News Article

Book Focused on EarthBound's Development and Localisation Shut Down by Nintendo

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Marcus Lindblom: "I have no desire to rock the boat with Nintendo at all"

Marcus Lindblom was the primary translator and localisation expert for iconic Super NES title EarthBound, and since its emergence on the Wii U eShop last year he's spoken a fair amount about his work on the project. It's emerged, however, from an interview with Polygon, that Nintendo declined permission for Lindblom to crowdfund a book about the game and its localisation.

Lindblom's idea for the project was inspired by the continuing interest from the enthusiastic EarthBound fanbase in his work, and because it was a project full of quirks and interesting stories to tell.

When I did the localization I went in and gave it some American flavor and humor because that is what the developers wanted. They didn't just want a straight translation. There were a lot of things that were not easy to translate and so I had freedom to put in weird American humor to flavor things and it worked out pretty well. All these years later people still find it charming which is nice.

I realized there was a large and vocal fan community. About a year and a half ago I went to PAX and I kind of walked up to the Fangamer booth and said that I had worked on the game. They were really surprised. They wanted to hear about my work on the game.

I was never going to make money from the book. I just wanted to pay for the cost of publication. It was just something for the fan community. They seemed so dedicated after all these years. I thought that, in a way, I owed them something.

There were a lot of little things I thought they might appreciate hearing about like why a certain character might say something in the game or why something was named the way it was or whatever. That was my original intention. Just to give the fans some insight into the way the game was localized.

This does seem to be the case, as is the norm, of Nintendo seeking to avoid unofficial accounts of its work and controlling the message, to a degree. Lindblom had contacted Nintendo about his plans for a book as a courtesy, but has made it clear that he'll respect the company's decision.

I owe a lot to Nintendo. They gave me my start in the game business. I don't want to do anything that makes them seem bad. I wanted to just write about the fun bits in the game that I think the fans would enjoy. But I have no desire to rock the boat with Nintendo at all.

...It isn't anything that I can speculate on. All I will say is I was the one who went and talked to Nintendo because I thought I might as well see if I can get their blessing. I asked them and they came back and said we'd rather you didn't.

My goal was always to honor the game and the fans and Itoi's writing. I am going to honor Nintendo's wishes that I don't put something down into a book, but I know that the fan community is owed some tidbits of information and I will continue to do that and to talk about it.

Are you disappointed that Lindblom's potential book project was shut down, or do you feel that the policy of non-disclosure from Nintendo is fair? Sound off in the comments below.


From the web

Game Screenshots

User Comments (87)



grimbldoo said:

Come on Nintendo. If you aren't going to do it yourself, let this man do it. Or if you want a scoop of the profit, why don't you publish the book? Don't hold back something that fans would be willing to scoop up for lazy reasons.



Peach64 said:

That's a shame. I'd have liked to read that. I know it's pretty old now, but I just finished reading David Sheff's Game Over, and it was a fascinating book.



rjejr said:

Maybe he could just do a series of monologues and put it on Youtube. Maybe he could leave out the games name and leave Nintendo out of it and just talk about this game he did the translation for that's recently been re-released.



2Sang said:

Little things like this is why Nintendo is doing so badly this generation



Doge said:

Be opppppeeeen and have immmmaaaaaaaginaaaaaation maaaaan



AyeHaley said:

Nintendo...sometimes...I do get why they don't want to, but still...Earthbound is my RPG of the decade. So glad I waited instead of downloading an illegal rom (which I don't like but I was seriously tempted to after so many years of silence)



Parasky said:

@2Sang Wait, so Nintendo stopping the production of a fanbook will magically make the Wii U even more of a sales failure? Your logic perplexes me.



Tsurii said:

I'd Like to know if it was Iwata himself or someone else, who's been working on the japanese version or someone at NoA (wich would be more likely since I can't come up with a reson for Lindblom to ask the japanese devision...), who was against the book.



shinokami said:

I can understand Nintendo's point of view: He would be making money with one of its franchise's name. If he wants to truly share the experience that's what blogs are for now days



Tuurtledove said:

It's a shame to see such a fan-service getting shutdown so drastically. Especially after the reemergence of the game of the Virtual Console, once again allowing people to first-hand witness Lindbolm's touch in the history of the game. It seems like the sort of fan-service that could do rather well with an official publication, similar perhaps to the Hyrule Historia publication the 'Legend Of Zelda' series recently received



unrandomsam said:

So what would people be able to use as a reference if they were speaking about this guys life the day before his funeral.

The guy to ask would have been the guy who made the Mother series. (The interview here has more than enough things that could be used).



AdanVC said:

I would had buy this book in a blink... Ugh, Nintendo once again being selfish with licences and stuff. That's why we barely see action figures, books or merchandise in general of Nintendo franchises, almost all of them are rare items that only sell on Japan and you have to bring it through ebay and that costs a lot of money and sighhh.



Nintenjoe64 said:

For a company that prides itself on being pure fun, Nintendo do have a bad habit of being the fun police.



PuzzleMaster7 said:

Perhaps he can be interviewed and somehow slip it under the radar in some other form of publication, even if it is condensed. There are several gaming magazines, such as NF Magazine, for instance, that would be glad to have that as an exclusive.



sykotek said:

I'm not sure what the exact issue Nintendo has with this, but if Nintendo's issue with this is that Lindblom would be securing profits through Nintendo's IP and he was just going to gift it to the community anyways, he could just bypass securing publishing altogether and release it to the EarthBound community as a free to download e-book. If he's worried about incurring any costs such as from the downloading of the e-book, I'm sure Starmen would host it for free.



DreamOn said:

Hopefully he asked Iwata. I'd not have settled for less than Iwatas f-off.



Henmii said:

Of course! We don't want Earthbound to become to popular, do we? No, churning out Mario after Mario after Mario, that's where its at!!



AlexSora89 said:

This actually says an awful lot about how all "we released the second Mother title, fans, you got it, cool, and that's it" Nintendo seems to be, in my opinion.



Einherjar said:

This is basicly the only thing other companys could learn from capcom:
They are very friendly when it comes to peoples work with their IPs.
The only thing they prohibit is, that you may not make monetised games off of their work.
But people are allowed to draw (web)comics, do fangames and advertise them. Nintendo is much to paranoid in that department.
All that cult phenomenon around Earthbound just helps promote it. As beloved as Earthbound is, its also quite obscure. And people are cheking it out just because of the fact, that as soon as it is mentioned somewhere, everyone who knows it starts to drool
Its a similar deal to nintendos reaction to the whole EVO situation. They need to understand that people dont want to hurt their IPs, but to relish them. Being part of EVO should be an honor, not something you fear.
But that reminds me, Bob Chipman (Movie Bob) recently wrote a book about Super Mario 3, did that come out, or did it have similar problems ?

@sykotek Posting his situation on starmen, hosting the book there and adding a donation button would probably get him the same amount a regular release would bring in. The Mother community is one of the most awesome and dedicated communitys out there. And i bet that most of them are more than willing to "pay" him for his work. Maybe someone with connections to Lindblom and the Starmen staff should pitch the idea

@Henmii Thats not even the point. And Eartbound IS popular, with or without that book. Also, Mario is Nintendos mascot, you wouldnt acuse a sports team for using their mascot in every game they play would you ?

@AlexSora89 It sometimes feels like nintendo is overwhelmed with earthbounds popularity and doesnt know what to do with it.



Stu13 said:

Maybe he could do a series of guest columns here on NL about SNES GAME. I'd sure like to hear about his work on SNES GAME. I'm sure there are some more than interesting stories to be told about the localization of SNES GAME, being so quirky as it is. Heck, it might even peak interest for SNES GAME in some folks who wouldn't have picked it up otherwise.



Hong said:

I don't like how Nintendo interacts with people outside of the company.



Monsti said:

Normal company: Oh cool. Let's support this guy and make some profit of it, make the fans happy and help this franchise to become more popular.
Nintendo: No. Our product must be secuuuuuured!!!!

As much as I love them for their weirdness I just shows again how far far far they are away from changing into the direction they need to right now.



unrandomsam said:

Shigesato Itoi - I always thought Mother was his (As in his say is the only one that matters).



PaperLucario said:

No to a book about the making of a cult classic RPG, Yes to a Dynasty Warriors-esqe game using one of Nintendo most sacred adventure franchises.



Tsurii said:

@unrandomsam Iirc there are almost always 2 guys named, when it comes to the Mother series: Itoi as author for the story and Iwata as main programmer. And to be honest I can't imagine, that Itoi would be against something like that (I guess he'd even help) and that Iwata has even been asked.

If I had to give my guess on who's to "blame" it's someone at NoA. (because why should Lindblom take permission from NoE or NoJ for something, that's about the american localisation of Earthbound?)



CureDolly said:

No one is forcing him to cancel the book. I really don't like that Nintendo was against it, but I very much respect Mr.Lindblom for honoring their wishes.



daniruy said:

"There's a thin line between love and hate", as well as a thin line between protection of an IP and silly domination of the IP.

Despite my love by Nintendo, I need to admit that they really like to walk IN THE line...



Gold_Ranger said:

The closest I ever got to playing any Mother game was GameCube's Smash Bros.
What kind of game is it exactly?



Jayvir said:

There are two sides to every story. It's not like Nintendo did this for no reason. Why is everyone so quick to jump on Nintendo's donkey about stuff?
Please watch the profanity — TBD



kevkeepsplaying said:

Isn't "shot down" a better title for this? It wasn't even started, and I was a bit misled and upset with Nintendo upon reading the article's title.



FriedSquid said:

Oh no, Nintendo didnt want a translator making a book about their game!!

How dare they!? How could they possibly!!? Nintendo, this is why the Wii U is doing so bad!!!! Killjoys!!

C'mon, guys. It's just a book.



MAN1AC said:

I'm starting to realize that I hate everything about Nintendo except their software.



Tsurii said:

@Kaine_Morrison difficult to describe...I guess you know they're RPGs, right?
Well Eartbound has all important elements of the Genre, but they're often using references and puns throughout the game, that make it seem like kind of a mock-up of the whole idea. It really doesn't take itself serious at all until just about the very last hour or so.

I think another word for this was "wacky RPG" and that describes it actually quite good



Sceptic said:

Ah, Nintendo being a jerk again. On a karma level they really do deserve what they're getting. Someday they'll sue twitter for retweeting something.



mhoving said:

Such a shame, but surely they realize that actions like these hurt Nintendo much more than fanservices like this, right? I wonder how much of a heart attack Nintendo gets each time they look at the amount of fanmade Pokemon and Mario stuff and the money involved with that.



sdcazares1980 said:

So it's not just third-party developers, but now BOOK PUBLISHERS?! Even from the FIRST-PARTY games?!

Just damn, Nintendo!



HyperSonicEXE said:

There's no defending this. He still has to clear the book's content through Nintendo. Unless Earthbound's localization was just a completely unsavory of upended tea tables, numerous love hotel business meetings, and illegal snail fights, there's no reason this book can't be made.
And it'd come at a good time too, when gaming is so bland. Maybe some devs could learn from it.



sdcazares1980 said:

@shinokami I agree with you about this being Nintendo's property, but it would give the story much greater weight with the Nintendo seal in it.
@CureDolly He cancelled the book because it is Nintendo's IP, and he didn't want to get sued.



GOM1 said:

I do not get why people are so upset. It is not draconian. Mother is Nintendo's property, and if they do not want this book made, it will not get made. End of story.



2Sang said:

I'm happy that nintendo fans on here are critical of these kinds of practices. If Nintendo doesn't change their approach to intellectual property, it's going to get harder and harder to get third party and even indie support.



unrandomsam said:

@2Sang Funnily enough there are times when Nintendo has blatently ripped off other peoples products before they became what they are. (A type of Lego for example).



unrandomsam said:

There shouldn't be a situation where people can or should even want to say no when it comes to historical events. (Personally I am not that interested about this but if Dreamcast Worlds didn't exist then I would have no idea about what made Shenmue so much better than other things).



ToastyYogurt said:

I thought this was a Nintendo fansite. Why's everybody so quick to hate on Nintendo when we haven't even heard their side of the story? For all we know, Nintendo could have actually had a legitimate reason for denying the publication of the book. It's possible. For example, they might have been afraid that some sort of company secret(s) might slip into the book and they did not even want to risk the idea of even reading it over and missing it. It sounds crazy, but it's plausible, and not the only possible reason. Besides, it's just a book. Nintendo hasn't tried to stop the fan-made Mother 4 yet. And I see plenty of Mario merch around stores. Nintendo is not as anal about their properties as your might think. They gotta have some kind of grip over their licenses. Remember when Nintendo allowed all those crappy cartoons to be made in the 80s? How do you think that Zelda cartoon affected the image of Link?



CrimsonMoonMist said:

@shinokami Well, why not publish the book then?
You've got a translator of a cult-classic with a bunch of dedicated fans willing to do all the work himself, so it would be easy quick money.



sdcazares1980 said:

@GOM1 In my opinion, as well as almost everyone else's, Nintendo should have said "yes." So your argument is that we can't be disappointed on what Nintendo's decision is?



Amrulez said:

Nintendo wonders why their business is slowly going down the tubes, it is stupid management decisions like this one of course way worse ones then this as well.



t3g said:

I don't understand how Nintendo would have any leverage in shutting down an unofficial publication regarding their company or games made for it. Unofficial books on subject matter have always existed and I don't see how this is a problem. Marcus is just being a wussy about it.



Drawdler said:

I'm trying not to assume anything since we don't know why Nintendo turned it down, but still... It always disappoints me when companies are strict about this kind of thing, especially on older games where it shouldn't be a big issue. I love hearing about game development and I wish companies could be a little more open about it and give us glimpses of their design decisions.



GOM1 said:

@sdcazares1980 Everyone has a right to be disappointed. I personally am not. It is just a book. Saying things like "this is why Nintendo is going down the tubes" and "things like this are ruining Nintendo" is taking this disappointment way too far. Some of these people are being way too extreme. Turning this down does not make Nintendo a bad or "stupid" company.



Olaf-symbiote said:

@GOM1 Of course, in your opinion Nintendo can do no wrong, and it's always everyone else who's to blame. There's a difference between being a fan and a plain Nintendo-worshipping apologist.

This is another sad example of Nintendo's restrictive thinking. Publishing a book won't hurt anyone, so they should just give it their OK. Wonder how the Nintendo execs react at the gazillion pieces of fan-art and fanfiction all around the Internet (particularly Pokémon)?



GOM1 said:

@Olaf-symbiote Thanks for bringing name-calling into this! I am not a "Nintendo-worshipping apologist". Where would you get that idea? I just think that it is silly for people to act like shooting down this book is the worst thing Nintendo has ever done. They have done much worse.
I can't answer your last question. I am not Nintendo.



AtlanteanMan said:

The way some people and companies treat intellectual properties baffles me. On the one hand, here's a project about one of their most beloved (if niche) franchises that, let's be honest, Nintendo will probably NEVER do themselves. And yet they throw up a "cease and desist" against a guy for trying to write such a book. And this instance is FAR from alone; Sega won't publish another Valkyria Chronicles or apparently localize the third installment for PSP, but they're completely unwilling to allow any localization companies to do so despite many fans' ardent requests. This is also likely the case with so many of Sega's awesome properties that haven't been seen in years or decades; they're intent on just sitting on them and refusing anyone else to give their fans what they are clamoring for.

Yeah, Nintendo, Sega, and other such companies are well within their legal rights to do such things; these are their properties after all. But if frankly no money is being taken out of their coffers and they wouldn't bother with such projects themselves, doing so certainly casts them in a negative light. Sometimes I feel that gamers care far more about the games than the companies who make them; in the end, all corporations really care about is the money. And that has definitely created some serious conflicts of interests for the entire hobby over the years.



Neophoenix said:

Any positive publicity would help Nintendo right now. They could manage the project with him get a cut of the profit and help promote their systems. Instead all I hear is bad press on Nintendo like this or with you tube and I never see or hear any advertising about their games or systems. It's no wonder they are in finical troubles



LittleIrves said:

You can all still read a book about Earthbound! The first in the Boss Fight Books series just came out. And the Forward is written by... Marcus Lindblom!

@Einherjar That SMB3 book by Chipman came out last year. Nintendo has no legal standing to block publication, since none of the cover graphics are exactly the ones in the game, and since the book is "criticism." Or so I've been told.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...