Pokémon Uranium: Fan game rises after nine years, goes underground in less than a week

Pokémon Uranium is a fan made Pokémon game that's been causing a heck of a stir on the web the last several weeks. And for good reason; it's fun, it's Pokémon, and ultimately it hits the nostalgia funny bone for anyone that's fallen out of the Pokémon canon but found new life in Pokémon Go's augmented reality experience.

Oh, and because it's a fan game, it's also free for anyone who owns a PC slightly more powerful than a potato, which is a major selling point for the bulk of fans interested in playing Pokémon without shelling out the cash for a new 3DS.

A Nuclear Delight 9 Years in the Making

As if that wasn't all the excuse most of us needed to get started, Pokémon Uranium is about as close to a full-fledged title as you can get, and although its development cycle was nine long years in the making, it's incredibly impressive for a fan creation. Rather than a simple overhaul or some kind of port, the game plays like a brand new addition to the series, adding over 150 brand new Pokémon, a new tropical setting, a new Pokémon type called Nuclear, and it even fully supports online battling and trading.

All of this meant that when developers JV and Involuntary Twitch released their 1.0 version of the game, the line for downloading and loading up the title got long – really long. In fact, their site could barely handle all the traffic, and after multiple mirrors and a heck of a lot of sharing among the community, Pokémon Uranium was downloaded over 1.5 million times in a single week. That made it pretty damn successful in its own right, but garnered just a little bit of the wrong kind of attention from the right kind of people.

The right kind of people came in the form of Nintendo itself, who have always had a certain love/hate relationship with fan games large and small. The wrong kind of attention came in the form of several specific copyright takedown requests.

It's hardly surprising to see Nintendo taking an aggressive stance against something that wanders into one of their most profitable franchises, showing off an attractive new game for $40 less than market price. They obviously need to protect their properties and make sure that any game running around with the Pokémon logo on the front is canon and up to snuff.

Despite this fact, there are plenty of developers that manage to handle fan games and modding in a much less aggressive manner. Firaxis notoriously started a longstanding partnership for DLC with Long War Studios and the extremely popular Long War Mod, Bethesda has made the modding community a key marketing technique, and hundreds of other developers have managed to maintain extremely friendly relationships with their community as a whole. Yet Nintendo has a long history of forcing any kind of fan made content – from videos and gameplay, to fan made games like Pokémon Uranium – out the door with no comment, hubbub, or even an apology.

After receiving the takedown notice, the developers behind Pokémon Uranium pulled all of their download links and released the following statement:

“After receiving more than 1,500,000 downloads of our game, we have been notified of multiple takedown notices from lawyers representing Nintendo of America.

While we have not personally been contacted, it’s clear what their wishes are, and we respect those wishes deeply.

Therefore, we will no longer provide official download links for the game through our website.

We have no connection to fans who re-upload the game files to their own hosts, and we cannot verify that those download links are all legitimate. We advise you to be extremely cautious about downloading the game from unofficial sources.

We are blown away by the response this game has received, and we thank you all so much for your outstanding support.

We will continue to provide Pokémon Uranium-related news and updates through our official channels.

You are welcome to continue discussing and sharing content related to the game on our forums and Discord, where there is a very active community.

Thank you for reading, and let’s share the love of Pokémon!”

Going Under

The statement seems pretty straightforward, and it's true that you can no longer get a hold of a copy of Pokémon Uranium straight from the developer's website. But it's near impossible to kill a dream, and anyone that works on a game for nine straight years aren't the types to take a loss lying down, especially after seeing such a huge response from the community in only a single week.

So although the game is technically dead, it's also still very much alive on the hard drives of all 1.5 million people that downloaded it and are now reposting and sharing it across hundreds of torrents, mirrors, and filesharing services. It's a grassroots network that makes the Safari Zone look freshly trimmed. As the statement advises, anyone that still doesn't have a copy should be extremely careful about where they download the game from to avoid picking up some malicious software along the way, but with the number of sources that a simple Google search returns it's not a stretch to find a link that's vetted and reasonably safe. 

Additionally, JV and Involuntary Twitch are still quietly working on the game. They just released the first 1.1 update via Uranium's built-in patcher that addresses a number of small bugs and glitches discovered after releasing it to over 1.5 million willing testers. Additionally, both devs are still actively encouraging discussion on their official forums,  and their other various social media accounts. There's no telling if Nintendo will be satisfied with this tongue in cheek response to their takedown request, but if they pursue the issue further they risk stepping on the toes of 1.5 million fans, which might even be enough to make people stop playing Pokémon Go long enough to stand up and take notice.

As for JV and Involuntary Twitch, we suggest they take their passion project and move to set up their own IP – slap some new textures on, rip away the Pokémon assets, and make something new and entirely unique. It only takes playing the game for a short time to realize that both of these devs have a fundamental knowledge of the balance and charm of a successful Pokémon game, and without Nintendo on their backs they could likely pull a lot more adult audiences that have moved away from Pokémon's undoubtedly kid friendly world.