Notorious online game Evony says a negative reaction among its players led it to unexpectedly drop its libel lawsuit against a U.K. blogger, but some apparent weaknesses in its case may have had something to do with the decision as well.
Evony, the game with the ads with the boobs, sued industry veteran and blogger Bruce Everiss in September 2009 over a series of highly critical articles in which he accused it of ripping off other games, linked it to some unsavory gold farming operations and suggested that the Evony client could in fact be malware. Making matters worse, Evony, nominally an American company (it’s registered in the state of Delaware, a well-known corporate tax haven) sued Everiss, who lives in the U.K., in an Australian court, where libel laws are slanted in favor of plaintiffs and Everiss would be hard-pressed to properly defend himself.
Yet as the hearing entered just its second day, Evony dropped the suit completely, issuing a statement saying it wouldn’t pursue the case further in Australia or anywhere else. The decision was made, according to Benjamin Gifford, the “vice-development director of Evony’s legal and intellectual proper strategic division,” in response to a negative backlash from players. “A lot of our players expressed opinions about the lawsuit and we reacted to that,” he said.
Sources say that Evony also didn’t want any negative publicity weighing down the launch of the sequel, Evony: Age II, which is set for “imminent” release. Furthermore, there may have been concerns that the case wouldn’t hold up to scrutiny: Lawyers representing Everiss revealed that Gifford’s claim to have BA and MBA degrees weren’t true and also established links between Evony and two other companies, one in New York and another in Hong Kong, suggesting that Evony has far more than the maximum of ten employees allowed under Australian libel law.
It’s not necessarily the end of the line, as Evony must pay AU$80,000 ($73,400) in partial legal fees by April 12; failure to do so could result in a resumption of the case, although Everiss’ legal team now says it believes it could win a summary judgment if that happens. Along with its own costs, Evony is also on the hook for Everiss’ legal expenses, to the tune of AU$ 114,000 ($104,600).
“It has been a very difficult 8 months or so,” Everiss wrote on his blog. “But all along I could take comfort and strength from the support of those named above and my family. And the knowledge that I had only reported the truth.”