For the past 8 years, I've been working on a Pokémon fan-game. It's been awesome, well-received by players, and I'm very proud of the community we've built. But, as with all things "fan-game", there's always that looming grey cloud of "will a C&D arrive tomorrow?"
Now, I've taken some steps to ensure we're as respectful as possible towards Nintendo's property:
- We stay as true as possible to the source material. While we have added our own variants and original characters ("Fakemon"), we've made great efforts to keep them consistent.
- We make it clear that we are a fan-game, not affiliated with Nintendo, and that it is entirely unofficial. I also include a link to a shareholder Q&A (Q14) where Satoru Iwata confirmed that they are not interested in treating people like myself as criminals.
- Our game concept is original. It's not a clone of any existing game, and I like to think it fills a nice little hole for fans of the series.
- I (briefly) met C-level people from Game Freak and Nintendo, including Junichi Masuda and Tsunekazu Ishihara, and given them "business cards" for our game. However, it wasn't a formal meeting, rather they were signing autographs at the Pokémon World Championships, so for all I know I was probably just some fan and they didn't pay much attention to the card (they've got enough to do already, right?)
But, all that being said, we're still unofficial, using intellectual property that doesn't belong to us.
My friend and I quit our jobs to work on this game full-time. If we do get shut down, we're going to have to seriously struggle to put our lives back together. So for now, the game has mostly been kept "under the radar", with basically zero marketing and only word-of-mouth of players to keep it populated.
The biggest thing here is that I want to give back to Nintendo. Thanks to them, and to my project, I've made incredible progress as a developer, designer and just as a person in general.
As mentioned earlier, my biggest fear is that one day they'll shut us down. And we'd have no choice but to do so. But it's been 8 years now...
So I'm trying to figure out what options I have, if any. I think what I want to do is to reach out and ask about some kind of licensing, but I don't want to draw too much attention. I don't want to lift my head over the parapet only to have it blasted off, you know? I'm not looking for Pokémon GO levels of attention, or even Magikarp Jump. (Our single server would melt either way - I'm working on it!) Just some way of having actual "permission" to do what I'm doing.
I expect the answer will probably be along the lines of "IANAL, get one", but what kind of lawyer would be best? And any insights or advice besides that would be helpful too.