Another fan project based on a beloved game series has fallen. Nintendo has issued a cease-and-desist notice to the creators of the open source Pokémon MMO Pokenet (Google cache of the site here), requiring that they take down their website and surrender the pokedev.org domain name used for the game, claiming unauthorized use of Nintendo trademarks.
Pokenet was a work in progress, with the "Valiant Venonat" version of the beta nearing release, but it was already operating online at the time of shutdown. "Nushio," one of the programmers on the project, told us that over 7,000 players had logged time in the game, which set every player as a Pokémon trainer in the regions of Kanto and Johto (with more coming later). "You could even catch, evolve, trade," Nushio told Joystiq.
Nintendo faxed the takedown request in late March. "We kinda postponed closing the site, but after much talks within the devs, we decided to 'formally' close it down," Nushio said. "On April Fools, no less." Did he expect the game to meet with this end? "Of course not. Truth be told, we're not the only 'Poke-MMO-n' around this side of the net. We (were?) however, the only one that handed out the source code to whoever wanted it. I'm not sure if that's the reason they attempted to shut us down or not," adding, "We don't know what exactly we did different."
Comparing Pokenet's situation to the recently-killed The Silver Lining, Nushio laid out one important difference. "Well, we never caught as much as a 'whiff of money.' I'll be honest with you, our servers cost 80 american bucks a month; money which the developers, and only the developers, paid out of pocket month by month, for the past 24 months." The developers have complied with all the terms so far, save for the transfer of the domain name, due to technical issues.
As for what they'll do with the code -- whether it'll reappear as a non-Pokémon game -- plans are understandably up in the air at the moment. "We joked around using Digimon, or Monster Rancher as our next targets, but most of the devs are just giving up," Nushio said. "There's still people tied to the Pokemon MMO genre, and they might try to revive it though, who knows. The code is out of the bag, and anyone can start a new game and server quite easily.
There's still developers on our team that are waiting on us to say 'Haha, we gotcha! It was all a joke.'"