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ESports and ROM Hacks are a Big No-No to Nintendo: Here’s How That Marketing Could Backfire on Them

The Japanese-based video games and consoles manufacturer, Nintendo, is one of the largest in the market. Through effective marketing, it has developed and sold over 800 million video game hardware units and over 5.4 billion video games. They’ve sold to consumers all over the world. With such high success, it is only natural that the fan base of such a company grows. 

Fans are actively engaged in Esports, ROM hacks, and other fan-lead initiatives. While some gaming companies embrace this and encourage it, others discourage such practices claiming copyright infringement. Nintendo belongs in the latter category. Is this working for or against them?

What is ESports? What are ROM Hacks?

So what is Esports? Esports is a short form of the word electronic sports. This refers to a sporting activity in which players take part in an organized contest playing video games. The players play various games and the champions are crowned with both monetary and other forms of compensation. Players compete in single and multi-player video games as millions of fans follow the events. The fans follow this sporting event both online and physically, where the games are held. There are various ESports teams, each with its own set of fans, which mirrors traditional games.

ROM hacks are alterations made to a game’s Read Only Memory (ROM). The aim is to alter certain aspects of the game including levels, gameplay, graphics, and dialogue, to name a few. In an actual sense, ROM hacking is not hacking, but rather, it is editing. It is usually done by the game’s fans who have technical abilities. They edit the game to make it a better version of itself while retaining the basics.

Marketing Tip: Esports Games and ROM Hacks Increase Video Games Popularity

Both Esports games and ROM hacks are created by video game enthusiasts. The aim is to make the game better and increase its popularity. While some view ROM hacks as piracy, others consider this a good practice to increase the popularity of the game. As fans make a few harmless alterations to the game, word gets out about the modifications. This further increases the game’s popularity.

Esports competitions feature all sorts of different games. With many video game enthusiasts following the events, the audience gets deep insights into the games by default. This means that a video game developer can make more sales by being featured in these games. It is no wonder that some developers like Activision Blizzard and Riot Games sponsor these sporting activities. Some exporting stars have even landed high-paying video game influencer titles.

Nintendo’s Take on This Digital Marketing Hack

Nintendo protects its copyright at all costs. This includes taking legal action against those who act contrary to their specifications. The company will not allow any ROM hacks based on their games. For instance, The Big House attempted to organize an online tournament of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Melee game in 2020. In order to allow online gameplay, the game required players to use a modification called “Slippi”. Nintendo would not hear any of this. They issued a cease and desist order on the said tournament.

Before 2018, Nintendo didn’t allow Youtubers to monetize videos advertising their products unless the Youtuber partnered with them. Although they’ve since lifted this requirement, Nintendo still keeps a tight grip on those online creators.

 Recently, Wood Hawker, the owner of the YouTube channel BeatEmUps was removed from Nintendo’s Ambassador Program. The reason why remains unknown. The move came after he uploaded a video focusing on mods made on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s unofficial PC version.

Recently, Nintendo entered a Trademark dispute Joycon Boyz, a fan collective that often does charity work. Joycon created and sold ‘Etikons’ Joycon shells as a way of raising funds for supporting mental health in teens and young adults. Nintendo argued that the word ‘Joycon’ printed on the shells infringed on their trademark. As a result, Nintendo issued a cease and desist to the Joycon Boyz.

These are just a few examples of how Nintendo treats its fanbase. Currently, video game enthusiasts can showcase Nintendo games and products online but they must follow strict regulations set by the company.

The Effects of Nintendo’s Tight Watch

Nintendo’s legal team is always ready to take action against anyone who seems to be infringing on their legal rights. Even if an enthusiastic fan put hours into developing their ROM Hack, the company shuts it down fast. Nintendo governs online content just as strictly.

While Nintendo does not actively take part in eSports events, they allow organizers to use their games in competitions. However, they do not give the organizers the freedom in organizing the events.

Nintendo’s strictness may dull the enthusiasm that video gamers have towards their products in the long run, thereby hurting their marketing. Though Nintendo continues to be a leader in the gamer realm, a weakening fanbase could lead to future issues. This could negatively affect fans’ reception of new products. The enthusiasm brought by online discussions, ROM hacks, and eSports is something many video game developers want on their side. 

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About the Author

Erica D’Arcangelo – De Silva

Erica D’Arcangelo – De Silva has worked in the Internet marketing industry for the last 20-years. Erica is the top-secret SEO weapon to marketing and advertising agencies in the world. She has generated over 300+ million in revenue for high-value brands such as Walmart, Pottery Barn, iRobot, Cutting Edge Firewood, Kelley Blue Book, and many more. Erica has custom-created more than 1,000 content, SEO, and marketing strategies which held the key to doubling and tripling online traffic, and marketing ROI. She has also authored a series of online publications including The Digital Branding Survival Guide, Million Dollar Marketing, 5 Steps to Increase Web Traffic by Blogging, and Repairing Your Online Reputation.