The last few weeks have been a rather tumultuous period for Nintendo and its fan communities, to say the least. After a Super Smash Bros. tournament was shut down by Nintendo for its plans to use third-party software to run the event online, several teams in the Splatoon 2 North American Open used “Free Melee” hashtags in their names to protest the decision. The livestream for the Splatoon 2 finals was then cancelled, further upsetting fans who felt Nintendo had intervened.
Now, Nintendo appears to have angered fans once again, after sending a cease and desist letter to a custom Joy-Con creator who was selling Etika-themed shells for charity.
Content creator CptnAlex, who runs an Etsy store selling custom controllers, said he was sent a cease and desist from Nintendo covering all his products – and the Etikons were caught up in the mix. “While [Nintendo] didn’t specifically tell me why each design was taken down, they did include a list of copyrights my designs broke, and the word Joy-Con was on that list,” CptnAlex said. “This is my only design specifically with the word Joy-Con on it, so that’s obviously what they were referencing when they attached that.”
The Etikons were named after Desmond “Etika” Amofah, a popular YouTuber known for his Nintendo content, who took his own life in June 2019. As part of a successful fundraising campaign, the controller shells were sold to raise money for the JED Foundation, a mental health charity for teens and young adults in the US. By December last year, the initiative had raised over $10k (£7.5k) for charity.
The reason why the Etikons bore the trademarked word Joy-Con was to reference Joycon Boyz, the name for Etika’s fan community. According to CptnAlex, about 30 to 40 sets of shells remain, which he will likely give away at a future convention but cannot sell for charity. CptnAlex has since said he will consider a re-release of the shells with a modified design to remove the words Joycon Boyz and the Switch split logo.
Eurogamer has contacted Nintendo for comment on the cease and desist, but has not yet heard back.
First campaign was not successful.
Second campaign was successful.
Remaining stock of Joycons were for sale my Etsy since last year.
Nintendo sent me a cease and desist at the end of September.
Here?s a picture of me with a bin of all the shells I can?t sell anymore pic.twitter.com/ytdWzObh9x
— CptnAlex (@Cptn_Alex) December 7, 2020
It seems the cease and desist was sent to CptnAlex by Nintendo back in September, but news of the ban has broken over the past day. While Nintendo is technically within its rights to pursue copyright infringement cases, many fans have been angered by Nintendo’s decision to block a charity initiative. Combined with pre-existing anger about the Super Smash Bros. and Splatoon 2 tournaments, it’s been enough to get Nintendo trending on Twitter, with 167k tweets at time of writing (although not all will be related to the fan disputes).
Nintendo issued a cease an desist to stop the production of Etikons.
Sales of these help charity JED Foundation and honour the memory of YouTuber ?Etika? who died in June 2019.
— SoulsLikeGamer (@soulslikegamer) December 7, 2020
Games Business Decisions pic.twitter.com/FGDhkIQ2V1
— Twig GG (@TwigTheBluePik) December 7, 2020
Wow. After Melee, Splatoon and now Etika, Nintendo fans this weekend be like: pic.twitter.com/Niuoqgl12b
— SuperMetalDave64 (@SMetaldave64) December 7, 2020
The community backlash started when Super Smash Bros. tournament The Big House announced it had been forced to cancel its online December event, as Nintendo had objected to plans to use the Slippi mod as part of the event. The software makes Super Smash Bros. Melee playable online, and was being used by The Big House as an alternative to hosting an in-person event during the coronavirus pandemic. Nintendo said it had contacted the tournament organisers to request them to stop. “They refused, leaving Nintendo no choice but to step in to protect its intellectual property and brands” (via Polygon).
Splatoon 2 players then decided to support the Smash tournament by getting involved with the #FreeMelee movement on social media. According to commentator Slimy, about 30 per cent of teams in the North American Open last weekend ended up naming themselves in support of Melee and Smash. When the livestream for the finals was cancelled due to “unexpected executional challenges”, fingers were immediately pointed at Nintendo – although the company’s involvement in the cancellation has not yet been confirmed.
Still, it’s all been enough to provoke fans into vocally complaining about Nintendo’s business decisions, and the cease and desist over charity Joy-Con shells seems to have pushed the backlash to new heights. Yet given Nintendo’s record of strict copyright enforcement, I doubt it’s going to reverse these decisions anytime soon.