It's the week before E3, and you'd think the gaming industry would be abuzz with leaks, fake leaks, and pre-show hype. While there's been a good share of that going around, it's been overshadowed by the legal troubles being experienced by a whole slate of companies. Just look at this cornucopia of court cases and other legal issues:
Everybody's Suing Activision
We apologize to anybody who was looking for a dramatic courtroom showdown between Activision and former Infinity Ward developers West and Zampalla. The two parties settled out of court yesterday, and various Twitter reports suggest that West and Zampalla were quite happy with the deal. No doubt we'll never learn the terms of the settlement, but it sounds like once Activision realized it had a strong chance of losing in court, it finally gave in and gave the gentlemen the money they were owed—and probably a fair bit more in damages.
Speaking of No Doubt, the band by that name has been given the go-ahead to sue Activision over its portrayal in Band Hero. While the group gave Activision permission to have its images used in the performance of its own songs, they did not agree to the way that players could unlock the band to perform all the songs in the game's catalog, calling it a "virtual karaoke circus act." We can't really argue with that description of any of the plastic instrument games, really.
Blizzard Runs Afoul of Korea
We've all heard of the raft of problems Diablo III has experienced post-launch. A number of South Korean customers were fed up enough with the server issues that they asked for a refund on the game, which Blizzard refused. In response, the Korean Federal Trade Commission raided Blizzard's Seoul offices, investigating whether the company is violating Korea's consumer protection laws, which are apparently much stronger than ours.
My recommendation? Refund those customers, Blizzard. Do you really want to get on Korea's bad side? That's pretty much the definition of biting the hand that feeds you...
38 Heads Face Possible Prosecution
The news just keeps getting worse for 38 Studios. After failing to pay its employees for a month, the studio laid off its entire staff last week in the wake of massive financial issues. Now some of those employees are biting back. Many workers reportedly only found out they weren't being paid when they went to the bank and discovered that their paychecks hadn't gone through. In response, they're discussing the possibility of filing a lawsuit against their former employer for the lost wages.
The State of Rhode Island, which had backed millions of dollars in loans to 38 in exchange for the studio moving to the state, has now hired some forensic accountants to look into 38 Studios' finances. The studio may also face litigation in Maryland, where its Big Huge Games division (which developed Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning) was located. If the states decide to prosecute 38's owners on behalf of the workers, those owners (including former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling) could be prosecuted for misdemeanor crimes and possibly receive jail sentences. That's a fairly remote possibility, though, as corporate bosses tend to settle things in court long before that point.
Silicon Knights Experiences Epic Loss
Speaking of companies famous for making use of taxpayer funds (I keep doing that today), we now have a result in Silicon Knights' lawsuit against Unreal Engine creator Epic. For those unfamiliar with Silicon Knights, the company is best known for creating Too Human, as well as one of last year's biggest critical and sales disasters, X-Men: Destiny. The company sued Epic over support of the Unreal Engine 3 during the development of Too Human, claiming (among other things) that Epic withheld promised engine support and components because it was too busy working on its own games. Epic counter-sued, claiming that Silicon Knights breached the Unreal Engine license agreement and infringed upon Epic's copyrights.
A jury found in Epic's favor on all counts this Wednesday, dismissing the Silicon Knights case against Epic and ordering Silicon Knights to pay 4.45 million dollars in damages to the middleware producer. Silicon Knights plans to appeal the ruling, and there's speculation that the company doesn't have the money to pay Epic. Silicon Knights laid off a large portion of its staff last year, and has been having difficulty collecting the money from the government grants it was awarded (as of last year, the Canadian government claimed that Silicon Knights hadn't met the requirements for receiving its latest grant). In the court of gamer opinion, it's starting to look like Silicon Knights is trying to blame Epic for its own problems, particularly since the Unreal Engine 3 has been used successfully by a ton of other companies while this lawsuit was winding its way through the courts.
Let's end this court-filled Weekly Dish with one of the few interesting pre-E3 rumors. A video has surfaced claiming to be evidence that the long-in-development Final Fantasy Versus XIII has been turned into Final Fantasy XV. While that notion is appealing to fans who want Versus XIII to just come out already, the video is almost certainly a fake. Square Enix has taken to making most major announcements at its own press conferences anyway, so we're likely stuck with the likes of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance and various Eidos offerings from Square Enix at E3.
Date: June 1, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*