rates (either due to difficulty, little traffic on the level or both).
It makes sense that Nintendo wants to encourage people to create levels that people actually want to play, so while purging unpopular levels might be an extreme tactic, perhaps it sends a message to creators to tweak their creation.
Per a reddit thread in which people are trying to decipher Nintendo's logic:
The problem? Sometimes, creators are told their levels are banned. If a level has been removed by the server, it can't be re-submitted to the Mario Maker pool.
"This course cannot be uploaded again, as it has previously been deleted on the server side."
When I asked on Twitter, people shared similar experiences.
@patrickklepek Yeah, it happened to me this week. Couldn't see why, and can't upload it again.
— Daniel Fry (@JimmyJackJones) January 15, 2016
@patrickklepek Logged on the other day to see if anyone had played my level and it said it was gone and wouldn't let me re-upload either
— Benjamin Berry (@Benjamin_Berry_) January 15, 2016
Nintendo didn't respond to my request for comment on how they determine what levels are taken down or why creators can't re-upload them with changes.
One creator, whose "Honey, I Shroomed the Mario" stage was removed because a user reported the title to Nintendo, went to extreme lengths to rebuild:
There are a few legitimate, understandable reasons why some stages are removed. If you were taking advantage of a glitch in Mario Maker — like a certain stage I wrote about months ago — Nintendo wouldn't allow that. Additionally, Nintendo wanted to stamp out people begging for others to star their creations.
Per a previous set of patch notes:
Users will no longer be able to use the words "Like", "Yeah!", and the "★" symbol in their course names.
Someone asked Nintendo about this on their official support forums, but were simply referred to a customer support number.
Ultimately, the lack of communication is what's frustrating. If Nintendo wants to have strict policies, that's fine, but let creators know what they're dealing with, so they can work around it. Not everyone has a million Twitter followers they can easily share a level with, so it's unfortunate that some well-made stages may be permanently gone simply because they got lost in the noise.