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New Mechwarrior Game Faces Legal Threat

| 4 Sep 2009 16:00

Harmony Gold has sent a cease and desist letter to IGN over the promotional trailer for the recently-announced Mechwarrior game, a move that could signal big trouble ahead for plans to revive the classic giant robot franchise.

A brief history lesson: When Battletech debuted as a tabletop war game in 1984 it featured many mech designs "borrowed" from various Japanese anime series. But as the series grew in popularity, FASA, the company behind the game, decided to preempt potential lawsuits by dropping any and all material that wasn't developed in-house; as a result, many of the "classic" mech designs, like the Warhammer, Rifleman, Marauder, Archer and numerous others, simply disappeared from the game, coming to be known to fans as "the Unseen."

So when FASA founder Jordan Weisman announced in July that Piranha Games was rejuvenating the Mechwarrior franchise in conjunction with his new company, Smith & Tinker, by taking it back to the Third Succession War and re-introducing those long-lost designs, fans were happy. Very happy.

Unfortunately, there may be clouds on the horizon. Yesterday, IGN revealed that it had received a cease and desist order from Harmony Gold, the company behind the Robotech series, claiming that "the use of certain trademarked figures from the Robotech/Macross universe are prohibited as a result of a prior settlement that dates back to 1996." Among those trademarked figures, it's safe to bet, are at least some of the Unseen.

The specifics of Harmony Gold's complaint are currently unknown but it could represent a major stumbling block in the development of the new game. A Mechwarrior game set in the Third Succession War needs mechs appropriate to that era; otherwise, like a Second World War game without Tigers and Shermans, it's just not going to work.

Smith & Tinker issued a standard "no comment" when contacted by IGN and its impossible to divine Harmony Gold's motives at this point, but if it's determined to make life difficult for the Mechwarrior franchise then this party could be over before it even starts. We'll keep an eye on the situation and update when more information becomes available.

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