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Turbine Sues Atari For At Least $30 Million Over  Dungeons & Dragons  MMO
Turbine Sues Atari For At Least $30 Million Over Dungeons & Dragons MMO
August 26, 2009 | By Kris Graft

August 26, 2009 | By Kris Graft
More: Console/PC

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 Atariís 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&Dí 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.

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Dan VanBogelen
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People that I knew that have played the game didn't find it that solid, also there "free to Play" model is very restrictive. I can't exactly say Atari is completely at fault. Turbine should have bailed out on the title a long time ago.

Olivier D.
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Well, I play DDO and I find it awesome, although definitely different from the mainstream MMOs. I wish Atari had nothing to do with it because they really didn't support it, be it through ads, presence at some major gaming events, etc. I hope they lose that one :)

William Holt
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It's disappointing that it had to come to legal blows, but I can't honestly say I blame Atari for intending to jump ship. $30 million in losses, in this case, was not caused by poor distribution or advertising. $30 million in losses was caused by a poorly made game. People were aware of it, but they weren't saying good things about it. Which is a pity, as I love D&D - I just wish that Turbine had captured the sense of fantastical freedom that D&D is supposed to invoke, rather than making it a repetitive, overly restrictive dungeon run.

Wasin Thonkaew
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I am not sure whether Atari accounts for full fraud or not.

But by the sense of game publisher, even you have so many titles of the game in hand, the ethical should come into blood.

Maybe another title's contract with the game developer is more worth and better, so lower or cancel another title will not that much hurt the revenue. Who's know what they're thinking?

By the way, this article just remind me to think hard when doing business with the game publisher.

Matthew Hemmes
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I played DDO from the day it was released, and although a great game from the start, turbine failed to provide the updates and new content after about a year and a half, players sat by still paying for no content, turbine and atari breached there contract to there gameplayers/payers and allthough they have bought out content with release of it going free to play it is still poor, they have no direction at all and use there LOTRO dev team to create content for ddo i could see the game going down hill, i put some pretty damning info about the game heading in the wrong direction and the devs having no idea with regards to D&d lore and was to suffer infraction points for my thoughts. I love D&d and would love to see a NWNMMO or baldurs gate 3 or even an ice wind dale 3, even in an mmo format forgotten realms worlded mmo would be awsome as i love this theatre over the Eberron, even the old school greyhawk capaign setting would be awsome, Dragonlance even. the only thig that has suffered in this war with turbine and atari is D&d and its players wether tabletoppers, or gamers. ill never play anything turbine labeled again thay have left a bad taste in my mouth so until the witcher 2 comes out ill be searching the net for hopfully some D&d licensed games due for release.