Welcome to the FlipSide, where the good and the bad in video games collide. Every week, I will recap one positive news story, one negative news story, and then explain what I think about both. Let’s begin this week with the bad…
John Carmack is taking his turn in attacking ZeniMax Media in a battle that goes back to May 2014. John is suing ZeniMax for their refusal for to pay John more than $22.5 million from the acquisition of id Software back in 2009. This money would the final part of his share of the deal that Zenimax struck with the three id Software co-founders. John claims that ZeniMax isn’t paying the final sum due to “sour grapes” of the last couple years between the two. ZeniMax is yet to respond publicly to the lawsuit, but Carmack’s lawyers state in the lawsuit that ZeniMax is not going to get Carmack his money in a timely manner. This lawsuit is another chapter in the ongoing battle between Carmack and ZeniMax Media.
Although this battle was recently resolved in court, ZeniMax sued Facebook, who is the parent company of Oculus VR, back in 2014 for stealing trade secrets and copyright infringement. ZeniMax stated this had happened when John Carmack left ZeniMax for Oculus on August 7, 2013 to become their CTO. After the acquisition of Oculus VR by Facebook in 2014, the lawsuit was officially filed against Facebook for these claims. Facebook accused ZeniMax of suing only because Facebook had acquired Oculus and not ZeniMax. Through the court proceedings, it was revealed that Carmack did indeed steal lines of code from id Software’s VR project. ZeniMax didn’t win the $2 billion it originally sued for, but it ended up taking home $500 million for breaking a non-disclosure agreement and copyright infringement among other things. However, the jury did not find Oculus guilty of “illegally misappropriating” trade secrets, which Oculus took as a big win.
The battle between John Carmack and ZeniMax studio has turned into one hot mess. No one looks good coming out of all this. Oculus have been found guilty of stealing code from ZeniMax, which is illegal. John shouldn’t have done that and he knows that now. However, this may lead ZeniMax to file a court order to halt sales of Oculus products. That would turn into yet another ugly court battle between the two parties. Going to court costs money and I highly doubt that is the place Oculus and Facebook want to put their money. Those funds could be going to R&D for making better products and getting ahead of the curve of their competition like the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR.
ZeniMax Media may look worse in the public eye after all these lawsuits. They seem greedy and the longer they drag out these court appearances the more I believe what Facebook claimed about ZeniMax in the original lawsuit from 2014. Also, if it is true that ZeniMax is indeed holding back on paying John Carmack his money because of these “sour grapes,” then that is wrong. The original deal for id Software has absolutely nothing to do with these court proceedings. There is no excuse to doing that no matter how much you don’t want to pay the guy. A deal is a deal and that is that.
I hate seeing ZeniMax Media in this kind of bad spotlight. Bethesda Softworks is one of my favorite developers and I hate the idea they are owned by these greedy individuals. Usually I find myself relating the idea of a greedy publisher to EA or Activision. I never really thought about ZeniMax like that until the lawsuit with Facebook started to get into court. I hate seeing this from them and I hope these lawsuits come to an end soon.
However on the FlipSide this week!
Psyonix vice-president Jeremy Dunham has expressed the developer’s plans for Rocket league. Psyonix isn’t planning on making a sequel to the game anytime soon. Instead, Jeremy stressed the importance of not splintering the 29 million registered users. Psyonix wants to make this game a platform and we have seen them doing that. Since the game’s initial release on July 7, 2015, Psyonix has released a plethora of new DLC, both for free and at a cost in various forms. It appears that trend will continue with the game going into the foreseeable future.
If I was in charge of development for Rocket League at this point, I would take on a similar strategy. What Jeremy said about splintering the 29 million users is very true. Of course not all of those users paid for the game because of the PlayStation Plus game on of the month benefit, but it can be very easy to earn money off of those users. They have released so many different cars and customization items that can be bought. For everyone who has played there game, I guarantee there is some kind of item that would be worth $1.99 to them. There was an expansion pack that I bought for around $5 shortly after release because the cars were cool looking. The DLC is even bringing in licensed items. Rocket League has formed a partnership with Batman v. Superman, Back to the Future, and the NBA for various content. However, they are doing the platform style correct by not charging for everything.
Every new map and new mode has been free to every player. The new maps aren’t just a new fresh of paint on the traditional arena either. While, there are multiple new maps that do that, Psyonix has released a number of maps that bring new characteristics to the field, mostly in the layout of the arena. Some of these more unique maps have found their way into the ranked rotation of maps. When I play Rocket League, I usually jump right into ranked play, but there are all kinds of new modes that have been released since launch. Some of them include hockey and basketball. More are on the way too. Psyonix has recently released a trailer for an upcoming DLC pack that comes with a free new game mode called Dropshot. Psyonix is doing right by it’s players and they continue to release DLC in a very well received manner that includes plenty of free stuff with the things that cost money.
Rocket League is always a game I keep coming back to. It seems that will continue to be the case as time goes on. Psyonix is a great developer I hope doesn’t run into a messy situations like we are seeing currently with Oculus and ZeniMax. Lawsuits in the gaming industry never seem to turn out good for either party. I don’t want this newest lawsuit dragging on the same length of time as the last one did between ZeniMax and Facebook. Only time will tell if that will be the case. I will be back next week with more of the good and the bad in the world of video games.