Nintendo is under fire from game communities for sending a cease-and-desist for creating custom Joy-Cons dedicated to late YouTuber Desmond “Etika” Amofah.
Following Amofa’s death in 2019, content creator Captain Alex launched a fundraiser which sold special Switch controller shells in Etika’s designs. Nicknamed the “Etikons,” the proceeds from each one would go directly to mental health research organization JED Foundation. Despite its apparent success in donating over $10,000 since the project started, Nintendo has taken legal action against Captain Alex due to copyright infringement and trademark violations. According to Nintendo in their letter, concern came from the use of “Joy-Con” in the product descriptions and using the official Switch logo. This led to the company in taking action, while Captain Alex later stated on Twitter that Nintendo was protecting their IP to “frustrating” degrees.
Etikon was a popular YouTuber known for reacting to Nintendo Direct livestreams and creating content around the company’s latest games and products. From 2018 to 2019, he experienced periods of depression and was hospitalized following several attempts on his own life. This led to his disappearance on June 2019, with Etikon uploading a YouTube video discussing his mental health and regrets from ignoring friends and family. He was reported missing until his body was recovered by a pier in New York City on June 24, 2019.
Fundraisers were started by fellow YouTubers to honour Etikon, while donating proceeds to various mental health organizations. This was also when Captain Alex channeled Amofa’s shared love for the Nintendo Switch console for creating custom shells for the Joy Cons. Buyers could find the Etikons over Etsy and other online retailers.
“I PURCHASED a Nintendo controller and painted it. That is perfectly legal and I can still do that. I cant use Nintendo imagery on them,” Alex wrote in his Twitter thread, adding the creative practice was already allowed with most manufacturers. “I’m upset because regardless of what anybody wants to say, Nintendo has personally victimized me. Nintendo has gone out of their way to prevent me from selling some of my designs, while letting other MUCH larger companies run rampant.”
Though Alex plans to rebrand his Etikons, Nintendo began trending worldwide as Etika’s dedicated “JoyCon Boyz” community spoke out against the company and accused them of dismissing mental health advocacy. Other users went on Twitter to express disappointment in Nintendo for anti-inclusivity and threatening litigation to anyone mentioning their properties.
The latest issue was fueled by previous decisions from Nintendo, who cancelled a Splatoon 2 event since teams used the #FreeMelee trend to support creative freedom with games like Super Smash Bros. Their controversy was deepened with cancelling a popular Smash tournament which would use an online mod. But the company took legal action and closed The Big House event, garnering worldwide backlash from fans.
Much of their restrictions come from any product or property which doesn’t have an official license approval. In Alex’s case, his designs based on Mario were also given a cease and desist. But most products including third-party controllers from distributor Controller Chaos were allowed to continue selling with the character’s likeness.
“So is Nintendo justified in shutting down some of my designs? Absolutely. I’m not claiming they’re not. It’s their IP and they’re protecting it. So why are they only protecting it from – ME,” Alex wrote in a follow-up Tweet.
No official responses have been made to the matter, while Alex told users he would be giving away the remainder of his Etokon designs at a future convention and won’t be sold online anymore.