In October, gaming history YouTube channel DidYouKnowGaming reported on a failed 2004 pitch for a Zelda tactics game on the Nintendo DS called Heroes of Hyrule. Two months later, the Mario maker has now used a copyright strike to erase the video from the internet. The channel, which has made hundreds of videos about Nintendo games and their history, says it’s the first time the company has ever responded with a takedown notice.
“Nintendo has removed our Heroes of Hyrule video from YouTube,” DidYouKnowGaming tweeted late Wednesday night. “This was a journalistic video documenting a game that Retro Studios pitched to Nintendo nearly 20 years ago. This is an attempt by a large corporation to silence whatever journalism they don’t like, and a slap in the face for video game history preservation.”
The original video by contributor Dr. Lava documented the Metroid Prime developer’s decades-old pitch for a Zelda game that sounded a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics Advance. A turn-based strategy game with puzzle-solving mechanics, it focused on children reading a history book about the defeat of Ganon, and then playing through those historical battles. The children would find new pages and magical objects in their time that would then affect battles that took place in the book.
DidYouKnowGaming’s report was sourced to the original 22-page pitch document for the game, as well as an interview with the Retro programmer who had crafted it, Paul Tozour. While there was no game to share early build footage from, it did include some illustrations from the document (Kotaku included one in our previous coverage of the video and has not yet received any legal complaints). In addition to describing what the game might have been, the video also told of the studio’s burnout from Metroid Prime 2 at the time, and some staff members’ desires to take a stab at a different type of project.
It was a perfect example of the type of quality YouTube gaming journalism channel DidYouKnowGaming has become known for, and of how easily fascinating moments in the medium’s history can be lost without people putting in the time and effort to document them. But apparently, the fact that the pitch was from nearly 20 years ago and ultimately unsuccessful didn’t prevent the notoriously litigious Nintendo from treating it like a highly sensitive trade secret.
“The Heroes of Hyrule video was created using the same process and video editing style used for most other videos on the channel,” DidYouKnowGaming told Kotaku in an email. “What sets the video apart is that it’s one of the few videos on the channel that documents a piece of Nintendo history that was first uncovered and reported on by us.”
The group believes the coverage of the pitch falls under fair use protection, and stands by its original reporting. “We had heard from several sources during the video’s production that Nintendo were becoming upset with the amount of former Nintendo employees that were willing to talk about and share material from unreleased games, failed pitches and other canceled projects,” the channel said. “This did not deter us and will not deter us from documenting video game history.”
While the Switch manufacturer has become infamous for YouTube copyright striking everything from free fan mods to old video game soundtracks, this appears to have taken the knee-jerk pettiness to an entirely new level. “This is Nintendo trying to bully and silence independent historical researchers doing completely above board work,” tweeted Liam Robertson, who did not work on the Heroes of Hyrule video but has been a contributor to DidYouKnowGaming in the past. “They should not get to pick and choose what is said about them on YouTube.”
Nintendo and YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Correction 12/8/22 10:54 a.m. ET: A previous version of this article said the video was created by channel creator Shane Gill.