Turbine has sued Atari over a Dungeons & Dragons Online licensing dispute, alleging that the publisher signed a licensing deal with Turbine it had no intention of honoring.
It gets a bit complicated, as lawsuits are wont to do, but according to Courthouse News Service it goes something like this: Atari sub-licensed the Dungeons & Dragons name to Turbine to develop the MMOG Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach, which Turbine says required "dozens upon dozens of people working hundreds of thousands of hour," not to mention millions of dollars, to complete, maintain and operate. Atari, however, "acted unreasonably" by failing to adequately support and promote the game.
The complaint seems clear enough up to that point but then it starts to get a little tricky. Turbine claims that Atari continued to take payments under the terms of the deal, "extending their relationship and paving the way for the launch of Turbine's free-to-play DDO: Unlimited," while at the same time planning to "not perform its obligations under the agreements and pretextually seek to declare Turbine in breach of the agreements."
That plan, Turbine claims, was conceived of prior to the May 13 agreement between the two companies and was part of an overall strategy to either "terminate Turbine as part of a shakedown, or proceed with termination in bad faith to benefit from its own competing product at Turbine's expense." Turbine says that if the deal is terminated, it will "threaten the goodwill" the studio has developed among the DDO audience.
The timing of Atari's alleged surprise farewell party does seem a bit odd with the launch of DDO: Unlimited just around the corner, but its recent acquisition of MMOG specialist Cryptic Studios could help explain it. Cryptic's superhero MMOG Champions Online launches on September 1, which just happens to be the same day the DDO: Unlimited "Head Start" for subscribers and closed beta testers begins, and as the parent company of Cryptic, Atari will almost certainly see more money from that than from its deal with Turbine.
Specific damages or relief Turbine is after in the suit haven't been revealed, but the delay isn't expected to affect the launch of DDO: Unlimited. Adam Mersky of Turbine said, "We are looking forward to next week's launch of DDO Unlimited," and noted that the studio plans to open a new high-capacity server as part of the launch. DDO: Unlimited opens to the public on September 9.