One of the past year’s more idiotic lawsuit (No, not the one suing Blizzard about the kid who tried to fly, the other one) has finally been settled, quote GameCloud.
To the uninitiated (and followers of the One True Way) Marvel comics sued NCSoft (makers of Super-hero themed online game “City of Heroes“), on the grounds that the game’s hero customisation tools allow players to create characters that infringe Marvel trademark characters and the company’s Intellectual Property. In layman terms, player used the tools to create characters such as Sp1d3r-mann, and wolferine and customised them to appear quite similar to their Marvel namesakes. Marvel, who has their own multiplayer online game in the oven, did not like the concept of their fans being allowed to play as their favourite characters in another game, hence the suit. After all, no one but Marvel should be allowed to dilute the value of their “franchise” characters either in movies or in video games.
From the (extremely) ambiguous text, there is little that can be deciphered on the exact nature of the settlement.
“The parties’ settlement allows them all to continue to develop and sell exciting and innovative products, but does not reduce the players’ ability to express their creativity in making and playing original and exciting characters. Therefore, no changes to City of Heroes® or City of Villains’™ character creation engine are part of the settlement. The parties have agreed that protecting intellectual property rights is critically important and each will continue aggressively to protect such rights in accordance with all applicable laws.”
What does it mean? Not much, but let’s see.
There won’t be any changes (at least not those forced by Marvel) of the character building mechanisms. However, it does look like NCSoft will enforce Marvel Intellectual Properties, meaning the aforementioned Sp1d3rm4nn and wulferine will probably be banned on sight.
What I find ridiculous in all this, is that by punishing their fans for their support, Marvel is using the same skewed logic of the record companies. If and when Marvel will release their online game, their fans will join the game in hordes, despite City of Heroes character tools, and despite the fact that they WON’T BE ABLE TO PLAY AS A MARVEL CHARACTER IN THE GAME. I mean, you don’t REALLY think Marvel is going to allow any player the right to play as Spiderman, or Wolverine, do you? It’s “an online gaming experience set in the Marvel Universe” after all. As if living in the same block as Captain America means something. But, again, the fans will arrive. City of Heroes or not. The same way fans go to the Marvel movies, despite the fact that movies like The Incredibles did a much better job (and presented characters that were pretty thin ripoffs of Marvel characters while at it).
I do wonder what will Marvel do when the Sp1d3rm4ns and wulferines will start appearing in their own game. Will they start banning players for portraying Marvel characters in a Marvel game? That would be nice. I just hope that the Marvel employee that is going to play Spiderman will forget to turn on his invincibility flag.