Nintendo may kill Pokemon ROM hacks, YouTubers with new rules


Nintendo has long had a fraught relationship with fanmade and modified content, but new content guidelines may spell doom for countless streamers and potentially kill Pokemon ROM hacks, Mario Kaizo, and other projects.

The gaming giant has been very inconsistent in the past when it comes to enforcing its copyrights, but when it does come down, it comes down hard. Multiple projects such as Pokemon fan game Pokemon Uranium and unofficial Metroid 2 remake AM2R have been killed. Nintendo even once tried to shut down Super Smash Bros. Melee being played at Evo 2013. Much of the time, however, the corporation lets a lot of blatant infringement go off without a hitch, leaving fans uncertain what Nintendo will come after next, and what it’ll let slide.

What is clear, however, is that the new “Game Content Guidelines” give the corporation grounds to come after streamers for showing fan-made games, modified games, and games played over an emulator. This is particularly concerning to the Pokemon streaming community, which features heavy use of ROM hacks, fan games, and emulation.

Pokemon Radical Red

Nintendo’s new guidelines could kill Pokemon YouTube, Twitch channels that use ROM hacks or emulators

Showing any modified or emulated Nintendo games is now banned according to its content guidelines.

This is particularly worrying to Pokemon streamers and content creators, as Pokemon ROM hacks and fan games both fall under the “banned content” category. ROM hacks and fan games are incredibly popular and featured frequently by Pokemon streamers and YouTubers.

In fact, there’s technically no way to create content on any classic Pokemon games, according to the new guidelines. Unmodified ROMs are banned under these new rules and are a favored way of accessing Pokémon games for streaming. There is no way to play mainline Pokemon games on modern consoles outside those released natively on the Switch. Modified Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, or 3DS handhelds that allow users to capture footage could be considered an “unauthorized modification.”

Outside of Pokemon, speedrunners often use ROMs and are also potential targets of these new guidelines. Nintendo’s 1996 Super Mario 64 remains the second-most popular game to speedrun of all time and continues to see broken records to this day. Most runners do so on emulated versions of the game. ROM hacks are commonly used for other Mario games as well as various other Nintendo franchises.

Because of Nintendo’s history of inconsistent policy enforcement, it’s unclear how likely it is to target the communities subject to these new rules. Doing so tends to harm Nintendo’s public image, but that hasn’t stopped the gaming giant before. It’s not out of the question that it might attempt something like going after the Awesome Games Done Quick 2024 for breaking the new policy, as the event has previously highlighted modified Mario games and game-breaking Pokemon runs.

It’s also unclear how effectively Nintendo could enforce these new rules if it tried. The actual legality of these restrictions could be challenged to some degree and the sheer volume of content using emulators and modified ROMs could be prohibitive for the company. Ultimately, these are all merely guidelines that establish Nintendo’s case for taking down content. The question now is how aggressive it will be.

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Written by Jorie McKibbin

Jorie has been playing video games and writing creatively since they were old enough to hold a controller and a pen. They’re passionate about the indie gaming scene, and some of their favorites include Salt and Sanctuary, Stardew Valley, Hollow Knight, and Vintage Story. They also adore such classics as The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind, Fallout: New Vegas, and Dark Souls.

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