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.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 5:02am

    Get some sleep.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Jeff, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 6:09am

    Then it's time to make big corp. stfu and...

    just release the game for free then. Take that!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Lucretious, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 6:14am

    theres also the matter of 15 million dollars that Activision put into development. No one is simply going to hand out that kind of cash without some kind of binding contract in place.

    I'll be curious to see how this one turns out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 6:32am


    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Danny, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 6:34am


    Maybe Activision decided to sue now becuase they have suddenly realized that Brutal Legend might be a big hit?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    Overcast (profile), Jun 8th, 2009 @ 6:36am

    So more time is being spent litigating this game than actually developing it?

    I'll keep that in mind if I look for any new games. I so hate bugs and sloppy development.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 7:20am

    Just one question....

    Who has the BSD? (Big Swinging Dick) It looks like EA, but is Activision even around these days? What have they even brought to market?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Nick, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 7:22am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 7:24am

    I would be curious to know if EA ever made any attempt to buy the rights from Activision? You would think if they were going to shelf the game that they would sell the rights as a reasonable price (before all the hype about the game) so they could at least make some money it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Nick, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 7:58am

    Re: Re: Re: 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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 8:15am

    Re: Just one question....

    The big ones that come quickly to mind are Guitar Hero and Call of Duty Franchises.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Travis, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 9:11am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 9:22am

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Paul Brinker, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 9:40am

    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!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Beetle le deetle Wahh Waaahhhhhh!, Jun 8th, 2009 @ 9:41am

    Poor Tim there's always some BS involved when he makes a game.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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