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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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 2:11pm

    How much time and money did Hasbro spend on this?

    Lets see, 1 lawyer letter that was 'graciously' accepted.
    What does it cost to get a lawyer to write a letter? was it their own lawyer?

    $150?

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

    • icon
      That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 2:26pm

      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.
      williewonka.gif

      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.

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

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:10pm

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

        It also damaged their perception,

        How do you know the net result is negative? Some people look poorly on this effort, while others would disapprove of a combat game based on a kids' toy. Who's to say which is worse?

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

        • identicon
          Just Another Anonymous Troll, 28 Sep 2015 @ 5:35am

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

          If you don't like a fan game, you don't have to play it.
          If you don't like a company's trademark jerkery, suck it.

          I'd say the second one, Hasbro can just require as part of the license that they say Hasbro didn't make it.

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

  • icon
    Chris Meadows (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 2:20pm

    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.

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

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 2:23pm

    Wasn't/isn't there...

    Some weird fetish involving "My Little Pony"? I vaguely recall it being in the news a few years back. Maybe they're just trying to prevent future "unwanted associations" with the name.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 2:41pm

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

      Yes there are some weird fetish things involving My Little Pony. No you shouldn't look for them.

      I don't believe this game has/had anything to do with that.

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

    • icon
      You are being watched (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 4:00pm

      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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2015 @ 4:18pm

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

      That's a redundant question. There is a weird fetish involving . There always is.

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

  • icon
    Anonymoose Custard (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 2:29pm

    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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 3:14pm

    First they came for the bronies but I did nothing... Mostly because they probably should be coming for the bronies.

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

  • identicon
    Jacob H, 25 Sep 2015 @ 3:15pm

    So they narrowly avoided free positive publicity, brand awareness, and boosted toy sales.

    They really shot themselves in the hoof

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

  • identicon
    avideogameplayer, 25 Sep 2015 @ 3:33pm

    Go, go, Power Ponies!

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

  • icon
    squall_seawave (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 4:42pm

    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

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

  • identicon
    Nom, 25 Sep 2015 @ 5:15pm

    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.

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

    • icon
      VP (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 5:39pm

      If that were true there wouldn't have been an episode where the main characters violently beat up duplicates of themselves for an entire two minutes.

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

      • icon
        Anonymoose Custard (profile), 27 Sep 2015 @ 2:32pm

        Re:

        Or, for that matter, one of the main characters being shown breaking an animal's neck.

        ... Which turned out to be a very violent chiropractic massage.

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 25 Sep 2015 @ 10:08pm

      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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2015 @ 12:01am

      Re:

      What is wrong a a game that allow pestered parents to take it out on the Ponies?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2015 @ 7:25pm

    Just as well; I don't think Princess Twilight Sparkle would approve of all this violence...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2015 @ 7:06am

    Hasbro spends around $60 million every year on their legal 'teams' who do nothing but look for pony-related items and send nastygrams...wonder if the shareholders are aware how much cash they COULD be getting?

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

  • icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), 26 Sep 2015 @ 7:06am

    Oh, and they actually got someone who has worked on MLP properties to boot.

    That's kind of like saying George Lucas 'worked on Star Wars.' Lauren Faust invented the current incarnation of MLP.

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

  • identicon
    Docrailgun, 26 Sep 2015 @ 7:54pm

    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.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 26 Sep 2015 @ 8:32pm

      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.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2015 @ 10:16am

      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.

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

    • identicon
      waffle911, 24 Oct 2015 @ 10:49pm

      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.

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

  • icon
    Coyoty (profile), 26 Sep 2015 @ 9:10pm

    "I have sworn with my life's blood, none shall pass this way without MY permission!"
    "Well... May we have your permission?"
    "Well I, uh... I... that is, uh... hmm... Yes?"

    It's that simple. Rights protection means you can allow use as well as prohibit it.

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

  • icon
    LAB (profile), 27 Sep 2015 @ 6:57am

    Hasbro balked on a fighting game based on a show targeted to kids 2-11? How is this bad or surprising? You can paint this as some kind of travesty but it isn't. Hasbro wasn't approached about licensing and the developers could have saved some scratch by doing what they did in the end, change the characters a little.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2015 @ 3:35pm

    They would get a lot more sympathy if they weren't disgusting bronies.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2015 @ 5:28pm

      Re:

      Its cool to not watch My Little Pony, everyone as their own taste and their own things that enable them to be happy. But must you really hate the fans too?! Did bronies hurt you somehow?!

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 28 Sep 2015 @ 9:37am

    Must. Buy. It. Ponies mayhem oh yeah.

    And Hasbro gains exactly NOTHING from it. Wise choice Hasbro!

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


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