The Pokemon Company considers Nuzlocke runs to be “on the same level as” ROM hacks, according to a pair of former employees at Nintendo of America. The workers in question were apparently prevented from taking part in any such runs during their long tenure. The Pokemon Company has of course denied these claims.
The news comes from the Kit & Krysta Podcast hosted by Kit Ellis and Krysta Yang. Ellis was a public relations manager at Nintendo of America between 2009 and 2022, helping to market games including The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Kid Icarus: Uprising, and more. This public face of the company began running the Nintendo Minute back in 2013 along with another public relations manager, Yang. Ellis and Yang both left Nintendo of America this past January following the closure of its office in San Francisco, California. The pair worked at the company for 13 and nine years, respectively.
“Have you played a Nuzlocke run of Pokemon and if so, do you have any stories to tell,” a follower of the Kit & Krysta Podcast going by the name of Fuwante0 asked. “We have a great story to tell about this where we thought it would be a fun idea, so we pitched it to The Pokemon Company,” Ellis remarked. “We would like to do a Nuzlocke run, what do you think?” Yang noted that “we thought they were going to fire us.”
“They said we consider this to be on the same level as using a hacked game, ROM hacks,” Ellis explained. “It’s just a style of playing a game that anybody can buy, there’s no hacking. That was truly one of the more ‘wait, what?’ responses.” Yang pointed out how there were “a lot of creators that played Nuzlocke for a style of Pokemon that got erased from their Trainer Programs.”
“You can see why people got afraid to propose what seemed like very basic ideas because there was just unpredictability of like am I going to get in huge trouble for suggesting this normal thing,” Ellis asked. Yang went on to say that “once you get in trouble, they don’t want to trust you again. You lose access to all these things.”
Nuzlocke runs follow a set of rules defined by the participating players. The most common are that Pokemon which faint must be released and players can only catch the first wild Pokemon encountered in each area. The name comes from the eponymous comic book series following a Nuzleaf which resembles a character from the show Lost called John Locke, named after the philosopher John Locke who is mostly famous for elaborating the labor theory of property.
ROM hacks are modified versions of a given game featuring alterations to the graphics, dialog, levels, gameplay, and more. These are generally created by fans to improve older games or to make newer versions using the original engine. ROM hacks often involve redesigning certain aspects of a game or implementing unused features from the source code. Nintendo of America has been vocal in its opposition to ROM hacks, initiating numerous legal disputes about them in recent years.
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