Square Enix Shuts Down Fan Game Effort

from the shut-down-the-fans-and-they-may-shut-you-down dept

A bunch of folks have been sending in various versions of the story that video game maker Square Enix has forced a fan mod community to shut down a years-long project to create a mod called Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes based on the Chrono Trigger world. The game was set to be released at the end of the month before the legal nastygram forced the volunteer fan group to shut down.

It’s difficult to fathom how this could possibly make sense. These were fans who were playing up how much they loved the original game universe, and wanted so badly to help spread that, that they spent years developing additional game action, only to have it totally shut down. In an era when treating your fans badly has been shown to backfire badly (especially in the video game world), you would think that Square Enix would have thought twice before sending a legal nastygram threatening huge legal fines.

Once again, this seems like a case where people sent a legal nastygram because they could, not because it was a smart business idea.

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Companies: square enix

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Comments on “Square Enix Shuts Down Fan Game Effort”

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Avatar28 says:

maybe not entirely dead

I have seen a few instances where something like this happens and then the original company either buys the product or signs the development team to a deal to publish the game. In fact, I believe that there are a few game studios that got their start this way.

Considering that Square/Enix must have known about this product for awhile, it seems odd that they would wait until it is about to be released to send the nastygram. Makes me wonder if it isn’t some sort of tool to force them to hand over the rights to the project or to sell it for much less than what it is worth or what it would have cost them to develop it in house and then Square gets the product for little or no cost to them which they then turn around and finish what little remains and publish it for a massive ROI.

I’m not clear on exactly what US copyright law has to say about derivative works, unfortunately.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: maybe not entirely dead

it seems odd that they would wait until it is about to be released to send the nastygram

Enix doesn’t have a great reputation from what I recall.

I’m not clear on exactly what US copyright law has to say about derivative works, unfortunately.

No one does.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: maybe not entirely dead

“Makes me wonder if it isn’t some sort of tool to force them to hand over the rights to the project or to sell it for much less than what it is worth or what it would have cost them to develop it in house and then Square gets the product for little or no cost to them which they then turn around and finish what little remains and publish it for a massive ROI.”

I can only speak for myself, but if I was on that team, and Square pulled that card out, I wouldn’t turn over jack.

“Oops, hard drive failure. Sorry, all the code files are gone.”

taiiat says:

Re: maybe not entirely dead

this is all too common in the modern world. U.S.A’s copyright laws dont really apply to big companies with lots of money – they arent exempt from the laws or anything – but they arent persecuted for anything they do.
all too often big companies will take advantage of groups of fans that will spend time to create a different take on the original game – and use legal force to shut it down – because they can, they wont get persecuted, and because they take advantage of the profit from stealing someone else’s work and spend less than it costs to buy a car as opposed to the group that likely spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the project. the big people are corrupted like that. its a shame the people with the political power cant have a single IQ point. they’re all twits.

Anonymous Coward says:

While I agree that shutting down these efforts is counter-productive, I still wonder why people think it’s a good idea to do stuff like this in the first place. Make something that is different, but still in the spirit of the original, and avoid all the names that might tie it to the original. Sure it won’t be as popular since you don’t have the built-in fanbase, but if people know that it’s like the original game, they’ll still enjoy it.

hegemon13 says:

Were they using original content?

This seems like it should fall under the same guidelines as a fan film. If they were creating mods, or simply creating new content based on the world of Chrono Trigger, it should not be possible to prosecute them unless they are making a profit. That is how fan films and fan fiction work. Why should fan games be any different? Then again, maybe the treatment of fan films/fiction is an unspoken, voluntary action by the copyright holders and not actually a law. If so, Square is full of morons who are entirely blind to the value of a passionate fan base.

hegemon13 says:

Re: Were they using original content?

Oops, I never finished. If they were using actual code from the original game, then I could see how it would be a copyright violation. Still, that doesn’t make it smart for Square to go after them. I believe that the reason that fan films/fiction are okay is that it revolves around trademark laws (the trademarked characters, worlds, etc), not copyright. As long as the fan content creators are not selling the product, it can’t be viewed as competing in commerce, or something like that.

Anonymous Poster says:

Re: Re: Were they using original content?

Yes, they were using code from the original game. The project was a ROM hack, after all.

The hack itself would not have been distributed with the ROM itself (to avoid actual, major legal ramifications), in much the same way that the Mother 3 fan translation is distributed.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Were they using original content?

They were probably using a program called RPG Maker. The graphics are pretty close to most RPGs from back in the SNES days and can be adjusted to look identical.

Now, why is Square shutting this down? It isn’t like they’ve had a Chrono game since Chrono Cross. Not like Secret of Mana where they released a new one only a little while ago.

Chronno S. Trigger says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Were they using original content?

I didn’t know that it was a ROM hack (now I do since I found one of the sites) and I was just guessing about the RPG maker. It’s still a good program and could make an identical copy of Chrono Trigger (in fact I’ve already seen one).

I actually meant a new game, but you are absolutely correct with the re-re-release on the DS. I completely forgot, I have it on the PSX.

I think my opinion has been changed. This was a legal move, if not smart.

Bettawrekonize (profile) says:

More examples of how intellectual property is DESTROYING our society. There are MANY people willing to make games for free, willing to write software for FREE (ie: Linux), willing to do lots of hard work for free to help out society (ie: research, etc…), willing to do perfectly good research and spend time to develop products that will HELP society because they want to help society, and then intervenes stupid intellectual property laws preventing new innovations from taking place. Innovation is completely possible without intellectual property, the government can fund scientists at universities to conduct research, benevolent scientists who are willing to do hard, very useful research at VERY low cost with the intent of helping society, and what ends up getting in the way? Intellectual property. I don’t really buy this notion that people are unwilling to put in the fixed costs required to create innovation, there are many benevolent people willing to do it (look at the open source community and the developments they create, ie: the GPL and other free software) from all fields who would do a lot to help society but intellectual property gets in the way.

AJ says:

Do it anyway...

Whoops, my computer got hacked and they stole the game and now its on some torrent site… or … i had it on a flash drive and it got stolen.. or… i sold the pc that had the software on it and it was released by somebody else.. i can think of a thousand ways this could end up released anyway…

I think the best thing to do tho is to just not release it, just like they ask. That way the company doesn’t get the benifit of the new customers that would have been interested just because of this MOD.

Bettawrekonize (profile) says:

This is a perfectly good example of how people are willing to put time and effort and COST into making new, useful products freely available (or available at very low cost) and intellectual property just gets in the way. This can be generalized to many fields (even medicine), not just the field of computer programming. People are willing to put effort, time, research, cost, etc… into making useful products available for a cheap price for the purpose of helping people and intellectual property just gets in the way.

Danny says:

Didn’t Bungie do something like this with Halo Wars in which they forced a fan project to shut down just to annouce Halo Wars only months later?

I would not be surprise if Square Enix either:
1. Forced the fan project group to hand over their work via lawsuit threats and make their own game with it.
2. Destroyed all code, notes, etc… associated with the project then make their own official sequel. (with some hyped up “back by popular demand” marketing).
3. Decides that they would rather let the Chrono Trigger franchise (for lack of a better) die than do something with it so they destroy the fan project.

If SE were smart they would hire the project team and make the game an actual sequel. Such a move would build street cred (imagine the praise from fans and gamers over a company that “gets it”), put a good amount of money in SE’s pocket (since most of the grunt work has already been done), and possibly get a few new permanent employees out of it. Hell even such a move only produced this one game with that project team I think SE would still profit from it.

DS says:

Re: Re:

Really? So you really think that Squenix really is going to just rebadge a fan made rom hack as a real game?

Because Squenix can’t make games by themselves?

Squenix has their own issues at times, but really, would hiring a bunch of fan fiction writers really improve their product lineup?

Egads man, think.

Danny says:

Re: Re: Re:

I didn’t say just rebadge it. As the owners of the property they would have creative control which means they would have authority to make necessary changes (regardless of who agree with said changes). And its safe to assume that they would go over it with a fine tooth comb and just as safe to assume they would make changes.

Because Squenix can’t make games by themselves?
So hiring someone else automatically means you can’t make your own games? Does this mean that the big time developers should quit buying small companies becasause “they can make their own games”?

Squenix has their own issues at times, but really, would hiring a bunch of fan fiction writers really improve their product lineup?
Well considering that you don’t need a degree in language arts to be considered a good writer there is the possibility that it just might improve their lineup.

Your reasoning seems to be that since SquareEnix is a large company they are better than this small fan project team in every way and therefore anything they make will be better than what a fan project team can do meaning they should not waste their time on projects like this. Congratulations on dashing the hopes of small time developers, people who are trying to get in the industry anyway they can, and people who just want to make a game as a hobby.

And ditto what TDR said. I’m sure we’ve all seen more than enough examples to prove that big budget does not equal quality content.

Sanketsu says:

Holy lifestream. What went through their heads before sending that C&D order? You’d think that they’d actually be HAPPY that ANYONE is interested in the Chrono series. Especially with the outright NEGLECT that the series has faced.

Oh, a DS port, whoo… Exciting, yes, a little, but it’s not furthering the series any. From the looks of this, it WOULD have been exciting and new.

Bad form Square Enix…. Bad form.

Ian says:

I don’t really mind this, TBH.

These fans really should have asked for permission first, and by agreeing that this was completely going to be non-profit now, and in the future.

That’s what the makers of the new LOTR fan film did, and it’s a great idea.

And you may argue that a fan-created game is a great idea, and should not be under threats by lawsuits, since it’s all non-profit anyway, I’m sure Square Enix still wants control over the characters actions, the world they exist in, etc. It’s their creation, and non-profit or not, I wouldn’t like it if a group were to play around with MY creation and release it. It’s SE’s characters, and those characters exist in an SE world.

Besides, what if this fan-created mod interferes with the flow of the story that Square Enix has planned for that series? SE did release a new Chrono game recently.

If these fans were so passionate about this RPG, they should at least respect the makers of the game and ask for permission to add to the game.

Nick says:

Copyright Rules?

Keep in mind that they aren’t exercising choice here; according to copyright law they are OBLIGATED to defend their copyrights in this manner or the copyright becomes invalidated.

Simply put, if they don’t defend their IP in this manner, the IP copyrights are voided, and they lose it completely.

Tgeigs says:

Re: Copyright Rules?

“Simply put, if they don’t defend their IP in this manner, the IP copyrights are voided, and they lose it completely.”

Ok, but does copyright law also mandate that they defend their IP via these nastygrams? Why can’t you “defend” their IP by slapping these creators on the back, saying that they did such an awesome job that you want to officially back their efforts by endorsing the project, and putting your logo on their work as a sign of “approval”. There, now their efforts are “authorized” by the original creators, so you no longer need to worry about losing the IP rights, correct?

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

Bloodsuckers don't think that way

First, a ton of fan made stuff gets shut down vary close to release, (dragon ball mod for example) This is because its hard to shut it down after release. At the same time Square wont even return a phone call if you ask to make a fan made mod of there stuff (like most mega companys).

I’ve tryed to get “offical” rights to do wierd junk like this before, Basicly geting to the person who can say yes is almost impossable, but you can find people who say no at every level of the company.

This is the same reason old classic games like Master of Magic, Moo2, X-Com, etc. dont get remade with better graphics and less bugs and why Supreem Commander is a “sperical successor”.

Sadly the best way to do a project like this is to do it anomously, have no address, identifable person and fake whois information. Connect via proxy to your offical website and simply ignore CnD letters. Bonus points if you can be based out of a country with differnt laws on IP as well.

placidifyThis says:

What matters, this original content?

I am hoping one of the lawyers here can explain what legal precedent has been established to say that ROM hacking is illegal.

I wonder this because there does not seem to be legal ground to say that I cannot take something I own (and I do own the original cartridge for this game) and do whatever I want to its contents. Fanediting is getting bigger by the day, and there does not seem to be legal precedent to stop people from editing the video data on DVDs. So what makes game ROMs special?

Anonymous Coward says:

Why did they fold? Because the letter from the lawyer said the law permitted $150,000 in penalties PER WEEK the romhack was distributed.

Is that true? Probably not. Does the group of fans at chronocompendium want to risk it? Not at all.

Personally, if the romhack was distributed as a patch, without the original rom, I don’t see how it would be illegal; but if it was me, I’d cave too.

perfidy says:

Honestly they need to talk to some lawyers. There is no way a patch file can be considered copyright infringement.

If it is something an individual can do in their own time to their own property, it is Not Infringement. The patchfile just makes individuals not have to go through so much work for the same end. It in and of itself violates no law.

Unless someone accepts this challenge and explains how the patch is illegal.

Also, if this DMCA request is indeed bogus, doesn’t that open SE to legal action?

Anonymous Coward says:

What SE needs to do

They need to legitimize the process. Give permission for fans to create fan products, if they sign an agreement that says something like (1) No commercial sale (2) a disclaimer saying that all trademarks, etc., are the property of SE (3) No objectionable/pornographic content… and so on.

It will build a community, without any risk to SE of losing control of their product. I believe that George Lucas does something similar with Star Wars fan-films.

Bettawrekonize (profile) says:

“This is the same reason old classic games like Master of Magic, Moo2, X-Com, etc. dont get remade with better graphics and less bugs and why Supreem Commander is a “sperical successor”.”

It is our current intellectual property system that gets in the way of innovation. People are willing to put the effort into doing research and creating software and such without intellectual property. This is a good example of that. The same is true for medicine. Intellectual property gets in the way of that.

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