[Nintendad Coffeehouse] Harnessing The Power Of The Fans

Just yesterday I was watching a stream of one of my favourite content creators, Maximillian Dood. For those of you not in the know, Maximillian is a guy who streams (and loves) fighting games with his friends (Yo! Videogames), and has been a little bit more than influential in the fighting game community; as such, his is a voice I listen to quite often. Anyways, as I was watching his stream last night he decided to play a game called Hyper Dragon Ball Z – a fan-made Dragon Ball Z fighting game with what might be some of the prettiest pixel animations that I have ever seen. Max spent the greater part of the night trying out every character and watching their special moves and absolutely gushing over how great this game looks, and it got me wondering: Why don’t big gaming companies embrace these projects and make them official products?

Well, the answer might be a little more complicated than you think, but let’s talk about what is easily the largest pool of untapped profit for gaming companies and the largest source of frustration for avid fans.

What We’re Talking About

Now, before we begin I need to clarify exactly what I’m talking about and what I am NOT talking about. I’m talking about projects made by fans that take an existing IP and turn out a high-quality remake or something original from it (e.g. Super Mario Flashback, AM2R, etc). I am not talking about romhacks where people take an existing game and mod it (such as Super Orb Bros, Grand Poo World, etc).

With that aside, let’s look at a few of the greatest fan projects out there right now to explain the quality I’m looking for. Firstly, let’s start with the game I’ve already mentioned: Hyper Dragon Ball Z. HDBZ is an arcade-style fighting game made in the MUGEN fighting game engine, with a pretty impressive amount of handcrafted characters from the Dragon Ball Z Universe. This game is absolutely dripping with love and high craftsmanship, and it deserves every second that you put into it. With a roster filled with unique fighting styles and beautiful animations, this fan project continues to impress with every update. If I could pay money for this game, I totally would.

Super Mario Flashback is a beautiful game in every aspect of the word. I mean, look at this game for more than 5 seconds and tell me that if Nintendo released this you wouldn’t buy it immediately. You can’t. This game is just too gorgeous. From smooth and beautiful animations to the amount of character and life that everything holds, the team that made this great fan-game are crafting a real thing of beauty. The controls are smooth and every second of this game is a joy.

Mega Man X Corrupted is, without a doubt, the biggest game I am looking forward to for the next few years. This game has been in the works for almost a decade and takes the Mega Man X series to an entirely different level of intrigue and excitement. It’s open-world, which is a huge change from the standard formula of the original games. Mash that up with some of the coolest looking bosses, areas, and music in recent memory and you have the recipe for what might very well be the greatest Mega Man game ever to be made.

A Precedent For Greatness

Now, you’re probably wondering why I would bring this up. “We get it“, you say, “fans have made some great games, but it feels like every time somebody releases one of these awesome games the company (usually Nintendo) strikes it down immediately.” That frustration is real. However, what if I told you that there was a precedent for seeing how a company can make the right choices when it comes to fan projects. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you: Capcom and Street Fighter X Mega Man.

See, back in 2012, Capcom was celebrating Mega Man’s 25th birthday and they kind of forgot to do LITERALLY ANYTHING for his birthday. Cue a guy from Singapore, Seow Zong Hui and his friend Luke Esquivel who made the music. These two dudes made this amazing cross over, with pretty tight gameplay and brutal difficulty, that mashed up the gameplay of both Mega Man and Street Fighter. Capcom contacted the team, helped support it, and eventually gave the game away for free on the 25th anniversary. It was a really cool way to give the blue bomber an anniversary release and to recognize that fans were making something great.

So, there’s a precedent for not screwing the fans for loving your game so much that they make something beautiful. However, far too often we hear the story of AM2R and Pokemon Uranium, both of which were taken off the internet in a matter of hours if not days. But why? I mean, sure I can understand that a company owns a certain IP and they don’t like people making… *checks my notes* no dollars from it? It’s frustrating, to say the least. Maybe there’s something that these companies can learn from all of these projects that they are obviously missing.

When Demand Meets No Supply

Let’s talk about Ex Zodiac for a second. In order to do that, we need to talk about Star Fox and the release dates of said series. Here’s a list to help:

  • Star Fox – 1993
  • Star Fox 64 – 1997
  • Star Fox Adventures – 2002
  • Star Fox Assault – 2004
  • Star Fox Command – 2011
  • Star Fox Zero – 2016

The least amount of time we had to wait between Star Fox titles was four years (I’m not counting Star Fox Adventures because that is NOT a traditional Star Fox game). On top of waiting as long as we did, the products that Nintendo themselves gave us were not what fans were looking for. Do you remember when they announced Star Fox Zero having the weird as heck gamepad aiming? While the concept was cool, it made single-player significantly harder than it needed to be and wrecked the experience for most of the people who played it. Star Fox Command was, at its best, ok. In fact, it’s pretty easy to say that Nintendo has made three Star Fox games that were good: Star Fox 1, Star Fox 64, and Star Fox Assault. Fans just want another good Star Fox game. (Have I said Star Fox enough? Star Fox Star Fox Star Fox)

This is where EX Zodiac comes in. This dude Ben Hickling decides that he wants to recapture what made Star Fox great and he FRIGGIN NAILED IT. There are a bunch of great playthroughs you can find online, but this is a game that needs to be experienced firsthand. The situation plays out like with so many great games like this: If you’re not going to make it for me, I’ll make it myself. Personally, I love this approach, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Sure, it brings about some of the best concepts out there and livens up the competition, but could you imagine a world where the big boys out there not only recognised that they had neglected a particular IP but when they saw somebody making something that was leaps and bounds better than the nothing they were making, didn’t immediately think of it as a threat, rather embracing it and having those people work on their franchise?

So Where Do They Go From Here?

This is where things get simple. There are a few things the big companies can start doing:

  1. Stop telling the fans that their fan games are evil and need to be taken down. Fan games are doing nothing but improving your image and showing love towards your franchises that you are usually neglecting anyways (Looking at you, Mega Man, Metroid, Star Fox and F-Zero).
  2. Support these teams and potentially even release them under your banner. Not only does this bolster the creativity of your avid fans, but it increases the possibility that you can potentially hire these people or even partner with their smaller studio and make some great games in the future!
  3. Treat your fans and their work more like things you should be doing rather than things you should be against. Honestly, 90% of the time they’re making stuff with more love and care than you do (COUGH BUG FABLES COUGH).
  4. Start making games in franchises you are neglecting, otherwise people are going to make better ones than you do and we’re all going to make fun of you for it.

That’s it, folks. Quit taking down fan projects, and start supporting people who are making quality products that you are too limited in vision to see. I mean, it seems like a pretty basic idea that should be embraced, but apparently, the head honchos are weird about it and see threats where they should be seeing opportunities. Also, please go check out those fan projects because they could use some love; they are all amazing and need your support. Come and check me out next time when I make a bunch of people mad by telling them that the Virtual Console isn’t great and needs some serious work!