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Square Enix Shuts Down Fan-Made Chrono Trigger Sequel 455

KIllagouge writes "Just days before the release of Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes, SquareEnix sent a Cease & Desist letter to Chrono Compendium to stop everything to do with Crimson Echoes. People might remember when they did this with Chrono Resurrection. Seems to be the growing trend; instead of listening to their fans, which would net them even more money, game developers continue to lock down old gaming IP. A copy of the C&D letter is available online." The fan project had been in development since 2004 and was 98% complete.
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Square Enix Shuts Down Fan-Made Chrono Trigger Sequel

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  • by calmofthestorm ( 1344385 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:40AM (#27919665)

    No, not at all. Your handle is indeed apt, sir.

    The argument is that a merchandise so popular fans make unofficial sequels is one that you can easily produce titles for and sell them to make money.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:41AM (#27919669)

    So I looked at the fan-made sequel... it's a ROM hack. Not that I really have anything against such modifications, they do encourage people to pirate the game (search Google for a ROM, get the game illegally!), especially since hardware to legitimately dump the ROM images are expensive and rare enough that it's unlikely even the mod authors have them.

    Square Enix has quite a legitimate case here and I understand it much better than if they shut down a project making a game from scratch (eg, a typical PC game).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:46AM (#27919687)

    Step 1: Find Copyrighted work
    Step 2: Create derivative work without appropriate agreements/contracts
    Step 3: Get sent cease and deist letter

    Come on guys, wake up. This is someone else's work, you obviously misjudged the company you are dealing with. Why not start something from scratch, so that you don't end up in a situation like this.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:55AM (#27919733)
    The game was made in 1995 I think they recovered their development and capital costs. Not to mention made fistfuls of cash. It should be in public domain by now anyway. They've re-released the same game quite a few times now I think they've made enough money, why not let their fans play with it?

    Remember kids, IP infringement is bad and evil and scary no matter what the circumstances are. Remember the Constitution! Copyright was established to " ... promote the progress of science and useful arts ... " Therefore anything that infringes on copyright automatically detracts from science, Art, and Culture. WHEN YOU CREATE AN INFRINGING WORK, YOU KILL SCIENCE!

    Also, all works of fan fiction and fanart must die. Not because of IP laws, just cause they suck. /sarcasm

    I'd really like to let the above stand, but I also want to make an additional point: this game is derivative Art. It may or may not be worth the attention being paid to it at the moment, but because of copyright and presumably trademark laws, it is being withheld from the public, and will remain so for many, many years to come, by which point no one will remember about it or care. Square Enix's case is solid, the law and its guiding principles are firmly on their side. On the other hand, they are choosing to suppress something that would otherwise enrich our Culture in a general sense, and not enrich the developers in a financial sense.

    So, while I cannot claim that they are in error for doing that, I really wish they hadn't.

  • by Sabz5150 ( 1230938 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @06:59AM (#27919765)

    And he's saying that argument does not have any logical/statistical/whatever evidence to back it up, thus making it an empty opinion.

    Any idea how much an original Chrono Trigger fetches? Do you know how many people bought it originally (SNES)... the second time (PSX)... and the third time (DS)?

    Then there's Chrono Cross. Care to take a shot at how many purchased that game? It made the "Best Seller" reprint list.

    Square-Enix could make a king's fortune selling a third Chrono game. They know this... we've been begging (literally) for another Chrono game. But no... S-E is too busy milking the Final Fantasy cow to really care. Who wants a turn-based RPG anymore? It's all about the flashy graphics and real-time combat.

    By the by, S-E, how's that mumorpurger of yours going?

    Put simply, if they released another one, we'd buy it in a heartbeat (well, maybe not so much now). We don't make fangames or listen to symphony orchestras perform the music of those games because we hate 'em...

  • Odd decision (Score:2, Insightful)

    by agorist_apostle ( 1491899 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:14AM (#27919827)
    I can see that they'd want to make sure they are still driving the storyline in whatever direction they want it to go...on the other hand, given the costs of developing RPGs (in particular), with an obviously interested fanbase who'd buy something like this, it seems like they're missing an opportunity to get together with the people developing this and put it out on the DS or whatever. IIRC, there was a fan-based mod of Half Life which went on to be sold as a standalone game in its own right (can't remember the name -- like a western in space or something).
  • But of course... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhunachchicken ( 834243 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:18AM (#27919857) Homepage

    ... they only had it shut down because they are developing their own sequel, right?


    No? Yeah, that's what I thought too.

  • Re:So well-timed. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zwei2stein ( 782480 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:20AM (#27919869) Homepage

    Fishined product would be too obvious show of no "cease and desist" happening, regardless of how anonymous torrent would be.

    As far as last-minute letters go, I think that publishers do not want to cause pointless damage (most such projects never take off so it is pointless to scout for them and send letters asap - that leaves big that of pissed people who now have target to point at "look, our project was great and we had skill and determination to pull it off, but these evil guys stopped us.", same people that would give up/loose interest after few weeks.)

  • Re:So well-timed. (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:26AM (#27919903)

    It always seems the "IP"-holder sends a cease and desist letter when the project is nearly done, almost like they want to cause as much pain as possible to the people trying to remake something.

    What frustrates me most is that these projects then aren't worked on to completion and then simply distributed by anonymous torrents, working for several years on something and then getting cut off at the last minute is simply a dick move.

    I would like to add that it can be a bad PR move by Square Enix. A lot of customers may have mixed feelings about it. The game company would be better off sending cease and desist letter to Chrono Compendium during the early stage of the game development so it wouldn't be well noticed by the public.

  • by Jahava ( 946858 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:39AM (#27919993)

    Step 1: Find Copyrighted work Step 2: Create derivative work without appropriate agreements/contracts Step 3: Get sent cease and deist letter

    Come on guys, wake up. This is someone else's work, you obviously misjudged the company you are dealing with. Why not start something from scratch, so that you don't end up in a situation like this.

    This isn't some company stealing IP and creating a franchise. This isn't even a group of people attempting to destroy or dilute Square's market. CT:CE was simply an attempt by fans to continue the (arguably) deceased storyline that they loved.

    Fan bases creating not-for-profit derivative works have created, sustained, and/or resurrected numerous corporate franchises, enough so that there's plenty of precedent of intelligent companies taking note of such behavior, supporting and encouraging it (World of Warcraft, Halflife, even Snakes on a Plane). Hell, most of the reason Chrono Trigger is still even relevant is because of its sustained Internet fan base! They complete the feedback loop, providing a voice to the creative consumer in the digital marketplace. This is not about IP; it's the suppression of digital culture itself.

    Not only is Square just plain stupid to have let a franchise with clear fan interest die ... they're beating that interest out of the community themselves!

    I'll end this with a link to a relevant presentation by Lawrence Lessig [blip.tv] that I saw posted earlier on /.. It portrays quite nicely why behavior such as that taken by Square is destructive to culture, art, and human interests. Using IP laws to break the feedback loop and force art into a strict producer-consumer model is harmful to everyone in the end.

  • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @07:45AM (#27920031) Homepage Journal

    A dedicated cult fanbase does not automatically mean that it's a marketable audience. It does not take many fans to make a fan game, especially if they aren't shooting for commercial polish.

  • Re:So well-timed. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:02AM (#27920111)
    What projects should they be going after? The 99% that never actually go anywhere, or the 1% that look like they're going to be finished?
  • by wick3t ( 787074 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:05AM (#27920129)

    It should have been obvious this would happen. A few years back Square shut down a 3D Chrono Trigger remake project.

    Assuming they did not rip off too much, they should just rename the game, characters, locations, redraw the character sprites so they bare no resemblance and then release like that. If they are still not happy and are feeling daring, they can later "leak" a patch which changes everything back to as it was originally intended.

  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:06AM (#27920135)

    World of Warcraft
    Second Life (wait, nevermind, that's not a game)
    The Sims (2)
    Neverwinter Nights
    Source engine games, sort of?

    Here's six wildly popular games that were vastly improved by massive modding opportunities. There are many more that were slightly improved by less powerful modding (Team Fortress 2, recently), and more that are less popular but similarly improved (Dwarf Fortress).

  • by Keyper7 ( 1160079 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:11AM (#27920169)

    ...after all, they did release their own 3D remake of Chrono Trigger after they shut down Chrono Ressurection.... right?

    Oh, yeah, they didn't.

    And we probably won't see a Chrono sequel either. Ever since they simply gave up on the "Chrono Break" trademark, I'm pretty much convinced that the franchise does not interest them anymore. Not enough to work on it beyond releasing ports.

  • Re:Odd decision (Score:4, Insightful)

    by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:12AM (#27920179)

    The difference in that is that Valve officially released dev tools and gave people permission to develop mods.

    Most console games expressly forbid modification.

  • Re:Sadism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DrWho520 ( 655973 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:22AM (#27920261) Journal
    So, killing it after people have invested 5 years of their life at 98% completion is better PR than doing it earlier in the process?
  • by abigsmurf ( 919188 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:22AM (#27920267)

    Yes... Square Enix should listen to their fans and release sequel with a crono x Magus love story! Heck there's plenty of relationships in the fanfics they could choose from. Frog x robo!

    Just because fans want something doesn't mean you should do it . Yes Square could easily show off a cheaply made Chrono Trigger 2 for the DS and it would sell a ton of copies. However it would cheapen the brand unless it's a stellar game and they'd lose most goodwill to it.

    Likewise giving fan made games like this a nod cheapens the brand.

    It's not easy handling cult classics. You try to cash in on them and you just end up killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

    Look at Lucas Art's reputation for making games in the 90's. Look at their reputation now.

  • by Chyeld ( 713439 ) <chyeld@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:26AM (#27920299)

    Sadly, that's the same thing people said about a Firefly movie, and yet...

    There is a long and storied tradition of a huge fan upswell convincing a company to put for money on a project only for it to fail due to lack of actual sales when the time comes.

  • So... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Godman ( 767682 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:26AM (#27920305) Homepage Journal

    Where's the torrent?

  • by Burkin ( 1534829 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:30AM (#27920331)

    They have no intention of making another Chrono sequel.

    So what? That doesn't allow someone to take their non-free assets and do with it as they please.

    The ROM hacking community is nearly all diehard fans. Pissing them off does not sound like a good way to do business.

    And the ROM hacking community probably makes up a hugely small fraction of game buyers so I really doubt Square Enix could even care less.

    This decision will certainly make me think twice before buying a Square-Enix game new.

    I'm sure they are quaking in their boots over that.

  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrAngryForNoReason ( 711935 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:31AM (#27920345)

    A lot is a huge stretch. I doubt you can name more than a half dozen.

    Off the top of my head without much thought:

    Doom, Quake, Quake II, Quake 3, Half-life, Total Annihilation, Supreme Commander, Civ 4, Dawn of War, Company of Heroes, Battlefield 1942, World of Warcraft, STALKER, Oblivion, Morrowind, Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights, Unreal Tournament (all) , Rainbow 6 (all), Warcraft III, The Sims

    I'm sure if I put my mind to it I could come up with another hundred or so. While with some games the availability of mods is just a bit of icing on the cake of a good game with others like Neverwinter Nights or Oblivion the mods form a massive part of the experience.

    Adventures created by the modding community kept NWN alive for years after release, paving the way for the sequel to be the success that it was. The Elder Scrolls games have also always had a very active modding community and knowing that when Oblivion came out made all the difference. Knowing that you can customise a game to your playing style, or that it will last months opposed to days due to player made maps and modifications can really sell a game. As well as extending the life of sales past the first couple of weeks after release.

  • Re:Sadism (Score:3, Insightful)

    by geminidomino ( 614729 ) * on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:35AM (#27920385) Journal

    No, but now they don't have a choice because it looks like THIS group actually followed through.

    Kind of like "Why kill it if it's already going to die" vs "Oh shit! It got better."

    IANAL, etc...

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:36AM (#27920393)

    Truth be told Chrono cross sales probaly disappointed, Chrono Cross (spiritual successor to chrono trigger) was not a real sequel and did not feature anyone from the original cast really. Truth be told Chrono Trigger is a classic game how anyone could fuck up a sequel is anyone's guess but square managed to make it too different in many ways, even though it was an alright game.

  • Keeping it secret? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sirroc ( 1157745 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:39AM (#27920435)

    I understand the need for people to show off their hard work. In this case however; they could have easily kept it internal/quiet, until the mod was released.

    Once out in the open C&D letters aren't even worth the time for a lawyer to write them up.

    Will this(among many others) start a trend of keeping these mods/hacks secret to avoid C&D letters?

    Of course in a perfect world SE could have offered them a big fat check for all the new material.

  • Re:Patch? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:49AM (#27920521)

    That's how they release it. Square sent them a C and D anyways.

    Under US law, distributing a derived work is only permissible by license of the owner of the copyright rights.

    And square would argue distributing a patch counts as distributing a derived work.

  • Re:So well-timed. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @08:59AM (#27920607) Homepage Journal

    Conversely, why should a project wait until the last minute to get all the rights and permissions in order to produce a product, free or not, that derives from a company's trademarks and copyrights?

  • by m.ducharme ( 1082683 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:23AM (#27920813)

    I'm sure they are quaking in their boots over that.

    Maybe they should be, if the GP was previously a regular purchaser of Square-Enix products. If a company's core audience suddenly turns on it, that company would be in a lot of trouble. Brand is everything, and if this move by Square tarnishes their corporate brand in the eyes of those who purchase their products, they may find that protecting the Chrono Trigger properties will cost them far more than they ever anticipated.

  • by Logical Zebra ( 1423045 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:30AM (#27920925)

    When's the last time S-E released a decent game that wasn't a remake or port?

    There current business model seems to be "keep milking old games that sold well once upon a time."

  • by Gerafix ( 1028986 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:31AM (#27920939)
    The DS version was just a port from the Playstation version.
  • by Sabz5150 ( 1230938 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:47AM (#27921127)

    Sadly, that's the same thing people said about a Firefly movie, and yet...

    No hate to the fans, but Firefly is a bit of a niche story vying for space between the Treks, Wars, Battlestars and countless other sci-fi stories (I actually liked Space: Above and Beyond... I now don my fireproof asbestos lined fire suit).

    Chrono Trigger is considered to be one of the greatest video games ever made. It constantly makes it into the single digits on "$WEBSITE'S Top 100 List". You can buy CT complete, or for roughly the same money go buy an Xbox360 (but who would do that?).

    To a game enthusiast, Chrono Trigger is in a totally different league. There's very little you can compare it to.

  • by Mystra_x64 ( 1108487 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @09:48AM (#27921145)

    Chrono Cross (spiritual successor to chrono trigger)

    It sucks as "spiritual successor" though.

  • Better idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MobyDisk ( 75490 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:18AM (#27921561) Homepage

    Why doesn't Square Enix hire the developers and license it? If it is 98% complete, and it is decent, then it seems like everybody wins.

  • by Narishma ( 822073 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @10:39AM (#27921917)
    Maybe but the point is that they're making money from the game and it's played by a lot of people, whereas the original poster implied that it failed. A failed game doesn't get 4 expansions and two more coming.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:12AM (#27922455)

    They'd be dead. Chrono Trigger's IP expires in 2115.

  • by Xaoswolf ( 524554 ) <Xaoswolf@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:20AM (#27922565) Homepage Journal
    Learn how the new economy works or you will fail.

    I think that they know how it works. Seeing as how they are protecting their copyright, and seeing as to how they have rereleased the games multiple times to some profit. And the company as a whole is hugely successful. Perhaps you should instead forward this letter to the people hacking the rom to advise them to learn how the economy works?

  • by superbus1929 ( 1069292 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:38AM (#27922817) Homepage
    Most fan reaction - real, hardcore fans of CC - were anywhere from ambivalent to negative for Chrono Cross. The gaming media fell over it - as they should have, it's an outstanding game - but Square's "hardcore" base picked the game apart, and the game does not enjoy anywhere close to the reputation that CC does.

    Doing something can often be more harmful than doing nothing. If they release something that doesn't meet the (sometimes ridiculous) expectations of their fanbase - a fanbase that rivals Star Wars fans in being batshit insane - it does cheapen the brand. They have to be very careful with what they do.

    That said, releasing a C+D at 98% is a dick move. They knew the progress of the game well before it got to this point; they didn't just want to break the game, they wanted to break spirits, too.
  • by Miseph ( 979059 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @11:42AM (#27922867) Journal

    Why don't we put it this way: Chrono Trigger was more popular than Fallout. The sequel to Chrono Trigger was more popular than Fallout 2. We can reasonably assume that the sequel to the sequel to Chrono Trigger would be at least as popular as Fallout 3... which was a massive release.

    You're arguing that Chrono Trigger is in a niche, like Firefly. He's arguing that it is a massively popular mainstream title. As somebody who was actually alive when CT first came out (which I do not suspect you were), I assure you that it wasn't a game only your nerdy friends had heard of. A CT sequel would sell like a Pokemon sequel or a new FF, despite your assertion it would sell like Wild Arms.

  • Re:So well-timed. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @12:18PM (#27923389)

    Being tied to academia I can honestly say that most of these "programmers" you're talking about aren't worth the meat they're made of.

    It takes more than a few C classes to make a person capable of bringing a video game to completion. It takes skill, ingenuity, real problem-solving talents and a high degree of creativity to make anything more than a trivial flash game.

    And ROM hacking to the degree these people did is actually orders of magnitude more difficult than just writing a similar game from scratch. I could probably whip up a game engine of this kind in a couple of months by myself. The knowledge is out there to essentially walk a novice programmer through most of the process required to make a Windows game which behaves like these old JRPGs from scratch; from knowing nothing nothing about C or C++ to having embedded LUA/Perl/Python/Whatever scripts running in your own tile based OpenGL/DirectX/XNA/SDL game. It certainly wouldn't take 5 years.

    Hacking a ROM to the point where you are changing the game logic, the scripts, characters, message tables, sprite lists, etc. is a terrifically more involved process. It requires understanding SNES machine language, understanding the packing algorithms used by the original programmers to condense the code, understanding their string encoding methods (definitely not ASCII, the game was originally Japanese), and countless hours of toiling over a debugger to even find the areas of code you'd need to replace.

    Show a little respect for what these people have done, whippersnapper.

  • by bonch ( 38532 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @01:30PM (#27924507)

    Dear idiot,

    Square-Enix owns the trademark. If they don't defend it, they lose it. You can't just start letting other people make sequels to your franchise.

    The story summary is biased, misinformed, and stupid, as are most of the comments.

  • Re:Unfortunate (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jesus_666 ( 702802 ) on Tuesday May 12, 2009 @03:00PM (#27925889)

    But that wasn't their claim. Their claim was that "A lot of great PC games were even more successful than they otherwise might have been because they opened themselves up to the mod community".

    Let's see. I think we can treat as fact that Counterstrike and Team Fortress 2 are, in fact, generating a lot of revenue. Both of these started out as (very popular) Half-Life mods. Even if we discount the notion that Counterstrike may have driven Half-Life sales, the addition of these two mods into the greater Half-Life product family has certainly made Valve money - which I'd see as success.

    Second Life wouldn't be nearly as popular if it weren't highly moddable. Whether you go there to live as a Gorean or to use it as an e-learning platform, without scripts and custom objects you wouldn't get far.

    Neverwinter Nights was planned as a mod platform from the very beginning - it's more a GM tool than a standalone game and that implies letting people create their own rich worlds. Without modability NWN would be less successful as it wouldn't actually exist.

    I think we can at least conclude that it's possible to make a solid business case for modability.

Life in the state of nature is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. - Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan