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Power Rangers studio goes after indie dev team over hero game

July 18, 2014 | By Christian Nutt

July 18, 2014 | By Christian Nutt
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    34 comments
More: Console/PC, Indie, Business/Marketing, Video



The company behind the Power Rangers franchise is targeting an indie studio making a game in the "sentai" super-hero genre, Chroma Squad, in hopes of taking a share of the profits or shutting the project down, USGamer reports.

Saban Brands owns the rights to the Power Rangers series, which is produced in partnership with Japanese studio Toei (based on its Super Sentai Series.)

Chroma Squad was successfully funded on Kickstarter almost one year ago by the six-person Brazil-based Behold Studios, but the game is on hold while Behold negotiates with Saban.

"This week they've contacted us to offer a deal. They see two options in this negotiation: the first one being using the court to make sure that our game wouldn't get released. The second option would be that they would join our project with a royalty share. We both prefer the second option, considering that going into court would would be painful for both sides," Behold wrote in a backer-only updated quoted by USGamer.

Behold's Saulo Camarotti told USGamer that negotiations with Saban are going well, and he's hoping for a "win-win negotiation" that puts the game back on track for release.

Is sentai a genre, or an IP?

The situation does open up the question of whether Saban owns the "Super Sentai" concept thanks to its Power Rangers IP -- or whether Toei does, too.

Japanese developers have long released games that build on the sentai concept without a specific license (two examples include Sega's Rent-a-Hero franchise and Sony's Seigi no Mikata). The multicolored hero-team trope is also a common one in Japanese pop culture, popping up constantly even in works that don't center on the concept.

It's also worth noting that the game takes in more ideas than the five-person Super Sentai team -- concepts more closely aligned with other Japanese live-action genres such as tokusatsu ("rubber monster" shows and films.)

The question of whether something is a reference or a parody can be legally thorny. For example, this screenshot of Chroma Squad references a character called "Trini," which is the name of the Yellow Ranger in the original Power Rangers show. (It's been pointed out by one of the developers in the comments below that the character names are user-created; that is also an official screenshot from the developer's site.)

The issue of whether Saban or Toei have the legal right to go after Behold may never be answered if the studio signs the partnership -- but the tiny indie likely doesn't have the money to defend itself against an onslaught by billionaire Saban.


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Comments


Mark Venturelli
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Actually you create your full roster of characters and name them yourself in Chroma Squad, so that "Trini" there is just a playtester's choice.

Christian Nutt
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Well, I'll update the story based on that info. But probably it wasn't a great screenshot to put on the official site, then.

Mark Venturelli
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In hindsight it really wasn't :P

Arthur De Martino
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Actually Trini is the Yellow Ranger and in the website someone named their Pink ranger "Trini" for some reason.


So no, even if you go "JUST LIKE MY POWER RANGERS" you'd be wrong too.

The equivalent would be a super hero game with a light projection character named "Clark".

Arthur De Martino
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It's a genre, not an IP.
And I'm not talking about just video games either, there are "Sentai-like" shows, cartoons, comic books, tabletop games...Almost in every media you can see the original tropes for Sentai and Tokusatsu production making their way in.

Therefore a game where you get to create your own sentai game is not a "Ip infrigement" any more than Samurai Flamenco's entire existance.

Christian Nutt
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I agree in principle, though I'm struggling to think of an example of a non-Toei property built around a 5-person, 5-color sentai team. And I wonder if there is a reason for that. Sure, they pop up as cameos or jokes in other media, but an actual show/game focused on one? Can't think of an example -- though I'm not at all a sentai fan, so, I can't claim very specific knowledge.

Ruston Coutinho
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http://henshingrid.blogspot.com.br/2010/05/non-toei-tokusatsu-fro
m-japan-thailand.html

Arthur De Martino
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Ruston Coutinho's link alone can easily point you out that sentai is a genre, not an IP.

"Super Sentai" though is an IP, it's the meta-series that Americans have to Americanize so they can consume it or something.

Outside tokusatsu production, there are many manga and anime that use Sentai or Sentai inspired characters, the most recent one being TV Fuji's "Samurai Flamenco".


I will also point to you that if you type "non-toei sentai" Ruston Coutinho's link is one of the first five hits. So it's not like it's a big secret or something hard to do even from a non-tokusatsu fan.

Chris Book
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Sounds like they're just trying to push around people that can't fight back. Hence the "deal" for revenue share instead of just trying to shut them down. They have no real case, just enough money to bury the devs in legalese.

Matt Robb
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Actually, going for revenue share rather than the pure cease-and-desist route could be considered being nicer. If they don't protect their IP, they can lose the rights to it. They also communicated with the devs before it was done, rather than waiting to see if the game is successful and then blackmailing them after all the time, effort, and money are spent.

There's always the third route of changing the game enough that it no longer directly references the Power Rangers IP and just fits within the overall genre.

Arthur De Martino
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It's a shame though that this isn't about their IP.

This is the equivalent of Rockstar get a similar treatment from a Hollywood studio because they are making a cowboy movie.

Ivan Moreira
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this is really unfortunate. you guys should seek a lawyer. they deserve nothing.

Matt Robb
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Answer me this. If an indie dev team made a game, then a well known production company decided to make a TV show and toy line based on it without permission, would you be saying the same thing?

Kyle Redd
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Chroma Squad is not based on Power Rangers, so your example is irrelevant.

Kayne Ruse
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There's a big difference between including an eyeball-shaped demon in your game (something I did, btw) and selling "Doom Guy, the guy from Doom" action figures.

Ian Richard
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The developers used the look and recognizable elements from power rangers for parody and nostalgic purpose. You can deny it, but the kickstarter itself mentions that it was inspired by such shows as "Power Rangers".

In many placers, Power Rangers IS the genre. I don't know anyone who talks about the Super Sentai genre... but I know many who say "Like Power Rangers". Power Rangers is a highly recognizable IP and Saban doesn't need a good lawyer to say "When people see that game, they think of our product."

I wish the developers all the luck in the world. I think game looks amazing and I cant wait to play it. But they were playing with fire from the very beginning.

It sucks that they got burned, but I'm sure they new the risks of making a project like this.

Lex Allen
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Is it really worth it to pay money to protect such an antiquated brand? Power Rangers is long dead. Saban Brands are just looking for money, but they aren't going to find any at an indie game studio, so they must be desperate for some royalties. However, it might be better to defend the project under parody because the nerds jumping at the end is obviously meant to be laughable. Not sure what direction the indie studio will take, but helmets and body suits don't seem that unique nor capable of being protected under IP.

Mike Higbee
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They actually have a new movie coming out, so not dead.
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/power-rangers-movie-
enlists-x-718684

Olivier Riedo
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Power Rangers isn't dead, its 20th or so season is airing right now, and they will probably continue to get new ones as long their japanese fight footage and toy source, Super Sentai, does. And SS is itself in its 38th season and nowhere close to stopping.

Lex Allen
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Here we go... The show peaked in 1993. TWENTY years ago. It was canceled in 2009. Disney ran it into the ground. It will not have a profitable comeback outside of licensing. Even kids can only take so much bad acting.

Mike Higbee
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Power Rangers was never about the acting.

Arthur De Martino
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Are you an American?

Because Tokusatsu was a global thing. but it didn't hit America in the same way.
Hell in Brazil (the country that is making this game) in the middle of 2000's there was this non-toei Sentai show called Ryukuendo that was being a huge success to kids and old fans alike.

I really think you should stop trying to see this game as "Power Ranger knockoff" when it sells itself as a love letter to the tokusatsu and it's sentai subgenre.

Olivier Riedo
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Lex, it was cancelled in 2009 but brought back in 2011 and continued to this day.

Tony Yotes
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I really hate this. They're being bullied into losing revenue on their forst big break and there's nothing they can do.
The best option now would be to just go all in. Put the Power Rangers brand int here and hope that boosts sales enough for it to matter. It all depends on what percantage Saban wants.

Tony Yotes
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Seriously, the fact that it's a parody is part of its charm. If it gets branded it loses that. Will the justice system recognize parody humor in this medium? Or just believe the billionaires in suits over the small team of friends?

Lex Allen
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I hate it, too. If my lawyer talked to them, he would say that the game is a parody and to #@$% off. I think they should have deferred all conversation to a legal team. They're obviously desperate for money since the brand has been doing so poorly for the last 5 years.

But yeah. They might as well just take the brand name and run. It might be a blessing in disguise. Maybe they'll make more money this way and maybe Saban will even help to promote the game now that they have a stake in it.

Marcelo Takeo Tomita
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That's a really bad situation... and in that respect I don't even know if it's better to put the brand over the game as "Power Ranger" was one of the last super sentai-like series to be shown here in Brazil where older ones like Changeman and Flashman were even more famous here when a lot of tokusatsu series were shown in TV... if it were to put any brand in the game, I'd put those "thing"-man names of the old (Changeman/Flashman/Maskman)

Daniel Rasmussen
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I would see this as an golden opportunity to use the Power Rangers IP. Even if he has to do a revenue share with Saban Brands, a popular IP is much easier to advertise and sell.

I will guess that the Chroma Squad team will earn much more money under the Power Rangers brand.

Andrew Wallace
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The problem though is that they would then have to follow Saban's rules for their IP. Since it's a kid's show I imagine they're pretty strict, so if the game originally had sarcastic or dirty jokes they would likely be required to remove them. I had no knowledge of this project until three minutes ago, so I have no idea if it had any such content, but a coexistence agreement would be better for the developer's creative freedom than licensing the property.

Michael Joseph
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G-Force:_Guardians_of_Space

http://voltron.wikia.com/wiki/Voltron_Wiki
(the Lion pilots wore Power Ranger style suits)

Maybe they can modify the design somewhat to allow capes, different shaped masks, multi-colored shirts and pants along with mix and match between the tops and bottoms. If a player happens to choose a combo that resembles the Power Rangers, so be it.

As it is, it looks like they are trying to co-opt another's IP. The screens featured are more than just evocative of Power Rangers... some users would be confused into thinking it's a Power Rangers game.

James Margaris
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Exactly. The game is clearly intended to specifically invoke the Power Rangers. It has the same costumes, the same color scheme, and a screenshot even uses a Power Rangers name.

There's a strong argument to be made that consumer confusions would be both real and intentional.

Ivan Moreira
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You know what? Power Ranger can suck it. When I think of sentai, I think of these links below.
So....maybe, just maybe, the people behind Power Rangers should be the ones receiving cease and desist letters. Power Rangers...pff. Changeman and Flashman were way better. All the dev team have to show is these links and show that every show of this type is pretty much the same.

https://www.google.com.br/search?q=flashman&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=AkLLU_ 3iIMyryATsroKwBA&ved=0CAYQ_AUoAQ&biw=1600&bih=791
https://www.google.com.br/search?espv=2&tbm=isch&q=flashman+sentai&revid=925945792&biw =1600&bih=791&dpr=1
http://www.google.com.br/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2Fimg1.wikia.no
cookie.net%2F__cb20110405201142%2Fpowerrangers%2Fimages%2Fa%2Fa9%
2FFlashman.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fpowerrangers.wikia.com%2Fwi
ki%2FChoushinsei_Flashman&h=728&w=891&tbnid=lKsfMO-I0Yq0mM%3A&zoo
m=1&docid=vp1kFN_o8173PM&ei=B0LLU7rCB5COyASZmoCoDA&tbm=isch&ved=0
CDQQMygCMAI&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=419&page=1&start=0&ndsp=25
https://www.google.com.br/search?q=changeman&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=BELLU4edE4Go yAT9tIDgDg&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=1600&bih=791
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dengeki_Sentai_Changeman
http://www.google.com.br/imgres?imgurl=http%3A%2F%2F1.bp.blogspot
.com%2F-c3gOTvn9RM0%2FTeA5rPWf4tI%2FAAAAAAAAOQw%2FRKcvotGpD24%2Fs
400%2F1.jpg&imgrefurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.animeq.com.br%2F2011%2F05%
2Fchangeman-episodios-online.html&h=295&w=394&tbnid=OF3_zP252AjjI
M%3A&zoom=1&docid=Y46FGew6PMQ3aM&ei=GELLU6DSHIueyAT1x4CYCQ&tbm=is
ch&ved=0CDMQMygBMAE&iact=rc&uact=3&dur=164&page=1&start=0&ndsp=17

gijs witkamp
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Let me put it this way, if a small studio is making a game about 4 tortoises that fight, where you can pick the color of the bandana's they're wearing, with a rodent that guides you through the game, would it still be okay?

If it wasn't a small studio, would people still react the same?

It might be a genre you're talking about but the costumes are exactly the same as those of the Power-Rangers. You play five characters, and they use the same colors for the characters in the trailer.
if it really was "inspired" or even a parody, make it a bit more original or promote it differently. this is dangerous stuff if you don't handle it properly.

Either way, it still looks like a game that would be a helluvalot fun to play.

Alan Barton
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Sentai is a genre, i.e. "In Japanese, sentai (戦隊?) is a military unit and may be literally translated as "squadron", "task force", "group" or "wing"."

So on that basis, its a task force like group of characters.

Ok, so Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, debuted on August 28, 1993

Whereas Gatchaman (which also even had Morphing) was produced in 1972, and adapted in 1978 as Battle of the Planets (one of my favorite shows).
So Power Rangers can't claim Sentai as their IP.

Then of course we also have the 800 pound gorilla of this genre, which is "The Lord of the Rings", published 29 July 1954. Again a Sentai style task force.

Also in this genre we have "Seven Samurai" released April 26, 1954. (Plus the awesome western remake, The Magnificent Seven released on October 23, 1960).

So Sentai most definitely is a genre and one which Power Rangers didn't create.

Then we have "Justice League" published by DC Comics. The superhero team first appeared Feb. 1960.

Plus don't forget, "The Avengers" debut Sept. 1963.

Also:
Space Sentinels (1977)
He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983)
ThunderCats (1985)

Plus the Transformers franchise began in 1984

You can also even argue the original Star Trek with its different colored shirts is Sentai and that was produced in 1966.

(We can also even throw in one of the big inspirations for Star Trek, none other than Forbidden Planet, released on March 15, 1956).

I could even list Asterix the Gaul (29 October 1959)

Plus if all of that isn't mind blowing enough, we also have to consider character groups from Greek and Roman mythology!

So Sentai most definitely is a genre and Power Rangers wasn't at all original. It can be shown they borrowed a lot of existing ideas from the genre which is very wide indeed.


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