Cooking Mama: Cookstar has gone from eShop also-ran to front-page news in the space of a weekend.
A few days ago, IGN reported that the Switch title was released on the US Switch eShop last week, but has since been pulled. This extends to multiple other regions including the UK and Australia and supposedly applies to copies of the physical release in certain regions. If you search for the game on the Switch eShop in any of these regions, no results are found. We even had a look across multiple eShop ourselves and got the same outcome. If you try to find the game on Nintendo's website, only the older entries in the series show up.
On the physical front, the game is listed on GameStop, but is currently not available to purchase. Over in Europe, multiple retailers such as GAME are taking pre-orders and release dates for the title are all over the place. Meanwhile, in Australia, people appear to have been able to acquire physical copies of the game, and it's also available for purchase on the EB Games.
Some fans reached out to Nintendo of America's Twitter account to find out what's going on, and there was speculation from some quarters that it may not have even been a legitimate release.
Then the speculation regarding cryptocurrency mining began, mainly because when the game was first revealed, developer 1st Playable mentioned blockchain technology. It was stated that the game was pulled because it was found to be using the Switch console's processing power to mine cryptocurrency.
Almost instantly, 1st Playable responded to these claims (thanks, Nintendo Everything), and stressed that the claims regarding blockchain tech being used in the game were "hypothetical":
As the developers we can say with certainty there is no cryptocurrency or data collection or blockchain or anything else shady in the code. The Nintendo Switch is a very safe platform, with none of the data and privacy issues associated with some mobile and PC games. This is a release from Feb 2019, and we presume hypothetical like most releases about blockchain are. Blockchain was never brought up to us developers, and we were entertained to hear about in late 2019. Not happening anytime soon.
This statement was quickly followed by dataminer reports which suggested that the offending code was removed prior to launch and this could perhaps be the root cause of the game being removed from sale:
More claims appeared, with one speculating that it was pulled because it uses music ripped from YouTube:
The most recent update to this developing story comes from a developer who claims to have been involved with creating the game itself. Speaking to ScreenRant, the developer – who wishes to remain anonymous – dismissed the cryptocurrency claim:
The statement about crypto-currency was all buzz words. The head of planet entertainment knows very little about these things... he just put some fancy language to get potential investors who like that stuff. As for the crashes/ overheating. That would be because the game is made in unity. By many people working on their first game... it's not the best product but it made it through several vigorous reviews by Nintendo and Sony. There is no way crypto-mining stuff could get through those tests. I doubt anyone at 1p would even be able to make such a thing.
According to the developer, the real reason the game has been withdrawn from sale is due to a tussle between the publisher and the IP holder:
There is a legal battle between the publisher, planet entertainment and the ip holder, office create... planet entertainment released the game against a request by office create to keep polishing the game, or perhaps even cancelling it. At one point the japanese official create clients came to oversee development. An argument started and the clients were told to go home if they weren't being "constuctive". Once they found out that planet entertainment released the game, they used their nintendo contacts to pull it from the e-shop and stop production of cartridges.
Overall, everyone at 1p loves the cooking mama franchise and did their best to make the best product considering the interference from the higher ups. I think the game is far from perfect, but would have done fine without the publishers stumbling so constantly..."
It sounds as if the entire release has been botched, with the developer claiming that advertising and social media posts have been ditched prior to launch. It now looks as if the publisher is going to sue Office Create for loss of earnings – which could mean the game never gets a proper launch at all.
Following the unknown developer's comments, the official Cooking Mama: Cookstar Twitter account posted the following message, apparently trying to place the blame for the game being unavailable on the recent coronavirus outbreak – a statement which ignores the fact that it was actually published on the eShop at one point before being pulled:
It's certainly been a wild ride, and we'll keep this post updated with any fresh news we hear.