Fangame

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See also: Video Game, Doujin Soft, ROM Hacking, Modding (video games), Category:Games
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Fangames are video games, made by fans, featuring popular video game characters and settings. Often the gameplay style of the games in question is as close to the original as possible, however as game engines have become more accessible fans have been creating many different styles.

Typically, fangames are either developed as standalone games with their own engines, or as modifications to existing games that "piggyback" on the other's engines. Each approach has different advantages, as standalone games are generally accessible to larger audiences but may often be more difficult or time-consuming to develop.[1]

Legal Issues

Fangames often sit in a grey area when it comes to their legality, however are routinely shut down by video game companies due to copyright infringement. This is often compounded by the fact that many use assets from the original game, such as music and graphics, when creating a fangame. Matt Kemen wrote the following when investigating the legal issues around fangames:

"To the extent that a fan game uses the title of the game it is paying homage to in its title, this may be trade mark infringement," explains Tutty. Take Streets of Rage Remake, which uses Sega's trade marked phrase, "Streets of Rage", in its name. Even if you alter the name ("perhaps Roads of Rage", Tutty suggests), if Sega can "show that the fan game has used a similar mark for similar/identical goods and that there is confusion," they'll win.

If the name is changed dramatically, the publisher could zero in on copyright. "Games are protected by copyright in the source code and in the representations on the screen as artistic works," explains Tutty, which gives them the same rights as books, paintings and photos.

"In order to demonstrate copyright infringement, the owner of the original would need to show that a substantial part of a screen shot in the original is copied in the fan game," says Tutty. "Where the fan game copies the original exactly then there is obviously a huge issue here.

"Effectively what you have in these instances are huge fans of a game being treated the same as other trade mark or copyright infringers despite having the best intentions," Tutty declares, hitting the nail squarely on the head. Aren't these the most loyal, vocal and hardcore customers? Shouldn't publishers be embracing these projects, rather than suppressing them?

Unfortunately, by ignoring these infringements companies would be putting their hard-earned trade marks and copyrights in danger. "If a company was to continually ignore infringements of a trade mark, the protection afforded by the mark is eroded and may render it invalid," Tutty explains. Essentially, if Sega let Streets of Rage Remake live, it'd have a harder time arguing its case if a real, bonafide rip-off of the beat 'em up emerged. The same goes for copyright.

"Once the infringement of IP is ignored it becomes increasingly hard to recover lost ground," Tutty says. It's a not-so-simple case of use it or lose it. [2]

Response

The response to fangames differs from each company. Nintendo is known to have shut down many notable fangames, including AM2R: Return of Samus and No Mario's Sky.[3] This has also extended to Pokémon fangames such as Pokenet and Pokémon Uranium.

Square Enix has a similar approach, having shut down a notable remake demo of Chrono Trigger, Chrono Resurrection, in 2004, much to fans protests.[4] This happened again in 2009 with another Chrono Trigger fangame, a fan made sequal titled Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes. While the game was shut down days before it's release, an alpha build of it were later "leaked" online making it playable once more.

Some companies are more lenient toward fangames, either not actively seeking to shut them down or even endorsing them. Capcom, while stating that they legally cannot sanction fangames, have featured the Mega Man 2.5D fangame in their community site multiple times. Other companies have went so far as to work with the developers of fangames to create officially licensed games. This was the case with the RWBY fangame RWBY Grimm Eclipse and Sega's upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog game, Sonic Mania.

Notable Fangames

Released Games

Shut Down After Release

Shut Down Before Release

Resources

References

  1. wikipedia: Fangame
  2. wired - Investigated: Are 'fangames' legal?
  3. No Mario’s Sky parody game blocked by Nintendo lawyers, DMCA’s Sky takes its place
  4. http://www.opcoder.com/projects/chrono/