Why Breath of the NES Was a Smart Move for WinterDrake

Last month, indie developer WinterDrake shocked the internet with this BoTW fan game. Here’s why BoTNES was good publicity.

In the wake of the hype surrounding Breath of the Wild, indie developer WinterDrake emerged with a fan-made game that embodied the whimsy and cleverness that embodies the Legend of Zelda franchise. His game, Breath of the NES, created a playable version of the 2D prototype of BoTW seen in "The Making of Breath of the Wild" -- and he did it really well.

BoTNES featured many of the same aspects unique to the new BoTW game, including an increased ability to interact with the game world, like the ability to cut down trees and harvest food. It also showed some original content, such as the Byoki Berry, a poisonous berry that a player could drop in front of Octorocks as a distraction.

While it was obvious that WinterDrake was having fun with BoTNES and that he was going somewhere with all of this, we just couldn't tell where he planned to go with it.

When BoTNES made its debut in April, shortly before the official release of BoTW, it received immediate attention from gaming news sites all over the internet. The game's sudden publicity was met with excitement from many Zelda fans, but also harsh criticism from some.

"People really like to receive takedown notices don't they?" and "That can't be legal" are just two comments taken from Kotaku's tweet about BoTNES. It wasn't legal, but it was brilliant. 

And because of that, it didn't take long for Nintendo to notice what was going on and put an end to it. In order to avoid a potential lawsuit, WinterDrake complied with the Nintendo takedown of BoTNES and removed the download link from his Itch.io account. Shortly after the demise of BoTNES became official, WinterDrake told GameSpot that his project would continue, but without Nintendo-copyrighted content.

If you suspected before the takedown that the developer knew that he would be stopped from using copyrighted materials, you were right. WinterDrake told GameSpot that it was a "planned decision," probably to gain a platform for his future projects. It was a creative strategy and a smart publicity move for the young developer. His newfound platform will benefit his projects as he moves on with the game -- after removing all the copyrighted content, of course.

We've seen fan games like Pokémon Uranium and Red Dead Redemption V shut down in the past. However, the BoTNES situation seems a little different than some of these past takedowns. Pokémon Uranium developers kept their nine-year development a secret throughout the entire process, only to be taken down a month after release. And more recently, RDRV sought to bring the original game's map into Grand Theft Auto 5 -- and was subsequently forced to stop development.

What WinterDrake is doing with BoTNES that is different from these two scenarios is that he's continuing his work in a very public way while still complying with the takedown from Nintendo. Whether or not it was his strategy all along to bring awareness to his work using BoTW and use that attention to fuel his future developments, is truly unknown. But it worked.

BoTNES fans all over the world are waiting to see what he does next. I wish the best of luck to him and all the indie developers out there trying to gain a voice in the gaming world.

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Did you play Breath of the NES? Tell us what you thought in the comments below!

Published May. 8th 2017

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