Getting to the bottom of Nintendo’s copyright issue

Videos deleted from playlists, a common occurrence with Nintendo content
(Translation: “19 unavailable videos have been hidden”)

If you’re an enjoyer of Nintendo videogames, you might recognise the image shown above: significant percentages of your favourite game-related YouTube playlists deleted overnight by Nintendo. And not just one time, but on a regular basis. Copyright strikes and its consequences have been a persistent topic of discussion in the community and fanbases, and for good reason. This post will go into the whats, whys and hows of this frustrating aspect of videogame enjoyment.

Why is Nintendo’s video deletion so controversial?

As mentioned in the introductions, these videos are being hit by copyright strikes. That’s quite normal to do when others are uploading something that you made, but it’s a bit different when it comes to this specific company.

Two of the most commonly deleted video types are gameplay videos and soundtracks. The deletion of gameplay videos is very disputed because they tend to actually incentivise viewers to buy the game for themselves, meaning that Nintendo is deleting videos that are benefiting them. In addition, it doesn’t even have to be gameplay of Nintendo content – if a video containing Nintendo music is uploaded to YouTube, it already has a chance to be deleted.

The second type of deleted video, soundtrack uploads, makes this even more of a sore spot. The reason for this? Nintendo doesn’t even make their soundtracks available anywhere in most cases! This means that you often cannot legally obtain the music separately from the game, and thus also not use it anywhere without potentially getting a copyright strike. Not to mention, most people uploading the content in question don’t even make money from it. Keeping in mind that Nintendo’s music is one of the larger selling points for the games, it doesn’t really add up to prevent users from accessing it at all!

Popular soundtrack YouTuber GilvaSunner quits after 11 years because Nintendo keeps targeting his content, but offering no alternatives

It’s not just videos either

People also upload other Nintendo content than videos and music. A common one is ROMs, which are (usually illegal) uploads of a videogame which you can run on an emulator, allowing you to play videogames outside their usual platform and availability restrictions. Similarly there are fangames, fan translations and user-maintained servers. Of course it’s much bigger of a deal to upload an entire game than to simply share some music with the world, but the same problem applies here: it’s usually impossible or ridiculously expensive to get the game legally anyway! A few examples:

  • The Great Ace Attorney games, which were translated by fans since there were still no signs of them coming to the West. They continued since there were no updates even five years after the original Japanese-only release. Any content related to the original game or the fan-translation was deleted by Nintendo and creator Capcom multiple times, yet they would keep us waiting until 2021 to finally announce it outside of Japan.
It took 6 years for the games to be announced in the West, leading fans to just do it themselves
  • Videogames that are just not available anymore at all: many older Nintendo games aren’t available for purchase directly from the company anymore, and buying them second-hand can quickly drain your wallet. That’s because they have now become collector’s items due to their age. Most users don’t want to spend upwards of 200 euros on a game from before the year 2000, especially if you can’t guarantee the quality.
  • Nintendo is shutting down support and platforms themselves because it’s not profitable. That’s completely understandable, but there are still users who want to play the games and now have no real way of doing so. They’ve shut down Wii servers in the past and are now doing the same to 3DS servers. This has caused users to move to emulation as well.
  • The company is porting some games to their new platforms, which is great! The downside is that they’re uploading what they think will be profitable, and not what the users are asking them to sell modern copies of. Additionally, they tend to be even more expensive than they originally were, for the exact same game as before with no improvements whatsoever – whether it’s visuals, audio, gameplay or performance.

It makes sense, but really, Nintendo?

To sum it up, yes, uploading someone else’s content is wrong. And it would be a very poor move to upload a new game for free. However, gaming communities often don’t have a way of legally obtaining (parts of) games, so they resort to other methods. The users who upload this content often don’t even financially benefit from doing so, refusing advertising on their videos to make a point. Nintendo has every right to disagree with their property being redistributed for free, but not giving us any legal, convenient alternatives leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of gaming communities everywhere.