Here's What The Creators Of Pokemon Sun And Moon Think About Fan Games

The recent controversial take-downs of high-profile yet unofficial Nintendo-related creations paints a picture of an aggressive corporation that punishes fans. But Game Freak, the creators of Pokemon, actually seem remarkably chill about the existence of fan games based on a recent conversation with Kotaku. As some of you know, 2016 has been a fraught year for fan games. There was Another Metroid 2 Remake, which got shut down after eight years of being in development. Hundreds of fan games were DMCA'd from Game Jolt. But the biggest take-down arguably belongs to Pokemon Uranium, a fan game nine years in the making that was shut down after a reported 1.5 million downloads. Together, all of these incidents have sparked heated arguments about copyright, intellectual property and the rights of fan creations that aren't being sold for-profit.

Last month, I got a chance to speak to the creators of Pokemon directly, and I asked them if they were aware of the controversial fan games featured on the news lately. I was curious: What did Game Freak think about recent fan games? The question was fielded by Pokemon Sun and Moon's producer Junichi Masuda, who confirmed that Game Freak was aware of what was going on lately. Masuda seemed shy about getting into specifics, but he still shared some thoughts with Kotaku.

"Yes, of course, I see a lot of the -- well, it's hard to say an example, but I see a lot of people on Twitter [sending me] different takes [on Pokemon]," Masuda said. Masuda clarified that this went beyond fan games; he said he also saw whenever people sent him things like fan art, too. A quick Twitter search shows that at least a single person on the internet has mentioned "Uranium" to Masuda, so while Game Freak didn't want to name names, it's entirely possible that they have seen it.

Despite the politics of intellectual property, the creators of Pokemon appreciate that some fans are learning about the process that makes the franchise possible in the first place.

"If I see that you are having fun creating things, or working on an art project... working on game development, we kind of share that feeling," Masuda said.

But the most surprising thing about our exchange was when Masuda encouraged those fan game developers to join his team.

"In general terms, as creators we both have fun creating things, and at Game Freak we are always looking for skilled individuals, so please apply!" Masuda chuckled.

We'll have more on our interview with Game Freak in the coming days.


Comments

    I don't agree with copyright laws but I don't know why people blame the company for taking down fan games, the way the laws work is you have to actively protect your trademark or you can lose it.

      It's not quite that simple. A fan game here or there wouldn't make you lose your trademark. The whole "Protect it or lose it" is more on a larger scale. It means that if your trademark because Generic, then you can't hold it, because no one recognizes it as being distinctly yours any more.

      For example, Legos is a good case for why they protect their trademark strongly. Legos as a concept is fairly generic, and people call anything remotely to Legos, Legos. Or they often do. So, if they don't aggressively stop their competitors using it, then people will just call any block joining thing Legos, and so they can no longer hold that copy right.

      Similarly, if someone had held a copy right for the term "PC" as in "Personal Computer", and their brand was "Personal Computer", at this point they wouldn't be able to enforce it, because to every day people, PC just means any computer. Even Macs, though we have PC vs Mac arguments, Macs are still considered PCs. Just like someone can't come around with a new brand of Paint called "Paint" and say no one else is allowed to use that term, because it's generic.

      In that vein, fan games wouldn't erode the Trademark of "Pokemon" if we were calling Digimon and... well, any other generic monster catching/training/fighting game/show "Pokemon things", then there would be cause for the whole Protect It Or Lose It.

      But no, Pokemon isn't in the position where they have to take down fan games because they have to in order to keep their trademark. Saying it is an understatement of how Trademark laws work that kind of brushes against the topic, without actually understanding it.

        If it looks, acts, and quacks like a Pokemon title, in the damn title, then it's infringing.

        Masuda raises an excellent point, why don't these (clearly talented) individuals apply for work where their skills would be better utilised?

          The problem is some people do it as a hobby rather than a job, or have circumstances that prevent them from getting a job (ie. being in University).

          Also, putting myself in their shoes, I wouldn't spontaneously just hire the whole (or part) of the Uranium team. There would obviously need to be consideration, and Game Freak being a Japanese company... Language might be a problem.

          If it looks, acts, and quacks like a Pokemon title, in the damn title, then it's infringing.

          Never said it wasn't. Just the whole "Protect it or lose it" argument is simplified down to the point of misinformation. I just wanted to inform people of what is actually behind it, what it entails and what it doesn't entail

        I haven't researched it fully but my understanding was that if you allow some people to use your trademark it makes it harder to enforce against others.
        So in this case if they let Uranium continue and it ended up with 3 million downloads, the next person to come along and do it has the defense of other people have been allowed to shift 3 million units of their game, so it was implied this is allowed.
        This isn't a cut and dried rule but it is more it just gives other companies some form of leverage

          Actually the "But they got to use it" argument doesn't hold up. Because if you own a property, it's yours to say who can and can't make a fan game of it. It's yours to say "Yeah, we'll turn a blind eye to this fan game, or fan games in general" without it hurting your ability to enforce down the line. Where it might hurt the ability to enforce is, as I outlined, when a trademark starts becoming Generic. Like if Lego had let their competitor MegaBrix start calling their product Lego, it would have run the risk of people in general, and children's toys industries, calling all Lego-like blocks "Legos".

          I want to cap this off with "I Am Not A Lawyer", just someone who works in creating digital products, so I make it my job to be knowledgeable about different copy right laws, to some extent at least. I could be wrong

      If fans love it those one point five million fans could cough up a hundred dollars each to purchase the pokemon rights into public domain. Then watch the world explode.

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