South Park Studios Fights THQ Over Sale of The Stick of Truth

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South Park Studios Fights THQ Over Sale of The Stick of Truth

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"Oh my God! They might have killed the South Park RPG!"

Things continue to get complicated for floundering game publisher THQ, as South Park Studios has filed a court objection to forbid the sale of South Park: The Stick of Truth unless THQ meets several conditions during its upcoming bankruptcy hearings.

South Park Studio, which owns the license to the animated series, first filed the objection on January 18th, stating that it had first entered into an agreement in June of 2011 with THQ regarding the use of South Park in the upcoming Stick of Truth RPG. This agreement, referred to as the "Deal Memo", apparently forbids THQ from handing off the game or its South Park license to another company unless South Park Studio consents to such an arrangement. In addition, the Deal Memo also allows South Park Studio to repurchase "all elements of the South Park game and related products" provided it pays THQ an amount equal to whatever funding and costs it accrued while developing the title.

The objection itself asks the court to prohibit The Stick of Truth's release unless South Park Studio is allowed to consent to any transfer of the South Park license it originally granted THQ on top of both $2.275 million dollars and "adequate assurance of future performance" for the game.

THQ submitted a reply on January 21st to South Park Studio's allegations, arguing that the license in question is eligible for sale under the Copyright Act of 1976, but is currently reviewing whether or not South Park studios has any valid claim to monetary compensation.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is currently scheduled to release on March 5th of 2013 on multiple platforms, although with THQ's ongoing financial issues and South Park Studios' lawsuit, that seems very likely to change.

Source: Polygon

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That makes me a sad panda... Hopefully the South Park guys are able to find a studio they like. Otherwise, this may be the end, of South Park...

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This was one of my most anticipated releases this year :( I hope everything works out in favor for this games release.

Aaaaaaaaw, I was really curious about this one. It may have just been a bunch of references to the show but the last Southpark game (The tower defence one) had me in stitchs.

ouch this could seriously hurt obsidian as well if it doesnt go on sale

Where does this leave Obsidian? Will they have to hand over the work they've done already or will South Park Studios find another publisher and keep Obsidian on board? These guys seem to have no luck it comes to publishers, I hope there is no serious knock on effects for them if the game doesn't go on sale.

What does South Park studios get out of this? Because surely they want the game to be released and then their brand gets attention and people might watch their show a bit more.

"You B****rds!"

Hazzard:
What does South Park studios get out of this? Because surely they want the game to be released and then their brand gets attention and people might watch their show a bit more.

Basically they're trying to extort THQ some money before it blows up.

And if the court has a brain they'll deny that, because favouring one debtor heavily just before a bankruptcy or when one is close is considered a bad practise.

PunkRex:
Aaaaaaaaw, I was really curious about this one. It may have just been a bunch of references to the show but the last Southpark game (The tower defence one) had me in stitchs.

I played it about 5-6 months ago and it was awesome. Very funny, played well, lots of nods to the show, and really has that South Park feel to it. You can tell Matt and Trey had a considerable involvement in the writing.

It will be a real shame if this doesn't see the light of day because of legal reasons.

Here is the section on transferring copyright in the 1976 act: http://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap2.pdf

Tohuvabohu:
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This was one of my most anticipated releases this year :( I hope everything works out in favor for this games release.

yup same, i'm really intrigued to get my hands on it, even if it's a game that gets only one runthrough (obviously humor and whatnot can only go so far on replayability)

Man, this has me a little bummed out. Hopefully the game will be released, I was looking forward to it.

Poor Obsidian. I swear they have the worst luck. Missing out on the Fallout bonus from Bethesda by one point, now this.

I hope this ends up ok for them.

How about an analogy:

Johnny has a secret. Suzie wants to hear it. Johnny agrees to tell her if she promises not to tell anyone else (verbal contract). Then, she goes and tells other people anyway, citing the first amendment. Is she wrong? Obviously.

This is obviously just from an ethical perspective, not a legal one, but THQ doesn't seem to be doing themselves any favors. That said, I wonder what exactly the deal memo said, what rights it grants, and whether its clear if this is an exclusive license or not. I'm not a lawyer, but I've been doing a bit of research and read both PDFs. From what I can gather, exclusive licenses can be transferred, resold, sub-licensed, etc... Essentially, they grant almost the same rights that the original copyright holder owns, and the copyright holder cannot make more licenses with additional parties. Non-exclusive licenses, on the other hand, allow the property to be used as specified in the contract, but are generally far-more limiting to the licensee and the copyright holder retains more rights. To know for sure which it is, I'd need to see the text of the deal memo.

But based on THQ's wording, it seems like they're trying to screw around with the word "exclusive", saying that it must be exclusive simply because South Park Studios didn't give the license to anyone else. They quote part of the deal memo in their objection, but it's blanked out, so I have no clue how much of a difference that bit actually makes, let alone whose side it supports. Based only on what's publicly available, though, it seems as though THQ is trying to assert rights they don't have.

P.S. Thanks

Blablahb:

Hazzard:
What does South Park studios get out of this? Because surely they want the game to be released and then their brand gets attention and people might watch their show a bit more.

Basically they're trying to extort THQ some money before it blows up.

And if the court has a brain they'll deny that, because favouring one debtor heavily just before a bankruptcy or when one is close is considered a bad practise.

Hardly, Matt and Trey are more than likely worried the game will get handed off to some crappy third party dev that shills out crappy third party games like fortune cookies. They've already stated before that they didn't want this game to be like the one for the N64; and that's likely why they have it in their licensing contract with THQ that the project can't be shirked to another studio unless they say so, or THQ sells the game IP back to them so they can make sure the integrity of the product is preserved.

Remember, Matt and Trey approached THQ and Obsidian not the other way around. That the contract says they'll reimburse THQ for any money spent developing the project just to pry the damn thing from the death grip is hardly extortion.

wombat_of_war:
ouch this could seriously hurt obsidian as well if it doesnt go on sale

It probably won't hurt them that much. Obsidian are a mercenary developer. They get paid up front for what they do, rather than surviving based on the success of the game's launch. So if a title fails, they are safe since they aren't tied down to a publisher.

This also means that they don't make as much money, but it ensures that a flop doesn't kill them.

so ... South Park Studio's are just as big of dicks as the cast in their stupid little show? good to know.

I'll just sit on the corner and hope the game comes out in March. Was really hoping this game wasn't going to have any problems, since it seems like the most unique game coming out without being an indie game (Which try to thrive on their uniqueness...except a lot of indie games end up being focused on a single mechanic and end up being disgustingly not fun).

Yopaz:
Man, this has me a little bummed out. Hopefully the game will be released, I was looking forward to it.

Same here, it was my most anticipated title for this year, as far as I recall.

Lunar Templar:
so ... South Park Studio's are just as big of dicks as the cast in their stupid little show? good to know.

Not really, the IP belongs to them, they should have say on what happens to it. It like you lend to your car to a friend you know is a good driver, then your friend wants to loan it out to someone you don't know. Your going to want to have your say in it.

THQ just found some loophole. I wish I knew the reasoning behind this loophole existing.

Lunar Templar:
so ... South Park Studio's are just as big of dicks as the cast in their stupid little show? good to know.

How is using their rights under IP law and the contract agrees aoon being dicks? Heck they offered to pay for all costs of creating said game. They just don't want EA to abuse it

Stream of random expletives!

I mean, it's not a big issue if the game is handed off to another dev if the studio finds one they like, but the delays are gonna kill me. The control ofc largely sits with the studio because they basically hired THQ as contractor to make this game, so I don't really see what the issue is here.

Hazzard:
What does South Park studios get out of this? Because surely they want the game to be released and then their brand gets attention and people might watch their show a bit more.

From the way it sounds to me the bottom line is that since THQ is in trouble it's trying to sell off or liscence out any and all properties it has it's fingers in for quick cash. South Part Studios had a contract with THQ stating that THQ couldn't sell or transfer the property without permission from South Park Studios, which is perfectly reasonable, since it wants to control it's own IP and who works on it. THQ is claiming that the contract they signed is invalid because they had rights guaranteed by the law which makes any such contract inherantly invalid despite when it was signed.

At the end of the day South Park is a big enough liscence where a video game tie in is actually pretty small compared to the interest in keeping a firm reign on all aspects of the liscence and what it's used for. Control of the liscence being worth more than any individual product that might come from it and those losses.

To be entirely honest Obsidian is a good developer, but also one reknowned for releasing buggy games, their success is usually due to making stuff for a very hardcore crowd that is willing to preservere through bugs until fixes and such come along. Something like a "South Park" game is largely aimed at the everyman, the guys who sit down and watch it on TV, rather than hardcore gamers who might also appreciate the game but aren't the primary target audience. Your typical South Park fan who buys the game and gets a mess like say "New Vegas" is probably going to dismiss the game as a shoddy mess, and it will reflect negatively on the brand and it's core consumer, which isn't going to wait a year for them to work out the bugs for something they already bought. Getting a smooth product that works right off the bat is more important than the kinds of depth and long-term play and re-playing that a developer like Obsidian generally does... or in short, Obsidian is all wrong for this product, and I'd imagine that's why South Park Studios is making such a big deal about it. Especially if owning the liscence means that Obsidian would be the ones doing South Park games for the forseeable future.

That's my take on it at any rate, and to be honest as much as I like Obsidian's games, and was looking forward to "Stick Of Truth" I have to admit, if I was South Park Studios I'd be reacting the same way with a product like this, and I'd also be very concerned over maintaining control over who has the right to develop products using my liscence.

That said, I'd imagine we'll see this game eventually. With 2 months until release it's probably done, or nearly done. Whomever has control of the liscence will wind up releasing it when the smoke clears. Whether that will be under a THQ label an Obsidian label (from what I'm hearing), or under a basic South Park Studios label, really doesn't much matter. At the end of the day, someone will win, and the game will come out, the odds of the game disappearing at this point seem minimal. The most likely outcome seems to be that South Park Studios will pay the dev costs back to THQ, take back the liscence and the product, and then release it themselves directly.

Baldr:
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RicoADF:
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I find it difficult to sympathize with a studio that's produced nothing interesting to me, ever, taking what appears to be a cheap shot at a company that does produce things I'm interested in but is in serious trouble.

Therumancer:
THQ is claiming that the contract they signed is invalid because they had rights guaranteed by the law which makes any such contract inherantly invalid despite when it was signed.

Not quite. If the contract is invalid, THQ has no rights at all, and South Park Studios has everything. THQ is claiming it's an exclusive contract, and SPS is claiming it's a non-exclusive contract. They're arguing about what it said, but neither party has publicly come forward with the full text of the contract.

P.S. Thanks

Sooo ...

THQ wants to sell to a company of which they know that they won't cripple their studios, IPs and overall corporate picture.
Then, legal assholes jump in and cry "But you can't do that!!!", just to rip THQ apart and get their share of that nice cake. (read: get some new IPs to dust.)
And as a result, the South Park RPG becomes questionable because fear builds that the whole THQ-dinner might turn it into a case of cuddly sharing around the world.

Fuck you, EA, Ubisoft, Actizzard, and all you other assholes responsible for this to happen to begin with.

Fuck the guy that decided the uDraw was a good idea. Fuck him so much.

FEichinger:
Sooo ...

THQ wants to sell to a company of which they know that they won't cripple their studios, IPs and overall corporate picture.
Then, legal assholes jump in and cry "But you can't do that!!!", just to rip THQ apart and get their share of that nice cake. (read: get some new IPs to dust.)
And as a result, the South Park RPG becomes questionable because fear builds that the whole THQ-dinner might turn it into a case of cuddly sharing around the world.

Fuck you, EA, Ubisoft, Actizzard, and all you other assholes responsible for this to happen to begin with.

You seem to be blaming the wrong people here. THQ declared bankruptcy and once you declare bankruptcy you legally have to try and get the most money from all of your assets that you can. THQ tried to say fuck that and wanted to try and sell the company for less as a whole and fuck over all of their creditors.

The only one you can blame here and not look like a total idiot is THQ themselves.

Tohuvabohu:
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This was one of my most anticipated releases this year :( I hope everything works out in favor for this games release.

I hear you, brother. I hear you.

KeyMaster45:

Blablahb:

Hazzard:
What does South Park studios get out of this? Because surely they want the game to be released and then their brand gets attention and people might watch their show a bit more.

Basically they're trying to extort THQ some money before it blows up.

And if the court has a brain they'll deny that, because favouring one debtor heavily just before a bankruptcy or when one is close is considered a bad practise.

Hardly, Matt and Trey are more than likely worried the game will get handed off to some crappy third party dev that shills out crappy third party games like fortune cookies. They've already stated before that they didn't want this game to be like the one for the N64; and that's likely why they have it in their licensing contract with THQ that the project can't be shirked to another studio unless they say so, or THQ sells the game IP back to them so they can make sure the integrity of the product is preserved.

Remember, Matt and Trey approached THQ and Obsidian not the other way around. That the contract says they'll reimburse THQ for any money spent developing the project just to pry the damn thing from the death grip is hardly extortion.

Exactly what I would have said. Leaving the game with THQ is too risky.

Fans can hang their hopes on two things and remain optomistic: 1) Matt and Trey want this game to be made, and 2) as clearly demonstrated in the past, they have just about the best lawyers in existence. If they win, I see them holding all the rights and dishing them out to new developer of their choice in the (hopefully) not too distant future.

Jhereg42:
Poor Obsidian. I swear they have the worst luck. Missing out on the Fallout bonus from Bethesda by one point, now this.

I hope this ends up ok for them.

I'm pretty sure this won't affect Obsidian. They're...freelance developers, and if the game is set to release in March then they probably did all the work already, and got their upfront flat payment as usual. The fact that they're working on Project Eternity also tells me that they've moved on from development as well. Matt and Trey went to them, knowing that Obsidian is quality when it comes to character development and story in video games, and they simply don't want EA buying it from THQ, extending the release, censoring things, adding on-disc DLC, and making the disk molest your pets.

They had a big hand in the development to ensure that this was the true South Park video game experience, and simply don't want to see someone that wasn't involved with the process to buy it and fuck it up. A different publisher taking it and making it shit would tarnish their IP, and I completely understand why they want to ensure that it releases in the state they created and envisioned. I pre-ordered it hoping that it would help THQ, but it's balls that this is even happening. I foresee a lot of great IP getting put through the ringer or left to rot in a safe when this is all over.

Lunar Templar:

Baldr:
snip

RicoADF:
snip

I find it difficult to sympathize with a studio that's produced nothing interesting to me, ever, taking what appears to be a cheap shot at a company that does produce things I'm interested in but is in serious trouble.

I'm a fan of THQ and have no interest in southpark games, however it doesn't change the fact that if the contract is as they claim, then their within their rights to tell THQ to piss off. not to mention their paying THQ the costs incurred so THQ isn't losing out.

South Park Studios and 2.275 million dollars...

Is it me or does money seem to have two different values? Y'know... 2.275 mil is just a figure in a fairy tale told by corporate accounts while in the real world people are getting by with 11 thousand a year. I know that it's the entertainment field and all, but there is a such a gap between how much money they deal with and how much money we deal with that the value of money seems to be split.

Back on topic: Yeah, I think THQ is to blame on this one. If I were to have paid them to make something for me, and then they sold that contract to someone else because of some technicality, I'd be pissed. It's like paying for Smart to build a custom car and then they sold the order to GM who's obviously going to do it whatever way they please and tell me that I paid for whatever nonsense they make... and probably also to pay more to get the finished product. In this analogy, Triple-A developers are the asshole car company that tells me what I want and would want to reneg the contract so that they'd own the design.

People are reading this all wrong, as if it's THQ's fault. It's the court that ruled they have sell properties individually because of the unsecured creditors complaints about potentially not getting paid. Remember, Clearlake was going to buy the company whole and completely intact. Then the unsecured creditors ran to the courts and denied this. THQ, Obsidian, and South Park Studios are free of culpability. The courts sabotaged the whole setup. I wouldn't be surprised if this happens to all the games due for release in the next 5 months. They basically sabotaged the ability for THQ to publish any games until this is resolved because they ruled the assets MUST be sold off separately instead of being allowed to sell everything as a whole for potentially less money but it would simultaneously save all the games that are basically done.

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