Atari Sued Over Dungeons & Dragons MMO Hijinks, Developer Seeking 'Excess of $30 Million'

By Chris Faylor, Aug 26, 2009 11:39am PDT Dungeons & Dragons Online developer Turbine is pursuing legal action against Atari, alleging the publisher of fraud, unjust enrichment, and breach of contract.

The bulk of Turbine's suit seems to revolve around the new D&D: Neverwinter Nights MMO Atari is said to be prepping in conjunction with Champions Online developer Cryptic. Turbine initially licensed the D&D MMO rights from Atari back in 2003.

In short, Turbine says that Atari lied about its "enthusiastic support" for the upcoming free-to-play relaunch of DDO, and then "trumped up" false charges against Turbine "in an effort to extort more money from Turbine, or, alternately, to free itself from its obligations under the contracts in order to clear the way for the launch of its own competing MMO service based on the D&D and Advanced D&D intellectual properties."

Turbine adds that it "would have never...expended time, money and effort (or staked its reputation) on the launch of [the free-to-play] DDO: Unlimited had it had any warning that Atari's representations concerning its enthusiastic support for DDO: Unlimited were false," and outlines numerous other problems with Atari, including missed payments.

Some of those other complaints regarding Atari include its so-called failure to "properly publish" Dungeons & Dragons Online in Europe and its defaulting on many other duties as publisher and distributor, which "forced Turbine to step in and expend money, time, and effort that it was Atari's responsibility under the Agreement to provide." The studio explained that it had to step in "to ensure that [DDO] is a competitive, viable product" because Turbine has "invested tens of millions of dollars in the DDO franchise."

As of January 2006, Turbine says it had invested $20 million in DDO, which is why it agreed to "assume Atari's publishing and distribution obligations in North America." Turbine then launched DDO, initially a pay-to-play game, in February 2006.

Turbine further notes that Atari's attempt to either extort money or free itself of contractual obligations--false allegations that Turbine was "withholding information and royalty fees"--surfaced "immediately after...Atari accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in advance royalty payments" from the studio.

The studio even goes so far as to claim that Atari "strong-armed Turbine into waiving its exclusivity rights so that Atari could complete with the DDO: Stormreach service," explaining that because of Turbine's "vast investment" in DDO, it was practically forced to "agree to this term...or face a loss of its multi-million dollar investment."

In all, Turbine is asking for a payout "in excess of $30 million in losses occasioned by Atari's breach and wrongful conduct," and a denial of Atari's attempt to either extort money and/or free itself of contractual obligations through "unfounded" allegations.

Thanks to Courthouse News and Joystiq for the heads up.

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