It might be known as one of the friendlier faces in gaming, but Nintendo is currently trending online for all the wrong reasons. The company is facing a fierce backlash after after it emerged that it has blocked the sale of a Nintendo Switch accessory designed to raise money for a mental health charity.
Content Creator Alex Blake created a pair of Joy-Con controller skins (below) in memory of gaming YouTuber Desmond "Etika" Amofah, a "legend in the Nintendo community" who took his own life in 2019. But Blake has since revealed that he has received a cease and desist letter from Nintendo itself.
The Joy-Cons (above) feature a black-and-white design, along with Etika's logo as well as the logo JoyConBoyz, the name of Etika's gaming community. Dubbed Etikons, the accessories were designed as "a way to honour his legacy while putting a lasting product into the hands of his fans".
Of each pledge on Indiegogo (opens in new tab), 25% per cent would be taken as production fee while 65% was donated to the JED Foundation (opens in new tab), a nonprofit that “protects emotional health and prevents suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults”.
First campaign was not successful. Second campaign was successful. Remaining stock of Joycons were for sale my Etsy since last year. Nintendo sent me a cease and desist at the end of September.Here’s a picture of me with a bin of all the shells I can’t sell anymore pic.twitter.com/ytdWzObh9xDecember 7, 2020
But just a month after the campaign was set up, Blake has revealed on Twitter (above) a screenshot of the letter he received from Nintendo, along with a photo of himself with the Joy-Cons he is now unable to sell. "Your false association with the Nintendo brand violate Nintendo’s intellectual property rights," the notice reads, before demanding that Blake cease all marketing, production and sale of the custom Joy-Cons.
The move has led to a significant amount of criticism on Twitter. Nintendo itself now trending on the platform, with over 180,000 tweets:
Every day, it gets harder and harder to support Nintendo. #FreeSplatoon #FreeMelee pic.twitter.com/TB8MiuZDCyDecember 7, 2020
Nintendo issued a cease an desist to stop the production of Etikons.Sales of these help charity JED Foundation and honour the memory of YouTuber “Etika” who died in June 2019.Mental health is so important, really hope Nintendo reconsider this.#NintendoSwitch #GamingNews pic.twitter.com/1re552ZeEYDecember 7, 2020
It’s just so baffling that Nintendo will turn a blind eye to many, many custom shell designers for Joycon and other controllers, but will C&D the ones that are raising money for charity under Etika’s name. It threatens those artists fair work and I’m not cool with it. pic.twitter.com/tgnsYQCiWZDecember 7, 2020
Damn Nintendo you guys have no soul. pic.twitter.com/LYnDns1pTEDecember 7, 2020
Blake did go on to explain (opens in new tab) that, rather than shutting down the project entirely, Nintendo took issue with the use of the Joy-Con name and symbol as part of the JoyConBoyz logo. Blake says the design will be modified, but he has been left with hundreds of Joy-Cons that can no longer be sold.
This is by no means the first logo-based trademark dispute we've seen in 2020. From Nirvana and Marc Jacobs' smiley-face battle to the road rage between Citroën and Polestar, there have been plenty of examples of a small symbol causing big problems. If you're looking to create a design that definitely won't be mistaken for anything else, out logo design guide is the best place to start.