Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by Nintendo's Wiimote

July 23, 2008 -

Everyone who follows the video game scene knows that the Wiimote is the unofficial nickname for Nintendo's motion-sensitive Wii controller.

But have you ever heard of the Weemote?

As reported by Time, the Weemote (left) is a small TV remote control, specially designed for children by Fobis Technologies of Miami. The Weemote was trademarked in 2000, roughly six years before the launch of the Wii.

From the Time article:

Nintendo doesn't actually use the term Wiimote in its marketing, but then, it doesn't have to. The Internet takes care of that. Online retailers, from Amazon.com to used-video-game vendors operating out of their houses, advertise the "Wiimote" on their sites, openly or via more obscure means like customer product tags and posted comments.

 

As a result, says Fobis president John Stephen, since the Wii was released in 2006, the Weemote trademark has been so "diluted" that the Weemote's sales, which are mostly online and total fewer than half a million to date, have fallen considerably. In fact, many Wiimote fans believe it's the Weemote that's guilty of the trademark infringement. "These days," says Stephen, "the little guy like us is wondering, What's the point of trademark protection?"

What has been Nintendo's response? GamePolitics put the question to John Stephen, whose firm manufactures the Weemote:

GP: Is there any legal action pending against Nintendo, or planned?

Stephen: First of all, we are not currently engaged in a  legal action with Nintendo or any of their resellers.  Our lawyers have mailed approximately 100 letters to sellers of the Wii remote and related accessories who use the wiimote name to market or describe their products.  This list includes all the major big box retailers as well as most of the specialty retailers.  These requests for cease and desist are required of us by law.  If we do not police and enforce our trademark, it could actually be taken from us legally so this is our obligation.  This obligation is very costly financially as well as in our time.

GP: Have you had any talks with Nintendo about the issue?

Stephen: Our approach has always been to contact Nintendo on this through our attorneys to see about reaching a business settlement, i.e. they purchase our trademark and we set out to rebrand our company. Our argument is that the damage has been done here (whether intentional or not) and that Nintendo has more to gain now controlling this mark then we do. They asked us to give them an offer which we spent a few months pulling together and after submitting that initial offer, they promptly decided they were not interested anymore and basically closed the door.  Though the name weemote is very precious to Fobis Technologies, can you imagine CocaCola with out Coke, or VW without the Beetle or Federal Express with FedEX?

Unfortunately, the reality is we have no leverage and they are already getting a free ride. So I guess their position is why pay for something that is already free!

GP: How has this issue affected you and your business?

We have spent over a year trying to do this in a moral and ethical fashion by talking to them purely from a business standpoint, .i.e.  with no threats of any kind.  This process eats deeply into our profits and productivity. As a small business owner who has spent the last ten years of my life trying to do the right thing and being passionate about our products, this really unsettles me and makes me seriously question why any innovator in their right mind would want to go down this same road? 

When we started our company, we fully believed that our intellectual property would be protected given we did all the proper registrations and due diligence.  My wife and I are both entrepreneurs as were our parents.  How do we encourage the next generation if this is our legacy?

In my mind, Nintendo may not have done any of this intentionally but it seems one would expect them take some kind of moral high ground in the matter. The fact they have registered for the mark in the European Community, have a re-direct on the www.wiimote.ca domain name in Canada to Nintendo.ca,  in combination with freely using metatags on their own site would indicate to me a true slap in the face.

GP: We have a request in to Nintendo for comment.


Comments

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Ok...

So if you trademark a name for your product (Lets make an example that I trademark a cup called the "Cuptastic") and then someone else comes out with a different product (say, an athlete's cup called the Cup Fantastic) and people/consumers use the shorthand "Cuptastic" to refer to the athlete's product, am I then entitled to anything? If the product is not directly marketed as the other trademarked title, but customers all refer to it as "Cuptastic" are they going to correct them every time? Are they going to point out a obscure cup? Am I, the maker of this fantastic sports equipment at fault for referring to my own product by the previously non-trademarked name "Wiimote"? Is it really Nintendo's fault American legislature lends itself so well to lawsuits?
Hell, it's not even the same thing. No matter how you slice it, Weemote =/= Wiimote. Wee, as in small. Wii as in "Us". Would "Wemote" get the same treatment? Vealmote? Wheemote? Hemote? Hiimote? Emote? Iimote? etc.

Seems like a way to try to get money. He even admits that Nintendo is doing nothing illegal. It's also just natural that a consoles remote will be used in shorthand and just called "consolename"-mote, though the wiimote is talked about more than other controllers I guess. Expecting Nintendo to purchase any and all trademarks that "sound like what customers are calling" parts of their products is ludicrous.

Great that he made a product, great it got sold. But fie on this lame attempt to bring publicity to a product that just plain creeps me out abit. Also, regular remotes with dozens of buttons are in my opinion a much better learning tool for kids. And if you're afraid of them accessing your 24/7 live uncensored hardcore coprophile channel, then just...just stop subscribing dammit! (or use parental control options, lock the channel, hide the remote!). Does anyone else think a kid would be entertained by a kid remote for maybe 10 minutes...then just go find the regular remote?

This just sums it up for me.

"In my mind, Nintendo may not have done any of this intentionally but it seems one would expect them take some kind of moral high ground in the matter."

So...pay you money...so you can feel better? Hey man, sucks about the trademark, sucks for you that a product came out that is more popular and uses a similar sounding name. But you know what? Doesn't suck for us. If I make an operating system called "Drapes" I don't expect to get sued by Windows...it'd be funny though (until the lawsuit bit...then it'd kinda get old).

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Abit of a mix up in that first point...this is what happens when you don't proofread and switch points midway through...

"Am I, the maker of this fantastic sports equipment at fault for referring to my own product by the previously non-trademarked name "Wiimote"?" 

Not wiimote...cuptastic. And the point is not accurate since Nintendo is not calling their product the exact same thing...oh well.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Question: Who own the trademark "Wiimote" then, if Nintendo doesn't own it?

Can Fobis registered "Wimote" then?

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

So, here's what I don't get. The seller of the "weemote" is complaining that this trademark infringement is negatively hurting their business. I have a couple of arguments against this:

1. The only negative consequence mentioned in the interview is due to steps that the makers of the "weemote" are making toward Nintendo. In other words, it wouldn't cost them a thing if they had just ignored the "problem".

2. To me it sounds like they're more likely to get name recognition due to the coincidence. This product has been out for 8 years, no one has heard of it, and yet, now we have all heard of it. Sounds like Ninty's doing them a big favor. I'd like to see their website traffic statistics from 200-2006 (roughly when the "Wii" was actually "named" to the public, and it's controller revealed) and then 2006-early 2008 traffic, while the Wii had been named and launched, and then the last few months since this trademark news became public. I bet they've had more hits and more sales BECAUSE of Nintendo, and here's how they thank them...

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

 http://shop.weemote.com/weemote-No-Sensor-Bar-TShirt-Adult/M/B001CU4YR2.htm

They're selling t-shirts that make reference to the fact that it isn't a wii-mote. Interesting.'

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

having a hard time faulting the little guy. It's expensive to purchase and maintain a trademark. Everyone is on Nintendo's side. Great, but this guy deserves a bone for not just rolling over like so many small companies do in the face of a giant company. Read up on Monster Cables if you want an example of Trademark abuse. This guy may not have a great case, but at least he's trying in the face of overwelming odds. Sure he could just rename and move on, but that means putting out more money for a new trademark and then risking another big company rolling over him again. At what point does it just seem pointless? You can bet that Nintendo would be sueing this guy if he named his product the weemote within the last year....

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

...Who among ous have never accidently stepped on an ant? I mean, come on nintendo wouldn't hurt anyone intentionaly, it's a true japanese company. I bet a buck that right this moment at least ten diplomats with gifts and appologies are trying to remedy the situation. Cause that's the japanese way.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Say what?

I think your understanding of Japanese culture is lacking.


 

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

See, now there's a new definition of irony beyond "rain on your wedding day".

On the one hand we have these moralists outraged over videogames and videogame content for making kids fat...

And yet here is a device marketed and sold to children so they can learn how to switch TV channels from their couches, and people are annoyed that the ONE videogame device which has got people off their asses has an unofficial name which is similar to theirs...

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I understand that guys concerns but it does seem that this guy is trying to play on people's sympathy by using the "little guy" underdog. Playing on people's heartstrings, and right here I am playing for him the worlds smallest violin.

Sure Nintendo knew people will call the Wii Remote the Wiimote but Nintendo doesn't use it at all, Wiimote is a community nickname nothing more. Yes Mr Weemote has a leg to stand on going after online shops etc selling "Wiimotes" but has no leg to stand on going after someone that doesn't even use that name just because Nintendo didn't do anything about it? Get real, what would they do? Try to censor people's speach? Sounds like this guy needs a reality check.

Sure one can feel sorry for him but Nintendo owes him squat. At the same time if I were Nintendo I would just buy the name anyways and market the Wii Remote as the Wiimote simply because its a good idea from a marketing point of view.

Speaking of Nintendo Wii controllers...

Damn. I happen upon this story... and I've get to get over the surprise from another story I saw a few minutes earlier involving the Wii Classic Controller. You guys might wanna take a look at it:

http://tech.msn.com/news/articlepcw.aspx?cp-documentid=8815433&GT1=40000

Re: Speaking of Nintendo Wii controllers...

What the fuck? Nintendo should appeal right to the Supreme Court. The Supreme court found that simply taking two existing inventions and combining them in an obvious way isn't patentable.

Re: Speaking of Nintendo Wii controllers...

So now some jagoff opportunist wants to try andh ave another Wii controller, the one to play classic, memorable games, so they can make more money.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Couldn't the same be said about the two game developers who call themselves Climax?

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

What I don't understand is how Nintendo could possibly be responsible for the Weemote's drop in sales.  The two products do not compete, and I certainly never would have heard of the Weemote without this controversy.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

You got a point there... I mean for one who looking for a 'kiddy tv controler" is going to type in "wii" instead of wee on a search? and what's more if they do find a wiimote it's fairly obvious it's not what you were looking for. This would be like a guy making replica swords complaining a company making kitchen knives was trashing his business by calling their knives 'blades'.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Did you not read the article? He clearly states how it is reducing sales. When you see an item that is a knockoff of something popular, don't you feel a little disgusted? Those 10 dollar handheld games shapped to look like a Wii remote or an Xbox remote that plays crappy little digital games? Yuck, I would never support those losers and thier attempt to make money off of another popular product.

That is the same thing that happens in this case. People who are looking for this type of product see this "Weemote" and think it is trying to use the Wii's popularity to make sales, and thus people avoid this product.

That's why they lose sales.

 

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Your talking about a product that has to DATE, sold less than half a million.  To a product that sells millions.  No one is going to confuse the two no matter how inept they are especially since one (Weemote) is only sold via internet.  Its in no way like you desribe.  These people had a crappy product that is probably at the end of its life cycle, so they figured they would try to get Nintendo to buy their name brand.  Nintendo thought about it but after they got the bill for millions they laughed and closed the door.

If the "Weemote" was selling at minimum a million a year before the Wiimote came out I can see the problem.  At most they have sold a maximum of 500k units to date (meaning years of selling).  That tells me they have a crappy product, and are trying to find ways to make money from a dead product.

These people are nothing but another bunch of beggers that attempt to manipulate the law into getting money.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Yeah, except for the fact the "weemote" is obviously got nothing to do with the "wiimote".  They look nothing alike and any sensible person would likely assume a naming cooincence there. If it was SHAPED like a wiimote and had buttons in the same spots I could say yeah that might be true but seriously this thing is as far away from a wiimote as a rock is from being an aircraft.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Children are asking thier parents to get them a Weemote for their Birthday, but the non technically adept parents mistake this for a Wiimote and come home with a video game console. This not only decreases Weemote sales, but also leads to childhood depression as they have a new Wii but they can't figure out how to turn on the TV.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

..... a kid would ask for that thing instead of a game console?

And I'd hardly blame that for lost sales. I mean, a TV remote for kids in itself sounds like a stupid idea.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Looks to me like this product is marketed to parents rather than children, so I doubt that will be a problem.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I feel bad for the guy. It's not really Nintendo's fault, as the internet coined the term wiimote, but still, the guy is suffering for no good reason and that kinda sucks.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I fail to see how Nintendo is responsible for what other people call their product. It's not their fault; they didn't ask people to start calling Wii Remotes Wiimotes, and they certainly don't have to buy a trademark they didn't ask for in the first place.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I call shenanighans on the fact that their product dropped in popularity since the Wii's release.  I guarentee everyone reading this has never heard of the Weemote before, and now that the news of it is out there they can try and sell it.

Can you sue over something like this though, really?

Both are lame names, regardless.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

All this crap about how the Weemote is awful because it causes children to become couch potatoes is just as bad as the crap about video games making children couch potatoes.

Anyway, Nintendo met their obligations under the law. They don't use the name Wiimote in America, nor do they encourage the use, and outside of the US they're free to use the name. No real wrong doing though it doesn't appear they have good intentions. They could fix their douchebaggery by buying the trademark, but judging by how things work, I doubt they were offered a reasonable price. Further more the "Wii" in "Wiimote" is actually distintive enough that I doubt that even if they used it that the case would hold up court.

Lets just hope that that the Weemote enjoys the publicity. Personally I wouldn't mind having a simple remote so that whenever there are guests in my house I don't have to be called down from my room everytime they want to change the channel or risk them ruining my set up.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I think you may be right about "Wii" being distinctive enough that the claim wouldn't hold up in court.  Apple has the trademark for iSomething, and companies that use iSomething style name have to license it from Apple.  However, I-Something, and I believe ISomething and i-Something as well, are not trademarked by Apple and are free to be used by anybody that makes a device that can plug into an iPod or generic mp3 player.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Bah! Wee, schmee I say. I wasn't aware that not only can a word be copywrited but any words remotely similar to it.  (uhoh the word remote is copyrighted too is it? :P)

And like Vinzent said they do completely different stuff. The only thing they have in common is that they are pronounced the same.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

This is not about copyright. This is about Trademark. Read up on the difference.

E. Zachary Knight
http://www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

They don't look alike, they don't behave alike, they don't interact alike, and they don't run similiar equipment.  Yes, I have read up on trademarks and they really don't have a leg to stand on.  Nobody is likely to confuse the childs remote with a wii remote and that is the standard on which most decisions are based.  He was looking to get paid off by Nintendo and they balked.  Now he appeals to the general public.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

It is the name not the object. With everyone calling the Wii Remote the Wiimote, they are stealing consumer attention from his registered trademarked product. They are also similar enough physically and in purpose to make a valid trademark dispute.

E. Zachary Knight
http://www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

One is a blue TV remote and the other is a rather unique control lacking the basic buttons that a TV remove would have plus a trigger on the bottom.  The Wii Remote isn't as close to the Weemote as it is to any other remote on this planet (save for the really cool LCD touch screen ones).  There is nothing special about that design and they don't even do the same thing.  And that is the important factor in the equation.  For it to steal consumer attention they have to run the risk of being alike enough in function for such a claim to be valid.  Nobody is buying the Wii Remote to turn on their TVs even by accident, again because the weemote is identical to an adult remote, which would have to be the case for this to hold any water. 

To say that they are similiar in purpose is to artifically dumb down the definition of entertainment or control beyond the point of funtional use for modern understanding.  They do not do the same thing and they don't even come close to doing the same thing.  You would need a weemote to turn on the tv so you can you your wiimote and nobody, not even the children for which the former was designed would ever pick up the latter for that purpose.

And as others have noted, Nintendo isn't the one doing it.  Have they taken the name wiimote for a url?  Sure.  Federal Express protected the name FedEx long before they ever used it internally as well.  Sometimes you have to protect what your customers call you as well as what you call it yourself.

If anything he gains from the name confusion by a product that has a name that sounds like a popular product.  Tens years working on "gadgets for life" and all they have to show for it is a remote.  No wonder he wanted Nintendo to buy him out.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

It could be valid if Nintendo had anything at all to do with the word.

 

Since Nintendo has nothing to do with the word, and doesn't use the word, you seem to be tilting at windmills here.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

They do in fact look alike, but more importantly they sound alike.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Someone should really look up if the term Waggle is trademarked also

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

"Who wants to give a remote control to their kids?"

Plenty. There are tv sets marketed especially for kids. http://www.target.com/b/ref=sc_fe_l_3_10218751_2/601-5522962-4443333?ie=UTF8&node=277394011

23-13 inch models. Often have dvd players built in. To be honest quality wise they are fairly decent.

 

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

 Their own TV is different. If I'm watching the NBA playoffs I don't want my daughter to switch the channel to Cartoon Network. 

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Quick! You must battle! Nintendo, hit their Wee with your Wii, then it will become a Weewii! Heh. That joke sucks. Seriously though, this is bullshit. They have never used the term Wiimote to promote their product nor have they used it in manuals, or official websites. Except that Canadian one. That could fuck 'em.

 

-Entertainment isn't the reason the world sucks. It's the reason we know the world sucks. For information on games and psychology, look up: Jonathan Freedman(2002)Block & Crain(2007)Grand Theft Childhood, by Harvard researchers Larry Kutner&Cheryl Olson

Reality/////////////////////////////////////Fantasy. Seems like a pretty thick line to me...

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

QQ more about your trademark. Fans and the press dubbed it the Wiimote, Nintendo doesn't even call it that. 

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

 Who wants to give a remote control to their kids?

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

What's the point of trademark protection? I guess for small time businesses who sell products nobody wants to sue Nintendo over their controllers. First the Gamecube controllers now this?

Somehow this conjures up memories of that woman with a crappy self-published fantasy book trying to sue JK Rowling over the word "Muggle".

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I read about that, the woman that tried to sue was some horrible writer with very few sales, she just wanted a little spotlight and a lot of money

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Well, you heard right. I've never seen a work of fiction with more plotholes than that miserable piece of drivel masquerading as a novel. I know of fourteen year old fanfiction writers who could do better...

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Funny how all these patent and trademark lawsuits are just coming out of the woodwork. One over the DS and two over the Wii controller.

Oh god someone put them out of kids' misery.

"The weemote® TV remote for kids allows parents to set a specific set of channels for their children to watch - all other channels are then automatically blocked from the weemote®."

"However, you can use the weemote® in conjunction with a product called the "TV Guard" to block front panel access to your TV set."

Jesus CHRIST screw you assholes. Get the fuck out of business.

I can only imagine just how much these dickcheeses asked Nintendo for. I want a C&D letter from them just so I can use it as toilet paper.

Re: Oh god someone put them out of kids' misery.

Umm...What's your point? Do you not like the product? Do think the idea behind it is bad? I can't figure it out.

AS for the actual product, it makes sense. There are phones that work in a similar fashion. The parent programs the phone with preset numbers. Those are the only numbers the kid can call. Good idea.

E. Zachary Knight
http://www.editorialgames.com
Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/okceca
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1325674091

Re: Oh god someone put them out of kids' misery.

Jeeze, Zack, you're one of the few people in this post that has any sense. What is wrong with these people?

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

Wii versus Wee? I don't see a trademark infringement, especially since the devices do separate things. One controls the TV while one controls the Wii. Couple that with the fact that Nintendo isn't marketing it as the Wiimote....

Sorry dude, but crying crocodile tears is not a sound business decision. Suck it up, walk it off, and either aggressively market your product or look for a new product name. There's no whining on Wall Street.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I think for this dispute we should use a new system of judging.

The "Weemote" kinda sucks. TV remotes for babies? What kind of target audience could that appeal to?

The "Wiimote" is awesome. Cool people like it, if you want to be cool YOU should like it too. Dont you wanna be cool?

Its obvious which side we should support.

Re: Small Firm's Weemote Came First, But Steamrolled by

I say sue the company to shreds.  The wii totally desrves to destroy anyone who tries to change its name.  HAIL THE WII!

 
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