MMO developer Turbine this week sued game publisher Atari for breach of contract, fraud, and other counts, accusing the publisher of purposely pulling back support of Turbine-operated Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach
in favor of a forthcoming internally-developed D&D MMO.
Turbine and Atari signed a publishing agreement in 2003, a deal that Turbine claimed Atari failed to uphold. DDO: Stormreach
eventually launched in 2006, but at that time, Turbine said, Atari "failed to meet its publishing and distribution obligations," according to a court filing found by Courthouse News
Turbine said at that point it "stepped up" and "assumed Atari’s publishing and distribution obligations in North America," while Atari "insisted" on publishing and distributing the game in Europe.
The developer accused of Atari of essentially highjacking the European release, "effectively choking off sales in Europe." Turbine claimed the action led to an estimated $13 million in lost franchise revenue, $3 million of which was due to Turbine under its agreement with Atari.
Atari allegedly failed to provide marketing and media spending "in parity with competitive games," adequate PR support, and other marketing duties, Turbine said.
The developer said that it chose to co-publish the game with Atari because it wanted to protect the $20 million that Turbine put into the game.
Atari and Turbine amended the original deal yet again in May this year, as DDO: Stormreach
moved to a free-to-play model. Turbine said it "continued to invest millions" into the game, and paid Atari "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in future royalties. At the same time, the deal was extended to May 13, 2016.
But Turbine claimed that Atari, while collecting royalty payments, enacted a termination strategy in November 2008 that would seek to end the contract between the two companies.
"On information and belief, Atari knew... that it planned to immediately threaten to terminate the Agreement in an effort to extort more money from Turbine or, alternately, to free itself from its obligations under the contracts in order to clear the way for the launch of its own competing MMO service based on the D&D’ and Advanced D&D intellectual properties," read Turbine's complaint."
The complaint comes after rumors that Atari's internal MMO studio, Cryptic, is working on a Neverwinter Nights
MMO, which would also be based in the D&D universe.
Turbine said it seeks to recover "in excess of $30 million in losses" allegedly caused by Atari's "breach and wrongful conduct." Turbine is also the developer behind Lord of the Rings Online
"Turbine employed dozens upon dozens of people working hundreds of thousands of hours to create the service. To date, Turbine has spent millions of dollars towards the DDO
franchise and continues to invest significant capital to operate and maintain the service," the complaint added.