News – NES Visual Compendium Shut Down By Nintendo

Only last month we reported on Bitmap Books’ hugely successful Kickstarter campaign for their NES celebration, the NES Visual Compendium. Described as visual tribute to Nintendo’s 8-bit console, the compendium planned to explore all things NES / Famicom through primarily visual means. It was an exciting project, something proven by the fact that it had seen more than £140,000 pledged, despite only asking for £25,000.

Sadly though, it looks like this dream retro compendium may now never be. You see, with only around 24 hours to go, it looks like Nintendo has shut down the NES Visual Compendium. In doing so, removing all of the Kickstarter pledges it had gained, and potentially ending the project for good.

NES Visual Compedium Cover

Nintendo’s Copyright Claim

Sadly, head over to the Kickstarter page now and rather than a successful Kickstarter campaign, all you’ll see is the following message:

NES/Famicom: a visual compendium is the subject of an intellectual property dispute and is currently unavailable. If you are interested in this project, please check back later. Thanks for your patience.

NES Visual Compedium Zelda
An example page from the proposed NES Visual Compendium.

What’s more, whilst Bitmap Books have been quite silent on the matter, Nintendo haven’t. In fact, via their lawyers, Nintendo have released the following statement. One which suggests that their basis for shutting down the project, is that it would infringe on their copyright. Most notably that relating to games such as Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Metroid, Punch-Out!!, and The Legend of Zelda.

This Kickstarter project makes unauthorized use of Nintendo’s copyrights as noted above. The description of the book states that it is “mainly visual”, and the campaign shows pages of the book which consist simply of large screenshots copied directly from Nintendo’s video games.

Publication of this book will further infringe these and other copyrights owned by Nintendo.

The Seal of Quality

As noted in the above quote, it’s not just the games that Nintendo’s lawyers have taken offence. They also argue that utilising a modified version of the famous Seal of Quality, would also infringe on various copyrights:

This campaign also makes use of a mark that is confusingly similar to registered trademarks owned by Nintendo. Specifically, the project’s creator is using a modified version of Nintendo’s ‘Official Nintendo Seal’ mark and Nintendo’s “Original Seal of Quality” mark to promote this project.

(Note: references to specific trademarks have been removed from the following quote, but can be seen here)

Seals of Quality
The disputed Seal of Quality, and Nintendo’s original side by side.

Finally Nintendo’s lawyers sum up their reasoning behind the copyright claim by stating the following:

This use of Nintendo’s intellectual property may confuse Kickstarter backers into thinking this project is sponsored or licensed by Nintendo, when in fact it is not.

What’s Next?

All in all this is a sad day for retro fans. Not only did the NES Visual Compendium look set to be informative, well made, and beautiful to look at, but it was doing this in order to celebrate all things 8-bit. What’s more, the kickstarter campaign also proved that there were thousands of people interested in the project.

There may still some hope for the project though. Mainly through legal arguments such as fair usage, and with regard to the Seal of Quality, use as a parody. Nevertheless, Nintendo will certainly be in driving seat when it comes to fighting this.

This may be the end of an exciting retro project, but hey let’s hope not. Either way, Rings and Coins will be on hand to keep you updated on any developments.

Sophia Aubrey Drake

A lifelong gamer with a fanatical love of all things Nintendo and Japan. So much so that she's written a thesis on one and lived in the other. Currently on a quest to catch every last Pokémon. Follow me on twitter via @DivaXChill or @RingsandCoins.

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