In 1990, John Carmack ported the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 to the PC to prove that side-scrolling graphics could be done on the platform. He then presented this breakthrough to Nintendo, but the company wasn’t interested in the PC market as it was still rolling in the dough thanks to the NES. That rejection ultimately led to the creation of Commander Keen, and id Software changed gaming forever.
I open with the tale of the founding of id Software because a similar situation is happening again. A college student by the name of Josh Goldberg has recreated Super Mario Bros. in HTML5. Much like side-scrolling on PCs in the late 80s, something like Super Mario Bros. being recreated entirely in HTML5 is entirely new. Unfortunately, Nintendo isn’t as docile regarding its intellectual property anymore.
According to The Washington Post, Nintendo is seeking to have the game, which can be found at fullscreenmario.com, to be shut down. The company says it “respects the intellectual property rights of other companies, and in turn expects others to respect ours as well.”
It’s certainly reasonable for Nintendo to protect its IP, but it’s not like Goldberg just uploaded a ROM like so many Flash developers do with classic Nintendo games. Instead, he built the entire game piece-by-piece in HTML5 himself just to prove he could. It’s Nintendo’s right to have it taken down, but it’s a shame to go about it this way. Nintendo should work with Goldberg to encourage his development skills and maybe even have him create an entirely new game for Nintendo’s new Web Framework development tools. Throwing a C&D letter at him doesn’t foster creativity – it hinders it.
As you would expect, the debate over Full Screen Mario has also reawakened the debate on corporate copyright. Under the current law, corporate owned copyrights are valid for 95 years. In other words, the original Super Mario Bros. won’t enter the public domain until 2082. Everybody’s favorite Taiwanese animators examined the issue in further depth today:
Once again, nobody here is arguing that Nintendo is wrong for wanting to see Full Screen Mario wiped off the face of the Internet. It’s entirely within its right to do so. In doing so, however, Nintendo is also killing a growing community of coders and aspiring game designers who are contributing to the open source project with code and custom levels. To kill it now would be a giant middle finger to all those who grew up with the game and now want to make it better.[Image: FullScreenMario.com]