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Wizards of the Coast files lawsuit against digital TCG 'clone'
Wizards of the Coast files lawsuit against digital TCG 'clone'
May 15, 2014 | By Mike Rose

May 15, 2014 | By Mike Rose
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Board game company Wizards of the Coast has filed a lawsuit against Cryptozoic Entertainment and Hex Entertainment, claiming that digital card game Hex: Shards of Fate is a clone of WotC's Magic: The Gathering.

Cryptozoic and Hex, best known for creating the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for the digital trading card game last year.

However, WotC this week has alleged that Hex: Shards of Fate infringes on its own properties, including multiple entries in the Magic series, such as the Duels of the Planeswalkers video games.

"Hasbro and Wizards of the Coast vigorously protect our intellectual property," reads a statement from the company. "This infringement suit against Cryptozoic demonstrates that while we appreciate a robust and thriving trading card game industry, we will not permit the misappropriation of our intellectual property."

The lawsuit includes claims of copyright, patent and trade dress infringement. WotC previously submitted an official complaint in March.


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Comments


Aiden Eades
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I haven't played Shards of Fate personally. However considering they're only citing their digital games and not the card game mechanics itelf, I have a feeling this hinges on two patents WoTC has.

First is the tap mechanic. Turning a card sideways to signify that an action has been performed, used in every TCG? Pretty much, but they still hold the patent (they also hold pretty much every other TCG).

Secondly is an assumption since I can't remember it, but I'm pretty sure I read another lawsuit of theirs against somebody because WoTC had a patent on TCGs being played through a digital medium.

I'm honestly torn when it comes to WoTC. On the one hand I'm a fan of their work, MTG, Dungeons and Dragons etc. But on the other I cannot stand their bully tactics. "Do anything remotely similar to us and we'll sue you. Not because we think we'll win, but because we know you can't afford to fight us"

Alex Boccia
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I thought Wizards of the Coast had more integrity than this.

E Zachary Knight
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Alex,

Nope. Integrity is something Wizards of the Coast threw out with the trash back around the success of Beta. Since then, they have been extreme bullies when it comes to competing TCGs.

Alex Boccia
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that's a real sad thing to see, really.

Aiden Eades
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There was another legal case even more daft involving WoTC not long ago over a difference kickstarter card game.

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/189092/Kaiju_Combat_Kickstarte
r_hit_by_trademark_infringement_claim.php

Basically because the card game was called Kaiju Combat, they beleive it infringed on their trademark of Kaijudo.

The BS of this is that Kaiju is just japanese for monster (basically) and they were effectively claiming trademark over what is effectively a common word. Kaiju Combat worked around it by talking to the WoTC lawyer and asking "Okay what names of these options WOULDN'T infringe your trademark"

In the end they went for a protracted name, The Fall of Nemisis: Clash of the Kaijujin.

That daftness of it all is that WoTC main card game, Magic the Gathering, was originally just called magic, but they changed it because they didn't believe the name Magic would be trademark enforceable.

Sorry went off on a tangent, like I said, like their games, think their lawyers are a bunch of *redacted so I don't get sued*

Aiden Eades
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I will say, now that I'm not at work and have had a chance to look at this hex game. It almost seems like a direct rip off.

Card types

HEX <> MTG
Constant <> Enchantment
Artifact <> Artifact
Troop <> Creature
Basic Action <> Sorcery
Quick Action <> Instant
Resource <> Land

Playing cards costs X colour threshold, X cost total. So very similar to the MTG

From the card example they have, it has a cost of 4, and requires 2 'ruby' threshold to cast. Which is the same as MTGs 2R 2colourless. Effectively.

As for mana types they have avaliable. Sorry, resources.

HEX <> MTG
Wild <> Green
Diamond <> White
Ruby <> Red
Sapphire <> Blue
Blood <> Black

I know black and blood don't match as well as the others, but most of the black spells are dark necromatic things a lot of the spells with 'blood' in the title.

Ergo I retract my previous disappointment in WoTC. This game is just MTG with the card parts shuffled and names changed. Looking at a few cards even the images, text and names are taken from MTG or heavily inspired by it.

Jeff Alexander
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"That daftness of it all is that WoTC main card game, Magic the Gathering, was originally just called magic, but they changed it because they didn't believe the name Magic would be trademark enforceable."

By "originally", do you mean "during product development"? Because it was already TM as "Magic: The Gathering" in the very first rulebook printed. [ref: http://www.wizards.com/magic/magazine/article.aspx?x=mtgcom/daily
/jc20]

Plus, how is it "daft" to name your product something you can trademark? That sounds like common sense to me.

Aiden Eades
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Yes I was refering to pre-production. Before release they changed the name from Magic to Magic the gathering.

And I wasn't referring to the daftness of them changing the name, I was referring to the daftness of them claiming that they had the trademark for Kaiju, when their game was called Kaijudo. Previously they had decided that as single common word could not be trademarked, and then they launch a case in the future claiming that it can be trademarked, and they hold the trademark, even though one was called Kaijudo (owned by WoTC) and the other was Kaiju Combat.

Steven Stadnicki
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Wizards never decided that 'a single common word could not be trademarked'. They decided that it was a bad idea for them to _only_ name their game using a single common word, at least in part for trademark purposes. Single common words can absolutely be trademarked in context - try naming your computer business 'Apple' and see how far you get. (And I'm not sure that I would call 'Kaiju' a common word in the US context either, but that's another matter entirely.)

Daniel Nissenfeld
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This is a total bs lawsuit. They could have tried suing Acti-Blizzard over Hearthstone but won't because they can't out spend their legal team. Cryptozoic is a much smaller company with presumably a much smaller legal team.

Why not sure Cartoon Network over flooping their pigs? WotC wants to (and has in the past) behave like they're the Oracle (the tech company) of TCGs and p&p games. It's shameful and ridiculous and hopefully a judge sees it the same way.

Honestly I don't think Cryptozoic can survive a protracted legal battle and they've poured so much time, effort and money into Hex it'd be a shame to let WotC keep us in the dark ages of digital ccgs.

Bruno Patatas
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WotC seems to be right on this case. The chart about halfway down with side by side rules, structure, and design comparison is pretty convincing, though my favorite is:
"Cryptozoic, itself, in its description of gameplay stated, in response to questions about the similarity, ďIf it ainít broke, donít fix itĒ

http://www.scribd.com/doc/224144304/Wizards-of-the-Coast-v-Crypto
zoic-Entertainment-et-al

Richard Urich
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Listing similarities side-by-side in complex products always looks convincing that one is copying the other. I haven't played both games to compare or seen the defense's argument (they might have a convincing list of differences), so I don't know if there was illegal copying of mechanics, structure, etc. It sounds like users think so, so maybe there was wrongdoing. Hard to tell.

But the lawsuit's look and feel arguments are just silly, and might be dismissed before trial. Magic has a very generic structure of title and cost at top, picture, minor details, explanatory text, then numerical value (when applicable) at the bottom. Those have all existed before Magic, in the same places on the card, and often in the same game. And the look and feel of the video game itself is even weaker since that look and feel is basically just copying how players play card games. A poker game usually has your cards at the bottom of the screen, and an opponent's hand at the top, and the cards impacting multiple players in the middle. Hardly a legally protected format of a game layout.

Brian Schaeflein
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If you guys hold off on jumping to conclusions, and actually looked at the filing on Scribd, you'll see that Hex is not just a clone, it is the exact same game, down to copying card text, color usage, etc. I usually don't support these types of suits, but this is so over-the-top copyright and patent infringement, I have no logical choice but to support WotC.

I mean, heck, even Hex's website once said: "Isn't this just Magic? If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Ben Sly
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The Scribd filing understandably disregards the differences in the games to present a one-sided view. There is substantial similarity in the two games (enough that I do think there is significant legal risk here) but the differences do prevent it from being "the exact same game".

The base mechanics are close to identical save for renaming, the addition of champions and resource system changes, but the cards available and many digital-only mechanics for those cards are different. The art and lore are all quite distinct from Magic's. There is also a massive PvE component planned to make the game into a full-fledged MMO-TCG (something that Magic never aspired towards), but it's not yet playable in the closed beta.

My own guess (without any legal training) is that the copyright case isn't going to be supportable, but the fact that WotC has a patent on so much of what Hex duplicates is going to hurt Cryptozoic dearly. By my own estimation as a Kickstarter backer, Cryptozoic never intended to profit from consumers confusing Hex with MTG, but instead to take a core PVP game almost identical to the core MTG gameplay and build a massive PVE shell around the core PVP. They are undoubtedly profiting off of MTG's popularity, but were doing so by building a better product and not by deceiving the consumers. Hex's PVP and MTG are still probably about as different as two similar FPSes or match-3 games, but the latter genres have a long history of very close emulation and TCGs don't (which is legally significant).

Regardless of the result, it should be a landmark case in game cloning.

Ian Uniacke
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You make some good points but I think in the case of Hex (sans playing the game yet) it looks a lot more like Cryptozoic made the CCG equivalent of Extraordinary Guido Cousins (vs Super Mario Bros) as opposed to say Wonder Boy (vs Super Mario Bros).

Ben Sly
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I personally do think that even if you're looking at it from an ethical and not legal standpoint, Hex does owe Magic: The Gathering a substantial amount (and quite possibly royalties); don't take my prior post as labeling Cryptozoic innocent. There's not much precedent for such things in mechanics for digital games, however (even among genres with traditionally much more similar games).

That being said, the biggest reason that I and many others backed was because it was promising that something that Magic completely lacked: the MMO experience. That Hex copies Magic's basic mechanics to an almost exact degree is undeniable, but it serves as a foundation for far more that Magic has never touched. How important is that in a court case like this? I don't know, but if it does make it to court we'll probably get an important precedent to answer that question in the future.

By my own understanding, there was no attempt by Cryptozoic to confuse consumers into this game was Magic, either. Each M:TG release is quite dissimilar: the closest gameplay-wise is Magic: The Gathering Online and its UI is quite different from Hex's. The Duels of the Planeswalkers games have a much more similar UI (it's the one that you see in the Scribd brief), but have far reduced functionality from Hex in that you cannot build a collection freely. That's one major claim in the complaint that I don't think is accurate. Whether or not a jury of John Q. Nongamers will see it similarly, I really can't say.

Ian Uniacke
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For reference here is a list of card games that WotC HAVEN'T sued (except hex):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_collectible_card_games

Trying to say that they will sue anyone who tries to compete is ridiculous. There are literally dozens of CCGs (of various success) that stand testament to this.

Justin Kovac
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Don't forget WotC sued Nintendo over the Pokemon TCG in the early 2000s. Not sure if they sued everyone else or if private deals were made.

"Cryptozoic and Hex, best known for creating the World of Warcraft Trading Card Game, ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for the digital trading card game last year."

Cryptozoic did not create the WoW TCG. Upper Deck did in 2005. Cryptozoic took over in 2010 when Blizzard split with Upper Deck. They worked on future sets and rule changes.

Jeff Alexander
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WotC was officially making the Pokemon TCG for Nintendo. WotC sued Nintendo claiming that Nintendo forbade WotC from printing or selling some sets it had already designed, then hired away two key WotC employees, printed those already-designed sets themselves in violation of contract, and started designing more using stolen WotC design processes. It was more than just, "Hey, Nintendo is making a card game THEY CAN'T DO THAT CARD GAMES ARE OUR IDEA." The case was settled out of court so no details are public.
http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/stories/2003/10/13/story2.html
?page=2

Justin Kovac
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Yes, I should have put in more detail about it. There was a lot more to it than WotC asserting their patent.

Porter Nielsen
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Couple of thoughts from someone who kickstarted Hextcg and actually plays the game.

Differences:
Threshold vs Colorless Mana

Threshold and card cost works very differently than MTG. In Hex when you play a resource it builds a threshold pile which is separate from your resource pile. If you have 2 green threshold, 2 red threshold, 2 purple threshold then you have 6 resources. In one turn I could play 3 cards all green as long as individually the green threshold is not above 2 and the total resource cost is below six. Colored decks are far more prevalent and powerful for this very reason.

Heroes vs Planeswalkers

In Hex you have a hero that actually has skills. Now some have argued that is is similar to a planeswalker, but it really isn't. In Hex your hero is you, not some other card that can be targeted. And your hero builds points to cast a special not by what it does, but rather each time you play a resource card. There are also cards that build your heroes action points faster, so there is an added strategy there. If anything it is similar to Hearthstone more than MTG in this aspect.


Permanent vs nothing similar...

In hex there are permanent upgrades that last even when a troop dies, so if you bring one back from your graveyard than it has the new stats as opposed to the original.


Socket-ing vs nothing similar...

In hex some cards can be socket-ed to make them have unique skills. This is a truly amazing feature as it makes some worthless seaming cards extremely valuable if socket-ed correctly.


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- -------------------------------

There are definitely similarities, but the similarities are on things that I frankly think shouldn't/can't be copyrighted/patented. WOtC have patented turning a card to represent activation. How can this be patented, it is a physical action to a physical object, it is like trying to patent moving a pawn on a chess board.

I honestly have been waiting for the day WotC sued someone over tapping because I think a game mechanic shouldn't be patented. It is bad for game creators and it is a slippery slope. Can you imagine if lego patented building with blocks, goodbye to Minecrafter, Terraria, and any other block building game digital or physical. It would be insane, as I think WotC are being right now.

Interested to see how this pans out, but my hope is WotC loses badly and loses their patent on tapping. The wording is fine, that is a trademark, but the action is almost universal at this point.


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