from the red-and-dead dept
Take 2 Interactive, the famed game studio behind the Grand Theft Auto franchise, is no stranger to our pages. When we have posted about the company, however, it has typically been to highlight how many ridiculous lawsuits and threats it faces over IP from unlikely sources. There was the ongoing battle with Lindsay Lohan over GTA5. There was a strange cease and desist notice sent to the company by the infamous Pinkerton Agency over its accurate depiction in Red Dead Redemption. The point is that Take 2 has been on the receiving end of frustrating intellectual property challenges such that it really should have some perspective on better ways to handle things than to simply be as heavy-handed as possible.
But apparently that’s a lesson that hasn’t stuck. Take 2 Interactive recently filed a lawsuit against Johnathan Wyckoff and several John Does over what appears to be a now-defunct project entitled Red Dead Redemption: Damned Enhancement Project. The goals of the project were somewhat simple. Fans of the series may already know that the original title was never released for the PC, only the PlayStation. The original game was also released several years ago, with now outdated graphics. Using the more recently released PC version of Red Dead 2, the project aimed to put the game map from the original game into its sequel and then update the graphics from the original game to produce a more polished version of the original. Worth noting here is that the gaming public has complained about the lack of a PC port of Red Dead 1 for years, with Take 2 offering no hint that it had any intention of meeting this demand.
And yet they filed suit anyway.
In September, however, things started to go off the rails. Project lead ‘DemandDev’ took to GTAForums to reveal that development had been stopped. He didn’t directly state that Take-Two had put him under pressure but complained of being bullied by a corporation.
“They done shady stuff getting my private info and contacted my family,” he wrote. “I’ve been contacting people to spread word. I’m not letting them them bully me and keep my mouth shut. I complied and stopped progress but hopefully I can sort out this.”
Several months later, sorting it out will now have to be actioned through the courts. On December 26, Take-Two Interactive filed a lawsuit at a New York court against a Johnathan Wyckoff and John Does 1-10.
There are several layers of silliness in all of this. To start, if development has ceased as of the summer of 2019, what is the point of the lawsuit? Unless Take 2 has some kind of proof that this work has continued, this seems purely punitive in the most pernicious way possible. Add to that the fact that this development team is clearly made up of fans of Take 2’s property and you have to wonder why threats and lawsuits are a better way to deal with this than reaching out to these fans and finding a way to at least bless their fan project if not bring them into the official fold and make use of their work entirely. We’ve made this point many times: copyright is not trademark. You can simply make a project official through cheap means without risk of losing your property rights.
Finally, Take 2’s suit nods at how this project would compete with a Red Dead PC port that Take 2 has had years to provide themselves, but for which it has never shown any interest.
Take-Two’s lawsuit details two matters. The first, the ‘RDRII Project’, aims to add the full RDR1 game map to RDR2. This, the company says, would not only “dramatically change the RDR2 experience but also reduce interest in purchasing a future release of RDR1 or a RDR1 add-on map for RDR2. The company doesn’t state it intends to release either, however.
The second targets the ‘Red Dead Redemption: Damned Enhancement Project’ which Take-Two says would utilize game files from Grand Theft Auto V and RDR1 “to vastly improve the graphics and performance of the game” and enable players to play RDR1 on PC, where it isn’t officially available, “thereby destroying the market for an official, updated version from Take-Two, and creating competition for Take-Two’s PC-version of RDR2.”
To be clear, all of that is true… but then where the hell have you been, Take 2? The original Red Dead released just shy of a decade ago. I realize that development cycles can be long, but ten years for a PC port? If the company had intended on doing one to satisfy PC gamers, it would have been nice if it had been completed sometime in Barack Obama’s first term. And when a fan project comes along to try and satisfy that desire, the company peels off a lawsuit?
Again, Take 2 should know better, having been on the wrong side of IP bullying itself. This was an opportunity for the company to act cool and human, but it chose litigation instead.