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Games Your Rights Online

8-Year Fan-Made Game Project Shut Down By Activision 265

An anonymous reader writes "Activision, after acquiring Vivendi, became the new copyright holder of the classic King's Quest series of adventure game. They have now issued a cease and desist order to a team which has worked for eight years on a fan-made project initially dubbed a sequel to the last official installment, King's Quest 8. This stands against the fact that Vivendi granted a non-commercial license to the team, subject to Vivendi's approval of the game after submission. After the acquisition, key team members had indicated on the game's forums (now stripped of their original content by order of Activision) that Activision had given the indication that it intended to keep its current fan-game licenses, but was not interested in issuing new ones."
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8-Year Fan-Made Game Project Shut Down By Activision

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  • by canajin56 ( 660655 ) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:20AM (#31312426)
    They're not building on it, they had a license. Activision reneged. This is terrible news, AGD is sure to be next on the chopping block, with their fully licensed remake of Quest for Glory 2.
  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:38AM (#31312516)

    That last bit about "Subject to approval" is a loophole... all Activision has to do is reject the final product, always find something wrong with it to deny approval.

    Sort of like gets done with iPhn Appstor

  • Incorrect Summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by BinaryOpty ( 736955 ) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:43AM (#31312542)
    Vivendi acquired Activision [nytimes.com], not the other way around.
  • by JAlexoi ( 1085785 ) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:52AM (#31312586) Homepage
    A) Fix the summary. Because it's Vivendi that acquired Activision, not the other way around.The first sentence should say: "Activision, after being acquired Vivendi,..."(or something similar)
    B) With KQ in mind, what the summary should say, is "Activision, having become a parent company of Sierra,..."
    C) Since Vivendi is still the owner of Activision (Vivendi owns ActivisionBizzard and ActivisionBlizzard owns Activision) there should not be any talks about changes of ownership. They may shuffle around their IP, but it's still owned by Vivendi.
  • by CompassIIDX ( 1522813 ) on Monday March 01, 2010 @02:58AM (#31312636)
    The Tony Hawk Pro Skater games were always developed by Neversoft. Neversoft was acquired by Activision in 1999.
  • by adminstring ( 608310 ) on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:05AM (#31312696)
    Trademarks which have lost their legal protection in the US due to a lack of zealous lawyering include "aspirin," originally a trademark of Bayer AG, "escalator," originally a trademark of Otis Elevator Company, "thermos," originally a trademark of Thermos GmbH, "yo-yo," originally a trademark of Duncan Yo-Yo Company, and "zipper," originally a trademark of B.F. Goodrich. References and more info are available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genericized_trademark [wikipedia.org] For a legal precedent from the world of real property, check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverse_possession [wikipedia.org]
  • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <sopssa@email.com> on Monday March 01, 2010 @03:07AM (#31312708) Journal

    You don't lose the rights to an another party, but you will be unable to protect them in the future again because you didn't do so earlier either. If a company gets knowledge that their trademarks are used without their permission, they have to defend them.

    Wikipedia explains it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trademark#Maintaining_rights [wikipedia.org]

    But note that it's not only about trademarks here, it's also about Intellectual Property.

  • Got news for you - Doom had one of the most flexible engines for its time. Couple that with external WAD support and you had HUNDREDS of Doom clones. Aliens TC is one that comes to mind.

    That game HAS hundreds of clones.

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Monday March 01, 2010 @04:40AM (#31313188)

    I mean the current owner of the Atari name.

    The #1 reason I HATE Atari right now is the crap they pulled when they took the new Ghostbusters game and sold the rights for Europe/Australia to Sony and the game became limited-time-PlayStation-exclusive. Its that reason I refuse to buy any product that says Atari on it. I also refuse to buy any games or gaming hardware that says Sony on it for this and other reasons.

  • by Wildfire Darkstar ( 208356 ) on Monday March 01, 2010 @04:42AM (#31313190)

    I think the problem is, per the original agreement, the game was always subject to the Vivendi's approval before release. Now that the IP belongs to Activision, the game is theoretically subject to their approval. All Activision needs to do to kill the project dead is to refuse to approve anything.

    It's a crying shame, because the TSL guys were cooperative and accommodating every step of the way. They sought out a license in the first place, and complied with every change requested of them without complaint (they dropped the "King's Quest" name from the project a few years back because Vivendi/Sierra weren't willing to grant a fan license on the trademark, for instance). But I suppose, in the long run, it's not unexpected.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2010 @06:57AM (#31313814)

    The central problem is that under the negotiated terms Activision has an unconditional termination right. There's a lesson here: don't put serious amounts of time and effort in something when a third party can simply nix it at will, no matter how friendly that third party appears today.
    Either get your paperwork sorted out in advance, so that you have a contract that clearly states the terms of publication and doesn't contain termination clauses like this, or don't make a fan game, but come up with something original instead so that you cannot be bound by third-party copyrights and trademarks.

  • If they had a contract, it doesn't just magically vanish because they were bought over. The contract still stands. However, if this licence was awarded with no payment (consideration, for the legal types), it almost certainly isn't a valid contract in law and hence it can be altered or withdrawn at will.
  • by jonathonjones ( 844293 ) on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:12AM (#31314690) Homepage
    It's not a breach of contract. The agreement that Activision had with the developers specifically allows either party to back out of it at any time.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 01, 2010 @09:55AM (#31315104)

    Mario,1981 (29 years old)

    Link, 1986 (24 years old)

    Streetfighter 1987 (23 years old)

    Sonic the Hedgehog 1991 (19 years old)

    Hell, even Halo will be ten next year. 10 years isn't a long time in gaming anymore..... (especially when you consider that the average AAA game will take between 3 and 5 years to develop).

    Do you really want to pay for the same game over and over?

    This is not a question about paying for 'old games' repeatedly, but the right to use the IP that the game generated. The examples I gave above are all examples where the IP from the original games are still used to this day to generate new game titles. There's nothing wrong with trying to protect that IP imho. Imagine the outrage that would end up being directed at Nintendo, if a fan made mario game turned mario into a cocaine snorting sex addict. The Mario franchise would be tarnished, as would the company image of Nintendo.

    So anyway, back to your view on the subject... I'd love to see the original compiled binaries put into the public domain after 15 years or so, solely for purposes of emulation (i.e. have a read through this on world of spectrum [worldofspectrum.org] to see what I mean). But for this to be acceptable, it means the original compiled binary from the original game cassette / floppy.
    New iPhone/wii/ps3/etc versions of classic games do not fall into this category. These are new products that required developers time to port the original code and assets to a new system. This is not something that magically happens overnight, but is something that requires a fair amount of financial investment and a lot of grunt work to accomplish. It's only right that the develops expect to at least break even, or even turn a modest profit. It's not as though the couple of quid it costs to download a version of Sonic the hedgehog from XBOX live is going to break the bank.....


If graphics hackers are so smart, why can't they get the bugs out of fresh paint?