Toymaker Hasbro and game publisher Atari are clashing over a soured licensing agreement for the fantasy franchise Dungeons & Dragons, Hasbro said this week.
At issue is Hasbro and subsidiary Wizards of the Coast's allegation that Atari sub-licenced the Dungeons & Dragons digital game rights to Namco Bandai Partners without authorization. Hasbro sees Namco Bandai as a competitor, since both compete in child-focused businesses like collectible card-based games.
According to Hasbro's agreement with Atari, that kind of relationship with a competitor is restricted, so Hasbro says it's suing Atari for fraud and five different counts of breach of contract of the D&D licensing agreement. It wants to terminate the agreement and collect compensatory damages.
But Atari, also known as Infogrames, said in a statement that Hasbro's allegations are unfounded. "Atari has had a long and rich history with the Dungeons and Dragons franchise, investing millions of dollars into numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful games that have generated significant revenue for Hasbro," said an Atari statement issued Thursday.
"Hasbro has resorted to these meritless allegations, in an apparent attempt to unfairly take back rights granted to Atari. Atari has sought to resolve the matter without cooperation from Hasbro. We regret that our long-time partner has decided to pursue this action. Atari will respond appropriately through its legal counsel in court."
Atari publishes the MMORPG Dungeons & Dragons Online, developed by Turbine, in North America. In August this year, Turbine sued Atari for at least $30 million for breach of contract, fraud, and other counts, accusing the publisher of purposely pulling back support of Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach in favor of internally-developed MMOs. Atari called that suit "frivolous."
Atari is also rumored to be working -- via its Cryptic Studios subsidiary -- on a Neverwinter Nights MMO, which is based in the D&D universe. Other previous Atari-published titles include Neverwinter Nights 2 and Dungeons & Dragons: Tactics.
"While unfortunate that we had to take this action, it is crucial for us to protect the Dungeons & Dragons brand," said Greg Leeds, president of Wizards of the Coast. "We have been working for several months now to reach resolution with Atari, and they have left us with no other choice than to pursue legal action."