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Category — Publisher/Developer Cases

RollerCoaster Tycoon Case to Proceed to U.K. High Court

Categories: Misc. CasesPublisher/Developer CasesRoyalty DisputesTortious Interference

Atari was sued by RollerCoaster Tycoon developer Chris Sawyer in November 2005 alleging unpaid royalties.

Atari counterclaimed Sawyer alleging he induced game developer Frontier to breach its contract with Atari in creating a demo based on the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise.

Apparently the UK’s law on inducement to breach is in flux and the outcome of Atari’s counterclaim is contingent on two cases pending before the House of Lords. Nonetheless Judge Lord Justice Chadwick is permitting the RollerCoaster Tycoon case to proceed to trial, but subject to the outcome of the other two cases.

Sources: GameIndustry.biz

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In-Fusio Sues Microsoft Over Mobile Halo Development Rights

Categories: Misc. Contract CasesPublisher/Developer Cases

Text of Complaint (December 18, 2006)
Memorandum in Support of TRO (December 19, 2006)

French Mobile Game Developer, In-Fusio has filed suit in the District Court of Seattle for breach of contract and breach of good faith and fair dealing. It seeks an injunction prohibiting Microsoft from terminating a development and distribution agreement.

In September of 2005 Microsoft entered into an exclusive Development and Distribution Agreement with In-Fusio to develop versions of the popular Halo video game for certain mobile platforms. Under the deal In-Fusio was to make scheduled minimum royalty payments totaling $2M between Jan 1, 2006 and Jan 1, 2008.

After making its first $500,000 payment, and submitting several design concepts that were not acceptable to Microsoft, the parties were at an impasse. According to In-Fusio’s Memo, Microsoft both: (i) couldn’t decide, internally, what it wanted the mobile version of Halo to be; and (ii) wanted In-Fusio to develop more of a “dumbed down” version of the Halo game for mobile platforms than what In-Fusio thought it had bargained for.

Nonetheless, according to In-Fusio’s claim, Microsoft insisted on receiving the next scheduled royalty payment of $500,000 in October of 2006 after Microsoft allegedly agreed to “postpone” such payment obligations while the parties resolved their design differences.

CONTINUE READING →

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Jack Thompson Sues For Early Access to Bully Video Game

Categories: Game Violence CasesJack ThompsonPublisher/Developer Cases

Text of Complaint [.doc]
Jack Thompson has sued Rockstar and Wal-Mart for early access to the video game Bully so that he may independently review it prior to commercial release. He cites the ESRB rating system as having been inept in the past at rating Take-Two products.

Dale’s Comment: Thompson proves yet again that he will try any stunt to get notoriety. I will be very surprised if this ‘case’ is not immediately dismissed.

Sources: GamePolitics.com | GameSpot | Pro-G | CNet | ars technica | Inquirer | Bit-tech.net

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More Details in MGE-SCI Dispute – MGE Asserts Contractual Ownership of Source Codes

Categories: Non-Compete CasesPublisher/Developer Cases

In a recent statement MGE alleges that its signed development agreement with SCI clearly stipulates that it retains ownership of the source codes. MGE also alleges that SCi is in breach of a non solicit clause in their agreement by obtaining, presumably, confidential information from former MGE employees.

Source: Gamasutra

Dale’s Comment: This contract seems odd. SCI claims it has a contractual right to take over development if dissatisfied with MGE’s development work. At the same time MGE states the contract gives it ownership rights in the source codes. These two statements are at odds with each other. Either the contract was very poorly drafted or one of the two parties fundamentally misunderstands it. If anyone has access to the disputed contract (undoubtedly to be an exhibit at any trial), or the disputed provisions, I would appreciate it if you would provide me with a copy so that I can post here.

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SCI Denies IP Theft Reports

Categories: Publisher/Developer Cases

In November 2005, SCI Games says it exercised a contractual right to take over development of Battlestations: Midway, following its dissatisfaction with MGE’s development efforts. When SCI did not make payments MGE complained to Budapest authorities. The Sunday Times subsequently (mistakenly) reported the incident as theft of IP by break and entry. SCI denies this. In any event, the ownership of the game software developed by MGE now seems to be in dispute.

Sources: Gamasutra 1 | Gamasutra 2 | Times Online | GameIndustry.biz | Playfuls | Pesticide | Spong

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THQ Settles Tetris Rights Dispute

Categories: Misc. Contract CasesPublisher/Developer CasesSettlements

In 2005, THQ sued The Tetris Company, alleging breach of contract, claiming it it had met all the requirements of its deal to have their license agreement renewed until 2007. THQ was previously prevented from releasing a Nintendo DS version of Tetris when Nintendo published the title itself last April. Under the settlement THQ will publish a version of Tetris for the Xbox 360 in Europe and North America. Presumably THQ has no rights to publish Tetris in Japan or for the DS. Tetris was published last year by AQ Interactive on the Xbox 360′s launch date in Japan.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | EuroGamer | Ferrago | GameIndustry.biz

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How to Get Your Video Game Published – GameDaily.biz Feature

Categories: Featured ArticlesIndustry ContractsPublisher/Developer CasesStartup Game Developer Issues

This GameDaily.biz feature presents Careen Yapp’s (VP of Licensing and Business Development for D3 Publisher) thoughts on how publishers make their decisions to take on a developer and what developers should understand when preparing a presentation to a publisher.

Source:
GameDaily.biz

Dale’s Comment: Gamasutra also included a recent “Feature” entitled “Pitching Your Game to a Publisher”. While less informative, it is amusing!

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Visual Science to Launch Legal Action Against Viviendi

Categories: Publisher/Developer CasesStruggling Firms

Harry Potter and Medal of Honour game developer Visual Science, based in Dundee, seeks bankruptcy protection and plans legal action against Vivendi after Vivendi terminated a development contract “without grounds”.

Dale’s Comment: This will all, of course, hinge on the terms of the development agreement. Did Vivendi actually “need” to have a reason for terminating? Commercial agreements frequently have termination for convenience clauses which allow one party to terminate the agreement for any reason or no reason at all.
Sources: GameIndustry.biz  |  EuroGamer  |  MCV
 
See also: Earlier related GameIndustry.biz story.

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Digital Jesters Wound-Up By British Court

Categories: Publisher/Developer CasesStruggling Firms

A joint press release from international developer KaosKontrol and French publisher Focus Home Interactive claims that a “winding-up order” has been obtained from the British High Court against troubled publisher Digital Jesters, meaning that this incarnation of the company is no longer allowed to continue trading.

Sources: Gamasutra | GameSpot | GameIndustry.biz

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To Sue or Not to Sue

Categories: Featured ArticlesPublisher/Developer Cases

Attorney Tom Buscaglia provides a cost-benefit framework looking at the question “to sue or not to sue?” from the perspective of game developers looking to recoup unpaid royalties or residuals, in the event of publisher-related issues.

Source: GamaSutra Feature

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Super X Parts Ways with Publisher Digital Jesters

Categories: Publisher/Developer CasesStruggling Firms

Seattle-based independent game developer Super X Studios has announced that it is terminating the company’s agreement for its Independent Games Festival-winning Xbox and PC safari adventure title Wild Earth with apparently still-troubled UK-headquartered publisher Digital Jesters and related companies.

Source: Gamasutra

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Kylotonn Severs Digital Jesters Ties

Categories: Distribution Agmt CasesPublisher/Developer CasesStruggling Firms

Representatives from French developer Kylotonn Entertainment have announced that the company has terminated its distributing and publishing agreement with UK-headquartered publisher Digital Jesters with immediate effect, complaining of a series of breaches of contract.

Source: Gamasutra

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A Game Developer’s Bill of Rights

Categories: Featured ArticlesIndustry ContractsPublisher/Developer CasesStartup Game Developer Issues

Eric Zimmerman, co-founder and CEO of gameLab, proposes a bill of rights that postulates “the correct and proper ethical positions” for game developers to take when negotiating contracts with publishers. The x rights he discusses in this piece are:

  1. The right to full ownership of what we fully create.
  2. The right to be billed as the game creator in marketing and on game packaging at least as prominently as any mention of the game publisher.
  3. The right for every individual involved in creating the project to be given accurate and prominent credit within the game.
  4. The right to move freely between publishers on new game projects.
  5. The right to a fair and equitable share of profits derived from a game.
  6. The right to full and accurate accounting of any and all income and disbursements relative to our work.
  7. The right to promote and the right of approval over any and all promotion of our games and ourselves.
  8. The right of approval over means for distribution, as well as for licensing, merchandizing, and other derivative versions of our games.
  9. The right to a publishing arrangement that reflects the iterative nature of game development; one that recognizes that changing a game as it is developed is part of creating a game.
  10. The right to a publishing arrangement that results in a process that conforms to accepted standards regarding work hours, compensation, and labor practices.
  11. The right to acquire publishing rights to a game if the publisher has stopped distributing the game.
  12. The right to employ legal representation in any and all business transactions.
  13. The right to final say in creative disputes regarding the game.

Source: Gamasutra

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Atari Sued over RollerCoaster Tycoon Royalty Dispute

Categories: Misc. Contract CasesPublisher/Developer CasesRoyalty Disputes

Atari is being sued by RollerCoaster Tycoon developer Chris Sawyer for between $4.8 & $5.2 M U.S. (depending on the report) plus interest in alleged unpaid royalties. Sawyer alleges Atari breached its contract by failing to to give his auditors access to Atari’s accounts between 1999-2001.

Sources: CNet | GameIndustry.biz | The Inquirer

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Developer Chris Sawyer Sues Atari in Royalties Dispute

Categories: Publisher/Developer CasesRoyalty Disputes

Game developer Chris Sawyer is suing Atari for $5 million U.S.D. after forensic accountant audited reveals royalty payment shortfalls. Atari had petitioned the British High Court to choose New York as the appropriate forum. The court disagreed and the case will proceed in Britain.

Sources: Gamasutra  |  gamingindustry.biz  |  Gamespot  |  GameDaily

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Developers Threaten Digital Jesters with Legal Action

Categories: Publisher/Developer CasesRoyalty DisputesStruggling Firms

The UK Game publisher Digital Jesters has been accused by game developers of breaking contracts, failing to account for royalties, failing to pay game studios and otherwise breaching their contracts.

Source: GamesIndustry.biz

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Activision Countersues Spark

Categories: Misc. Contract CasesPublisher/Developer CasesTrade Secret CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

Activision countersues Spark Unlimited alleging fraud, breach of contract, trade secret misappropriation, trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and false advertising.

Sources: Gamespot | GameIndustry.biz | Next Generation

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Austrian Court Rules in Favour of JoWooD

Categories: Publisher/Developer CasesStruggling Firms

A Vienna court has rejected a petition by Australian developer Perception to have publisher JoWooD declared bankrupt after a series of disputes between the two companies.

Sources: Gameindustry.biz | GamaSutra | JoWooD Accused of Libel by Perception

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Independent Developer Spark Sues Activision

Categories: Misc. Contract CasesPublisher/Developer CasesUnfair Business Practice Casses

Call of Duty: Finest Hour developer, Sparq, files $10 million suit accusing publisher of fraud, breach of contract, and stealing employees and sequel ideas.

Sources: Gamespot | Gamasutra

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Valve & Vivendi Universal Settle Distribution Dispute

Categories: Distribution Agmt CasesPublisher/Developer CasesSettlements

The settlement provides for a complete severing of the publisher/developer link. Under VU Games is required to cease distribution of Valve’s games – up to and including Half-Life 2, and Valve properties developed by other companies, such as Counter-Strike Condition Zero – on August 31st.

Sources: GameIndustry.biz | Gamasutra | ign.com | Gamespot | ars technica | Yahoo! Games | Wikipedia | Mega Games | Valve Press Release

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Vivendi Barred From Distributing Valve Games in Cyber Cafes

Categories: DecisionsDistribution Agmt CasesPolice ActionsPublisher/Developer Cases

Judge Zilly ruled that Sierra/Vivendi Universal Games are not authorized to distribute Valve games through cyber cafés to end users for pay-to-play activities pursuant to the parties’ current publishing agreement. Valve games such as Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike: Condition Zero and the recently released Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike: Source are all popular in cyber cafés. Judge Zilly also ruled in favor of the Valve motion regarding the contractual limitation of liability, allowing Valve to recover copyright damages for any infringement without regard to the publishing agreement’s limitation of liability clause

Sources: Gamespy PC | Yahoo! Games | ign.com | ars technica | BBC

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Valve and Vivendi Sue and Counter-sue Over Distribution Agreement

Categories: Distribution Agmt CasesPolice ActionsPublisher/Developer Cases

On August 14, 2002, Valve served its then-publisher Sierra On-Line (now Sierra Entertainment, a Vivendi Universal Games brand) with a lawsuit in the US District Court of Washington, Western Division, alleging copyright infringement–the result of Sierra distributing Valve games in Internet cafés in the US and abroad. Vivendi accuses Valve of deliberately misleading them and had counterclaimed that Valve’s distribution of Half-Live with Steam had adversely affected its retail plans. Under their distribution agreement Vivendi can release Half-Life up to six months after the game goes gold. Valve says that Vivendi has not announced the date it will be released.

Sources: Gamespot | Yahoo! Games | EuroGamer

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