02 March 2010

How to lose your fans

Slashdot is reporting an 8-year fan-created episode in the (long dead) King's Quest series has been shutdown by Activision.

The series started in 1984 under the auspices of Sierra On-line with King's Quest: Quest for the Crown and finished in 1998 with King's Quest VIII: Mask of Eternity. When Sierra (as Sierra Entertainment) faded away, and stopped producing KQ games with the cancelation of King's Quest IX in 2002, fans stepped in and started producing their own labour of love, King's Quest IX: Every Cloak has a Silver Lining.

Fast forward 8 years, and Activision (owners of the remnants of Sierra and its IP) have issued a cease-and-desist order, effectively burying the game. Vivendi, when they controlled the IP and before they had been swallowed by Activision, had allowed development to continue under a non-commercial licence (i.e., the fans couldn't sell it and not actually call it King's Quest IX), but apparently Activision is not willing to allow even that.

Let's be clear: Activision have every right to do this. They own the intellectual property rights over the King's Quest series, so they are perfectly within their legal rights to do this. But, from a business point of view, this decision is completely nuts. Activision have no plans to revisit the series, so it's not competing against an "official" product. And the people producing the game are fans -- you know, people who love the series and are prepared to put in some work to keep it alive. All Activision are doing here is stomping over people who now might think twice before buying any Activision product.

Let's hear a big cheer for the lawyers....

Update: From Techdirt, Activision are letting the game go ahead. Common sense prevails...

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