Collector’s Cabinet: Cooking Mama: Cookstar

There’s only one thing better than playing games and that’s collecting every piece of merchandise tied to them. There was nothing like flipping through your favorite gaming magazine and seeing a profile of a limited edition collectible or discovering a piece of memorabilia from a beloved game in an overlooked corner of a shop and it’s a feeling we strive to replicate every month as we look through our own collector’s cabinet and dig out items new and old to show the world.

Cooking Mama first arrived on the gaming scene back in 2006 with its adorable pick up and play cooking-based gameplay on the Nintendo DS. It quickly gained a following and saw many mainline and spin off releases over the years across numerous Nintendo platforms and eventually mobile. After a while, though, the series quieted down aside from a release every few years. That is until Planet Entertainment licensed the Cooking Mama IP from Office Create to publish Cooking Mama: Cookstar on the Switch. It seemed like a simple enough proposition. Making a new game for an established franchise on an extremely popular platform is normally a sure bet. Unbeknownst to both parties, however, this would eventually culminate with tremendous amounts of drama. This led to the game becoming an unexpected collectible. Here’s how that happened.

Things started off on a weird foot when Planet Entertainment published a press release touting that blockchain technology and even cryptocurrency would be used in multiple ways for Cooking Mama: Cookstar. Folks mostly laughed at this weirdness at the time. When the game launched on Switch on March 31, people quickly realized it ran poorly. Not only that, but it heated Switches up and sapped their batteries faster than normal. Stranger still, the title was quickly pulled from the Nintendo Store hours after launch. Rumors quickly spread that this must be due to the fact that the game was actively mining cryptocurrency as you played. There was no confirmation of mining at the time aside from the fact that the publisher said it would do exactly this.

Developer 1st Playable Productions denied these accusations, but did admit that they did not release a product as polished as they would have liked. Analysis of the game’s code and network packets revealed this to be true. The mining wasn’t real — apparently the publisher just made up the press release to drum up investor interest. But with everyone’s eyes on Cooking Mama, rumors moved on from suggesting it mined cryptocurrency to more substantial concerns. The game was clearly unoptimized and draining Switch batteries more than other games. The IP holder, Office Create, did not let this public scrutiny slip by them. They issued an official statement in both English and Japanese alerting gamers that Cooking Mama: Cookstar was in fact released without their permission. The quality of the product did not match their expectations and, per their contract, they terminated the IP agreement. As a result, they had Nintendo take it down from their digital storefront. Office Create’s alert is still plastered on their homepage in a bright red rectangle.

Normally this would be the end of it. Planet Entertainment shot back, however, with a public message on the official Cooking Mama: Cookstar Twitter account. This did not address the accusations of a poor quality final product, or the fact that they planned to release a PS4 version without any approval whatsoever (Office Create’s licensing agreement was only for Switch). Instead they said they were fully within their rights of the contract to release the game as is. Planet Entertainment characterized Office Create’s issues as nothing more than creative differences. As far as they were concerned, they created the game as specified and therefore they can do whatever they like with the final product. They have continued to sell the physical game on their own website. Physical copies made it to retail as well as they were printed before this debacle.

So far there has been no further word on potential litigation between the two companies. When this news first hit, people began buying up physical copies of Cooking Mama: Cookstar wherever they could. It’s clear there are still a boatload of physical copies out there, though scalpers have unfortunately snapped most of them up. The game is still not available on the Nintendo Store digitally and likely won’t return. Those interested in owning this weird bit of history can pick up Cooking Mama: Cookstar for an average of $50 on eBay at the time of this writing. It’s still more than the retail price of $39.99, but not much.

Want to look through the rest of our Collector’s Cabinet? Head right here.

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