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Dispute ensues over rights to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise
Dispute ensues over rights to  S.T.A.L.K.E.R.  franchise
December 12, 2012 | By Mike Rose

December 12, 2012 | By Mike Rose
More: Console/PC, Business/Marketing

BitComposer Games, the publisher of open world action game S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat in Europe and the U.S., today claimed that it has acquired the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. license, and plans to release new games in the franchise.

The future of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series has been unclear for some time, since reports surfaced around a year ago that developer GSC Game World was closing down.

With this acquisition, the Eschborn-based BitComposer says that it now has the exclusive worldwide rights to future video game adaptations of the brand. A statement from BitComposer notes, "So far, the three titles in the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series have been released exclusively for Windows PC."

Wolfgang Duhr, member of the BitComposer Entertainment AG executive board, noted, "S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a reputable brand with a long history of success. Naturally, we'd like to tap into the success of this series, and we see a great deal of potential for the future."

The company also noted that Boris Natanovich Strugatsky, one of two brothers behind the original Roadside Picnic novel series, on which S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is based, passed away on November 19, 2012.

All other rights outside of video game adaptations remain with the Strugatsky brothers, says BitComposer.

This is the second international license that BitComposer has acquired in recent years, as the company grabbed the Jagged Alliance license back in 2010.

[Update:: Following confusion regarding whether BitComposer owns the video game rights to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., or whether GSC Game World's Sergiy Grygorovich owns it, a spokesperson for BitComposer has told Gamasutra that it is the sole owner of the license.

"We hold the license for PC and video games from the Strugatsky brothers," he said. He reiterated, "The owner of the license was the Strugatsky brothers. As far as we know, GSC never had the license for S.T.A.L.K.E.R."

Update 2: Sergey Galyonkin, director of marketing at Russian games company Nival, has suggested that BitComposer has in fact bought the rights to the original Roadside Picnic universe, and the Stalker license that comes from those books, rather than the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. movie and video game franchise.

It's still not 100 percent clear whether this is the case, as BitComposer is adamant that it has bought the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. license. Gamasutra has contacted GSC Game World associates for confirmation.

Update 3: Eugene Kuchma, who works in sales and marketing for GSC Game World, told Gamasutra in an email that -- as trademark filings show -- BitComposer does not own the right to make S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video games.

Kuchma's email in full reads: "In view of the rumors appearing in press, we find it necessary to inform that GSC Game World and Sergey Grigorovich [GSC CEO] remain to be the sole owners of all the intellectual property rights to the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game series and the brand overall, including all the trademarks, the game universe, the technology etc. This can be easily verified with the trademark services online.

"From time to time news on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand purchase by this or that company appear over the Internet. We relate such a keen interest in the brand to its exceptional popularity. Even the purchase of rights to create a a€śRoadside picnica€ť book-based game by a small publisher is presented as the continuation of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. franchise. We have doubts regarding the mentioned product by BitComposer (the publisher of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat in some territories), since the latter has significant debts in terms of fulfilling the obligations under the existing contract between our companies.]

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Alex Covic
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I never heard that the Stalker video game series ever had any legal or license deals with the Strugatsky brothers or their publishers.

Kris Graft
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Mike's making efforts to follow up on this report with the parties involved. Stay tuned.

Alex Covic
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Major kudos to Gamasutra & Mike Rose for following up on this story. Although a 'minor' news item, you made the effort to clear the fog and dig into it. Journalism at its best. I tip my virtual hat.

Kris Graft
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Thanks Alex!

Alan Rimkeit
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Cool! Now please do HD remakes of ALL of the STALKER games in the Cry3 Engine for PS3 and the 360. That will pad their wallets if they market it well enough and price it right. Maybe make them downloads off of the PSN and XBL.

Corentin Billemont
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I'm really not sure that would be a good idea. That would be some considerable work and it wouldn't fit on these downloadable platforms. I don't even think that marketed well, these games could attract a lot of people on consoles.

Alan Rimkeit
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@Corentin Billemont - They have full sized games on the PSN right now. I don't know about XBL. But I can say I would buy HD remakes today if they were available. Also, not many console players have heard of the STALKER series so to them they would be new games for the most part. Marketing would be key in selling them to a new market.

Andrew Wallace
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Assuming they actually have the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. license, are they going to wait until Vostok games (the company that all the GSC employees created) is done with Survivarium so they can use the same team and resources? It sounded like STALKER 2 was pretty close to being done- if they hire all new people would they have to start over? Or maybe they'll try to put the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. name back onto Survivarium; Vostok has been making clear that it's basically the same world.

I guess we'll wait and see.

Joshua Darlington
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Without knowing any details, the name S.T.A.L.K.E.R. vs STALKER smells fishy. There is ambiguity whether it's deliberate or not.