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One of the games EA touted at this year's E3 was heavy metal action-adventure Brutal Legend. It's slated to be released this October but Activision's now trying to stop its release.
Activision Entertainment Holdings, the former publisher of Brutal, sued developer Double Fine Productions on Wednesday. According to the lawsuit, Double Fine failed to deliver the game on time and then unlawfully signed the publishing rights to EA. Activision Entertainment, a division of Activision Blizzard, was known as Vivendi Universal Games before merging with Activision last summer. Brutal was thought to have been dropped from the company's publishing slate after the merger.
Activision received monetary compensation when Atari signed Ghostbusters, another game that was dropped in the merger. That's probably what they're looking for here, too. When threatened with the lawsuit earlier this year, EA likened Activision to "a husband abandoning his family and then suing after his wife meets a better looking guy." Even if the lawsuit isn't ultimately successful, it's possible the game's release could be pushed back.
It just doesn't really look good for Activision from a public relations standpoint. Most gamers are inclined to side with a developer over a publisher because the developer is ultimately the company that dreams up and builds games. The stereotyping of publishers as money-grubbing "suits" is even more prevalent when you're talking about a multi-billion dollar company like Activision. Still, we could be looking at millions of dollars in settlement money here and Activision didn't get as big as it is by passing on opportunities like that.
Update: Double Fine boss Tim Schafer has responded to the lawsuit: "Hey, if Activision liked it, then they should have put a ring on it. Oh great, now Beyoncé is going to sue me too."