Video games are big business. It's a multi-billion dollar industry that includes the most profitable entertainment product of all time in Grand Theft Auto 5, and it continues to grow with each and every gaming generation. With Google considering entering the video game console market, there's every chance that things could get even hotter.
With this success, of course, come the complications of big business. There's a lot at stake within gaming, and as such there have been a wide variety of lawsuits and legal disputes over matters such as intellectual property rights and compensation. Over time, some of these have become more important - or gained more controversy - than others.
Because of this, Screen Rant has dug deep to find the most controversial video game lawsuits of all time. The following lawsuits not only caused a stir when first announced, but also in some cases left a long-lasting impression on the video game industry as a whole. Read on to find out more.
10. Manuel Noriega vs. Activision Blizzard
When Treyarch was developing Call of Duty: Black Ops II, the studio was probably not expecting to be on the receiving end of the ire of a former dictator. Nonetheless, the second game in the Black Ops subseries of Call of Duty caught the attention of Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama. Noriega, who was in prison at the time for the crimes committed during his six year rule of the country, sued publisher Activision Blizzard for the use of his likeness.
Noriega's lawsuit was certainly a bizarre one, particularly when he suggested that the game depicted him as "the culprit of numerous fictional heinous crimes" including murder. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lawsuit was thrown out in October 2014, meaning that a potential freedom of speech legal minefield over the depiction of historical figures in games was avoided. That said, don't expect to see Noriega returning in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout Mode.
9. Bethesda vs. Warner Bros. Interactive
Although an extremely recent lawsuit, this one has the potential to be one of the most controversial of all time, in part due to the sheer profile of those involved. Back in the summer of 2015, Bethesda hit gold with its mobile game Fallout Shelter, successfully converting the world of Fallout into a mobile game format. However, when the company saw a similar game based on Westworld from Warner Bros. and developer Behaviour Interactive, who co-developed Fallout Shelter, the company was not pleased, and promptly sued Warner Bros. with a strongly-worded suit.
The lawsuit went beyond just implying that the similarities between the games were too close for comfort, however. Instead, Bethesda suggested that the Westworld game was reusing code from Fallout Shelter, calling the game a "blatant rip-off." Since then, Warner Bros. has hit back with a rebuttal of their own, so expect this one to rumble on for a while yet.
8. Bethesda vs. Mojang
Bethesda is no stranger to a lawsuit, however, as shown by a previous legal battle from the company. In March 2011, Minecraft developer Mojang announced its second game, a collectible card game called Scrolls. However, apparently the name of the game put Bethesda on edge, thanks to their own series The Elder Scrolls, and the company sued Mojang over how close the names of the games were.
This caught the ire of some of the gaming community, with some seeing the lawsuit as an unnecessary flexing of muscles from Bethesda to try and stop an issue that was never there in the first place. However, the two companies did come to an agreement - Mojang did not trademark the name Scrolls, with Bethesda allowing the name to be held as long as the game never became a competitor to The Elder Scrolls in general.
7. Atari vs. Philips
Pac-Man is undoubtedly one of the most important video games of all time, becoming a standout success in arcades and leading potential gamers into the hobby in droves. Unsurprisingly, this led to a number of imitators, some of which straying very close to the Pac-Man formula. One of these games was KC Munchkin! from Phillips, a game that hit the Odyssey home console in 1981.
At the time, Pac-Man had yet to make its official release on home consoles, but Atari nonetheless had the exclusive rights to the game on home devices. Although Phillips survived the first ruling on the lawsuit, an appeal then saw the court find in Atari's favor. This particular lawsuit set a major precedent for copyright cases within video games as a whole, but in this instance led to the removal of KC Munchkin! from store shelves.
6. Epic Games vs. Silicon Knights
The legal battle between Epic Games and Too Human developer Silicon Knights was long and complex. Initially, Silicon Knights took Epic to court over the licensing of Unreal Engine 3, with the developer claiming that Epic was in breach of contract by withholding information about the engine itself, leading to the studio needing to build its own engine. However, before too long the tables were turned, and a countersuit led the courts to discover that Silicon Knights' own engine was using thousands of lines of code from the Unreal Engine.
The result for Silicon Knights was catastrophic. Not only did the court find in favor of Epic Games, but it also awarded Epic $9.2 million in damages and ordered Silicon Knights to destroy the unsold copies of any games that used this Unreal Engine code. Following the loss of the court case, Silicon Knights filed for bankruptcy in 2014.
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