Hasbro Spent Time, Money, Lawyers' Attention To Barely Make A Difference Over My Little Pony Fan Game

from the pony-up dept

Several years ago, we wrote about a fan game that had been shut down by Hasbro because it incorporated My Little Pony intellectual property. Yes, an expression of fandom was bullied out of existence by Hasbro. The argument trotted out by those in support of the company was the same argument that’s always trotted out in these instances: the company had to shut the game down, or else risk losing its trademark protections through non-enforcement of its rights. That’s not actually true, of course. There were many smart business routes to go for Hasbro, including offering a low-cost license to the gamemakers to allow the project to continue. Hell, we’ve actually seen instances in which Hasbro has chosen to enable fans to do some things with MLP characters, such as these 3D printing capabilities. But Hasbro chose to be the bully. And how’d that turn out?

Well, the company essentially might as well have done nothing as far as the end results go. Yes, the fan game is back, albeit with a barely different name, fractionally altered game characters, and with the collective understanding by everyone looking at it that this was supposed to be My Little Pony in a fighting game but now isn’t because trademark. What was Fighting is Magic has become Them’s Fightin’ Herds and it’s every bit as insane as it sounds. Oh, and they actually got someone who has worked on MLP properties to boot.

Them’s Fightin’ Herds is a 2D PC (Windows) fighting game with adorable animals in an original universe designed by Lauren Faust (producer and developer for “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic”; creator, director and developer for “Super Best Friends Forever”). It is the spiritual successor to “Fighting is Magic”, with improved gameplay mechanics and graphics, an entirely new (and awesome!) dynamic music system, a graphic lobby, and a whole bunch of new features.

So, let’s review. A group of My Little Pony fans created a fan fighting game using the Hasbro property. Hasbro, rather than spending ten seconds looking for an amicable route that would protect its interests while allowing this expression of fandom to continue, instead decided to sic the lawyers on its own fans. Those fans complied and took the game down…only to slightly rework it to avoid the legal issues and are now releasing the game pending its crowdfunding campaign, which has managed to generate over $100k of its $436k goal in one day, as of the time of this writing. The game is blatantly similar to the original MLP game, save for the changes made to avoid Hasbro’s interference. And it looks like the team has a good chance of cashing out in a major way.

So, the legal route got us all to a barely different place than we would have all been three years ago. How much time and money did Hasbro spend on this? And, whatever that amount was, was it worth it just to get us to what could have been passed off as a possible example of what the many-worlds theory would look like in practice? A barely different adjacent reality that is nearly identical to our own, save for a few ultimately meaningless differences? And, the better question, why didn’t Hasbro learn this lesson the first time, when its legal action against Scrabulous resulted in the exact same outcome?

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Comments on “Hasbro Spent Time, Money, Lawyers' Attention To Barely Make A Difference Over My Little Pony Fan Game”

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That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: How much time and money did Hasbro spend on this?

It also damaged their perception, and rather than obtaining an agreement that would have covered the bases and maybe a small licensing fee of what is going to be a very popular game…
They got nothing.

Except for lingering resentment from a dedicated fanbase who remember all of the slights of the past… and yes they keep buying things but enough of these stupid antics they might find a different fandom or maybe something changed just slightly to keep Hasbro from getting anything.

Chris Meadows (profile) says:

Compare and contrast: Chroma Squad

Another Kickstarter game based (loosely) on an established property, Chroma Squad got a nastygram from Power Rangers owners Saban…but they were able to settle the matter and proceed in exchange for simply adding an “Inspired by Saban’s Power Rangers” to the game’s title screen. It’s available in Steam right now.

It’s funny to think of Saban having more brand savvy than Hasbro, but that’s just how it works sometime.

You are being watched (profile) says:

Re: Wasn't/isn't there...

Like all things odd (say, a bunch of adults watching a kids show) that is viewed by Mainstream Media™ , only the bad was solely looked upon and constantly paraded about- porn pics drawn by people mostly- which didn’t even cover a tenth of the things actually created by the fandom (music, animations, stories, etc) all in an attempt to make Something Different™ look bad.

Anonymoose Custard (profile) says:

They probably didn't even know until after the fact.

There’s some evidence of a disconnect between Hasbro and their legal team. They’ve sent C&Ds to several fan projects, including JanAnimations’ “Button’s Adventures” project, and it happened entirely without the knowledge of Hasbro’s community outreach and executives, and as far as anyone knows, the issue with JanAnimations is still unresolved (though some of his videos are back up).

There’s also the matter of Legends of Equestria, a fan-made MMO that’s a blatant copy of the show’s content. The only reason they haven’t gotten a C&D (as far as anyone knows) is because they don’t use the official names for anything except Equestria itself. This is another opportunity for Hasbro to enable some kind of licensing, but they’ve been silent on it.

squall_seawave (profile) says:

what a good executive should have realized is that this could have been a cash cow (no pun intended) it they had reached an agreement it coult have been the next skullgirls an ton of money for hasbro and after the bad taste of the gameloft game that would have been a great publicity recovery

so far i would see this game and see if it is good but i always wonder what could have been

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The “protecting their brand” argument was indeed made, but I have also herd that they didn’t license the project because they didn’t want their product, targeted primarily to little girls, to be associated with a fighting game.

Yeah, I was thinking Hasbro is probably pleased with this outcome, as now this game has nothing to do with MLP. They don’t care if there’s an equestrian combat game out there, they just don’t want their branding on it, which seems totally reasonable to me. So basically everyone got most or all of what they wanted.

Docrailgun says:

Not fandom...

…or it wouldn’t be a fighting game. No, this is just the opposite of fandom – it was a way to try to make a cheap buck from someone else’s property.
That said, Paramount is a good example of letting fans do things with a property – there are all sorts of Star Trek fan films that Paramount does nothing about.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Not fandom...

Actually from what I’ve read in several comments when it’s come up, Paramount used to really crack the whip regarding fan-films and other Star Trek stuff, but the backlash was so bad(I think even the original creator of the show got into it) that they backed off, realizing it wasn’t worth it.

It’s not that they don’t want to crack down on fan creations, it’s that they were shown what happens when they do.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Not fandom...

If you don’t like violent video games, I can totally understand. However its pretty ordinary for people who like two things to put them together (e.g anime and hip hop music). And, yes, this particular instant is ironic, a show about friendship and fighting, but that is simply the games source of humor, even MLP’s creator Lauren Faust acknowledged this and is helping with the new game, despite the fact Hasbro choose to go after them.

waffle911 says:

Re: Not fandom...

Original MLP version was going to be free. They had no intention of making any money off of Hasbro’s IP whatsoever; it was going to be purely fan-created content for its own sake. Now that they’ve spent 4 years on the project, they need money so they can pay all the legal fees associated with avoiding litigation in the first place and registering a trade mark, plus paying artists and designers to produce entirely new and original content instead of recreating content based on an existing show. Also taxes because money is involved now. And a bunch of other stuff because they’re making developing the game into their full time jobs until it’s done.

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