Pokemon has a vast and vibrant fan base that enjoys not only the popular video games but also the numerous spin-off franchises - including trading cards, plush toys, and even branded clothing. Like me, these aficionados devour every form of Pokemon merchandise, but the games unquestionably occupy the top spot on our priority lists.
Due to the steep cost and scarcity of older games like Pokemon Silver, fans often seek alternatives to get their nostalgia fix. This is where YouTubers, affectionately known in the community as PokeTubers, step in. They offer much more than just gameplay; some PokeTubers like World Champion Wolfe Glick and seasoned player Aaron 'Cybertron' Zheng provide viewers with valuable insight into their battle strategies. Others play fan-made ROM hacks of earlier games, often belonging to the third or fourth generation.
A specific genre of PokeTuber, referred to as Nuzlockers, has emerged, preferring to make the games as challenging as possible with self-imposed rules or competitive ROM hacks. Lately, this genre has attracted the most attention, pulling in larger crowds than even the niche categories like themed escape rooms.
However, the community might be heading for a massive turnaround. Nintendo, the owner of the Pokemon franchise, has recently revised its policy regarding the use of its intellectual properties by content creators. The rule book now explicitly mentions the use of emulators, tools Favored by PokeTubers to play the old games or ROM hacks, warning that it could lead to punitive actions from Nintendo, which previously has included demonetizing videos or issuing DMCA strikes for copyright infringement.
Nintendo's tightened rules pose a significant problem for Pokemon creators intending to play older games. Unless the games belong to Generation 8 and beyond, which are native to Nintendo's Switch console, PokeTubers will have to resort to archaic hardware. One suitable option could have been the 3DS console. It hosted Generations 4-7 natively and allowed playing Gens 1-3 through the Virtual Console. Unfortunately, its feasibility went downhill after Nintendo decided to shut down the 3DS eShop earlier this year.
The recently updated rules from the Japanese video game giant also indicate potential legal action for videos or live streams involving "cheating, cracking, unauthorized access, circumvention of technical restrictions, or unauthorized modification” - terms that may encompass legitimate game modifications necessary for streaming old games.
Capture cards, essential tools for game streaming, were not so sophisticated during the days of 3DS. Therefore, to capture gameplay, many PokeTubers had to physically alter their 3DS console, which could now fall under "unauthorised modification". It's apparent that Nintendo is combating any monetary gains fans may be making from their games, seemingly failing to recognise that these ventures are fueled by a deep-rooted love for the age-old franchise.
Nintendo seems oblivious to the goldmine it has in the form of its YouTube-based creative community. These are passionate fans who, when disillusioned by easy storylines and poor performance issues in main series games, invent new and exciting ways to enjoy them. Pokemon enthusiasts, long back, realized the need to create enjoyable content like Emerald Kaizo or a Soul Link Nuzlocke of Scarlet & Violet. This creativity and exuberant sharing keep the Pokemon community alive and thriving. As the Raid rewards dwindle and event grinding gets monotonous, the prospect of playing a 2003 Pokemon game with variable encounters and challenging Gym battles seems much more appealing.
The looming shadow of Nintendo's stringent policy, however, raises concerns. Hopefully, the joy of Pokemon gaming won't be marred by a surprise visit from Nintendo's law enforcers.