Pokémon ROM hack stopped by Nintendo four days before launch … – Ars Technica


A fan-made Pokémon ROM hack in the works for eight years was set to launch this Sunday. But a letter sent by Nintendo’s Australian law firm on Wednesday has stopped those plans in their tracks.

According to Adam “Koolboyman” Vierra, developer of the fan-made Pokémon Prism project, Nintendo’s Australian law firm sent him a cease-and-desist letter, which he uploaded to Google Drive with identifying information redacted. (American representatives for Nintendo were not able to confirm the letter’s authenticity as of press time.) The request alleges that Koolboyman’s project, which alters the source ROM of the 1999 game Pokémon Gold to create an entirely new adventure, violates multiple Australian laws.

Even though Vierra’s public profile says he lives near San Francisco and Nintendo has headquarters and legal firms in America, Vierra clarified on his Twitter account that the game’s planned launch site, Rijon.com, is hosted in Australia. Nintendo’s Australian law firm, Addisons, has taken action against downloaders of commercial Nintendo products before, but the firm appears to have done little to nothing about makers of Nintendo-infringing software.

Other recent Nintendo takedown notices, like the one sent to a fan-made remake of Metroid 2: Return of Samus, have come in the form of DMCA notices. These legally questionable projects have typically been made from scratch, with game assets and art being extracted or recreated by the creators and then slapped into other game engines.

Pokémon Prism is different because it’s a “ROM hack”—meaning, it’s not a full game. Rather, Prism is a small patch file that is worthless without the original ROM file (which can either be legally dumped from a cartridge or maybe-not-so-legally downloaded from the Internet). Computer gaming fans would describe this kind of release as a “mod.” Mods do a similar thing: they take existing, paid-for game engines and assets, and they apply a patch file that remixes existing content and adds new twists.

Mods typically launch for free to avoid the most obvious legal issue that might arise from commercialization. Pokémon Prism would have launched as a free patch file download, with no links to Pokémon ROMs, as well.

Legal action has rarely been taken against such mods in the United States, with the exception of mods that have inserted other IP holders’ content into games without their consent. Perhaps the most famous mod of them all is Counter-Strike, a Half-Life mod that was so successful, its creators were hired by Half-Life‘s creators in order to release the mod officially as a standalone game.

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