Gather around boys and girls, it’s storytime! The digital licensing rights for Dungeons and Dragons is owned by Wizards of the Coast, which is in turn a subsidiary of Hasbro. Furthermore, Hasbro also owned a little subsidiary named Atari. Atari, was a publisher for two developers: Turbine and Cryptic Studios.
Here’s where the drama starts. Turbine is makes a game called Dungeons and Dragons Online, which Atari promises to publish and distribute. Some time down the road, Cryptic starts developing Neverwinter, which if you’re familiar with the Neverwinter Nights series, is also based on the Dungeons and Dragons role playing game. Of course, D&D Online is a MMO, so Cryptic claims that Neverwinter isn’t a MMO, but rather an “online multiplayer game.” Just so, you know, they’re not double dipping.
Now one publisher with two big D&D titles, everyone that has any foresight is already finding cover from the oncoming shitstorm. Turbine eventually sues Atari for $30 million, claiming that the publisher failed to meet it’s publishing and distribution obligations. Turbine further claims that Atari secretly started a termination strategy that started from improperly marketing D&D Online that would culminate into choking off sales and killing D&D Online to make way for it’s new favorite child, Neverwinter.
In an rather anti-climatic end, the lawsuit was settled out of court (of course) and neither side has really spilled the beans on anything (of course.) However, afterwards Turbine was acquired by Warner Brothers and effectively taking them out of this storyline.
Some time later, Namco Bandai strikes a deal with Atari and purchases Atari’s European distribution company. Namco Bandai being a direct competitor of Hasbro, well let’s just say everyone should just stay ducked down as there is no sign of the shitstorm subsiding. Of course there is a lawsuit. Hasbro sues Atari claiming that the deal allows an “unautorhized sublicensing relationship,” specifically allowing them access to the D&D license is a violation of the contract between Atari and Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast. Atari fires back, issuing their own statement that says Hasbro is resorting to “meritless allegations, in an apparent attempt to unfairly take back rights granted to Atari.”
In the end, after everything was again squared away to everyone’s satisfaction, Habsro regained full rights to their D&D digital license. Although Atari will no longer be able to license D&D games, part of the settlement let them continue development of certain D&D games.
All while this is happening, Cryptic has been hemorrhaging money. Without missing a beat, Atari puts Cryptic Studios on the market. As quickly as they were put up for sale, they were bought by Beijing based MMO operator, Perfect World, for approximately $50 million. This delays the release of Neverwinter until the end of 2012, and probably for the best. Cryptic has a track record of having very short development cycles and pumping out games before they’re fully cooked. It seems like Perfect World is having none of that, having bought Cryptic and the attached Neverwinter project to strengthen it’s presence in the Western market. Furthermore, with this acquisition and probably because D&D Online and it’s “sibling” Neverwinter are now living under separate households, Neverwinter proclaims loudly that it will be in fact a full fledged MMO upon release. Duh.
There ya go kiddos! That brings us up to speed on this episode of The Real Housewives of Game Development. Hopefully with all the drama behind it, Neverwinter is on full steam ahead. Judging from what’s been shown off over the past weekend at PAX East, it’s doing just that.
MMORPG.com gives it the “Best of Show" award, seemingly coming out of the woodwork and blowing a lot of people away after not releasing much info for some time.
Furthermore, staying with their “freemium” niche, Neverwinter will also be published as free to play. Whether or not the game will be a “pay to win” aka, real money buys you items that clearly gives you a gameplay edge is still to be seen. So far the claim is that Perfect World’s cash shop expertise and Cryptic’s ideals will lead to only cosmetic or convenience items. However, Perfect World’s track record does show that it offers a variety of play to win items for their other games. Let’s all just cross our fingers that this doesn’t bleed over to Neverwinter.
Also, keeping up with the new hotness: Neverwinter will be an action MMORPG that tosses away traditional tab targeting for combat. Which is apparently, the thing to do nowadays. Meaning you’ll be able to run around as you attack, and fill bandits with arcane spells using an aiming crosshair.
Cryptic is also going to focus heavily on user generated content as they have done in the past Neverwinter games. They’ve included “The Foundry,” essentially a level creater with the full ability to weave in NPCs and storylines. Meaning we’ll be able to experience entire campaigns created by other die hard D&D players from day one.
You’ll definitely want to keep an eye on this one, and hell, that won’t be hard as it’s absolutely gorgeous.
I may have fudged up some of the details, so please don’t kill me, that legal mumbo jumbo makes my penis soft.