Activision Sues EA Over Ownership Of Brutal Legend Video Game

from the hey,-look,-free-advertising! dept

Back in February, we wrote about the saga of the video game Brutal Legend, which was being developed by game studio Double Fine, with an agreement for Vivendi Games to publish it. However, following Vivendi’s merger with Activision, the new company had dropped plans to release the game, leading Double Fine to go in search of another publisher — which it found in Activision’s biggest rival, EA. Except… suddenly Activision claimed it still owned the rights to publish the game even though it had no intention to actually do so. Apparently nothing came of that discussion until now… just as EA has ramped up its promotion of Brutal Legend, Activision has sued. Back in February, EA’s statement on the matter had been:

We doubt that Activision would try to sue. That would be like a husband abandoning his family and then suing after his wife meets a better looking guy.

Apparently, EA calculated incorrectly. In the end, this is a contractual dispute — and the results will very much depend on the details of any agreement between Double Fine and Vivendi. However, it would be quite silly for Double Fine to have agreed to a deal with Vivendi that didn’t allow for an out if Vivendi decided not to publish the game. Of course, it doesn’t sound like Double Fine is taking this too seriously either. Its response to the lawsuit?

“Hey, if Activision liked it, they should have put a ring on it. Oh great, now Beyonce is going to sue me too.”

They sure do like those marriage analogies.

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Comments on “Activision Sues EA Over Ownership Of Brutal Legend Video Game”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, this is a little bit different than the Watchmen saga. Vivendi actually invested all that money and I suspect part of the reason it was dropped was because Double Fine came back and said “we need another 8 mil” and Activision looked at it and asked themselves “Will this game even make $8 million?”

In the end it all depends on what’s in the contract.

Nick says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, the reason they dropped the game was after the merger the executives from activision wanted to focus on ‘proven franchises’ and dropped about a dozen games at the same time as brutal legend. Oddly though, BL is the only game being sued for finding a new publisher. It’s also the only game the was picked up by EA. Chronicles of Riddick (released over a month ago) and Ghostbusters (coming out next week)were both pick up by Atari and have had Zero problems. This lawsuit isn’t about that Brutal Legend found another publisher, it’s about who that publisher was.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Maybe Atari paid Activision for the right to publish it or maybe there was a clause in Activision’s contract with the game developer that permitted this but no such clause in the contract for Brutal Legand’s developer? Without knowing all the details, it is hard to say what really happened.

Nick says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Looking at a list of the passed up games I count 3 that have been released and 3 coming out this year (This includes Brutal Legend). Of these six games, the only one with any kind of legal dispute is Brutal Legend. EA and Activision have been at odds since the fight over Guitar Hero and Rockband. Activision lost that case, they’ve found another reason to go after EA and they’re taking it. And as for spending $15M on the game? not surprising, Most Publisher will foot a chunk of game dev costs. I guarantee those other five games got money from Activision as well.

Travis says:

Re: Just one question....

Activision is the biggest publisher in the world. They merged with Blizzard last year and have taken the throne from EA.

They have and will release such innovative games as:
Guitar Hero
Guitar Hero 2
Guitar Hero 3
Guitar Hero : Aerosmith
Guitar Hero : Metallica
Guitar Hero : World Tour
Guitar Hero 5
Guitar Hero : Van Halen
Guitar Hero : Beating a Dead Horse Edition

Call of Duty
Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 3
Call of Duty 4
Call of Duty 5
Call of Duty 900

Tony Hawk 1
Tony Hawk 2

You get the point.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Just one question....

Hey, Great job Travis!

What are the volume, gross and margin numbers for the top ten games of each publisher on a per annum basis? If you can get quarterly breakdowns for FY2006, FY2007 and FY2008, I’ll be impressed. If you’re able to get monthly breakdowns for each, well, I suppose you’ll win one free internets.

Paul Brinker (profile) says:

What a Crock

One would think, when the publisher says, “nope, we wont publish your game, it would cost to much” that it would be done. The game studio would then be free to say, “look they said there not going to publish, we have a great game we want to finish right and we need x amount to do it.”

In this case EA said, only 8 mil? we can make that investment.

Rights to publish should have gone away the moment the publisher said “no we wont publish” and any money given to them would be sunk costs that can not be asked back.

Or the money given to them could be considered stock in the game/company, and if that was the case then the first publisher would own 15 mil in stock while EA only owns 8 mil in stock.

Sigh, politics!

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