Nintendo is fiercely protective of its properties, and has form for sending its lawyers after even more innocent fan-made games, so it’s little surprise it went after 1Up – a cryptocurrency-driven platform that describes itself as a “retro-gaming platform for everyone that uses NFTs as powerups.”
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital “goods” – often images but occasionally in-game assets – where “ownership” is traded using blockchain technology, at huge environmental cost due to the cumulative energy demands of processing the transactions. This “ownership” doesn’t actually convey any real exclusivity, as an NFT JPG can be saved to a computer just as easily as one without a blockchain transaction attached.
In 1Up’s case, it used copyrighted material, including what appeared to be classic Mario Bros sprites, in a multiplayer platforming game where it allowed people to gamble their NFTs to compete, seemingly racing each other to reach in-game bags of cash. In a September 2021 blog post (as spotted by Kotaku), 1Up even claimed it would “bring Mario and friends to the blockchain”, despite no clear involvement or consent from Nintendo.
However, as noticed by artist jycompany_ on Twitter, a YouTube upload of 1Up’s project had been taken down “due to a copyright claim by Nintendo of America, Inc.”
Kotaku reports one of the project’s admins, “Link”, writing on 1Up’s Telegram channel “Alright well, so much for staying in stealth mode and developing it quietly…it seems you guys were wayyy too loud too early and got Nintendo of America’s attention”.
Other users have replied positively to the takedown, saying it frames 1Up as an “underdog” and that Nintendo’s legal actions will “moon this shit through space” – or attract more positive attention to it, seemingly ignorant of continued legal ramifications for exploiting Nintendo’s intellectual property.
At time of writing, 1Up’s blog still features Mario and Luigi assets, and shows no sign of removing copyrighted material. Expect to see more, and stronger, legal pushback from Nintendo if the platform continues to operate in its current fashion.
In related Nintendo news, the company has closed offices in California and Toronto, as Nintendo of America consolidates its operations in Washington state in the US and Vancouver in Canada.