Once again, the lack of IP laws regarding video games as struck again. Frontier Developments, the studio behind Planet Coaster, is suing Atari for apparently unpaid royalties. According to TMZ, Frontier “struck a deal to develop RollerCoaster Tycoon 3” and when Atari went belly-up in 2013, “Frontier says they stuck it out and amended their contract”. All sounds reasonably civil, right?
Well, now that Atari is getting back on its feet, Frontier began to get a little suspicious. Apparently “another website showed higher sales figures” than Atari originally reported for RollerCoaster Tycoon 3. The site (still unknown, but likely along the lines of SteamSpy) “calculated that Frontier should have received $3.37 million in royalties” and not the $1.17 million Frontier did receive. Apparently, Atari is a little short changed.
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What really turned this into a problem, however, is when Frontier contacted Atari and requested an audit. The perfectly polite thing to do. Except it has, as the story goes, been months and Atari still hasn’t issued the audit. This has been confirmed by Eurogamer as Frontier’s Chief Operating Officer David Walsh states that, “we can confirm Frontier is currently pursuing a complaint against Atari. We have attempted to resolve this issue without legal action since April 2016. We have so far been denied our contractual right to audit by Atari, and we are unfortunately left with no other way to resolve our concerns. We are unable to offer any further comment while the matter is subject to due legal process.”
It is important to mention that the RollerCoaster Tycoon franchise is owned by designer Chris Sawyer, not Atari. In 2007, Atari claimed in a lawsuit that Frontier had not so much stolen but made an “enhanced version of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3“, which Frontier was going to license out to a third party. And since Sawyer was helping Frontier with this, Atari claimed that this was in breach of Sawyer’s contract with Atari. The dispute, as it were, ended in an out of court settlement. So the issue of suing Atari for royalties rather than Sawyer is a little confusing, but it’s just because Atari published the game, therefore they get a cut of the profits too.
Do you think Frontier is the right? What will happen to our favorite roller coaster simulator if Frontier loses? Let us know what you think in the comments below!