The future of customisable gaming content is hanging in balance right now, following Marvel launching a lawsuit against South Korea-based NCSoft: alleging copyright infringement in the Online action game City of Heroes.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles, states that City of Heroes enables players to customise their characters, with many predictably opting to play as Hulk and X-Men, with both properties being specifically referenced. Marvel singles out a game feature for creating "Öa gigantic, green, 'science-based tanker'-type hero that moves and behaves nearly identically to the Hulk.Ē
SPOnG believes that Marvelís suit is likely to fail, although City of Heroes isnít shy about pushing players towards the copying of existing characters. However, if the suit succeeds, the development community will be forced to drop player-customisable content from future game projects.
The implications could be dire. Right now there could be a whole host of similar cases being filed, with car manufacturers, athletes and celebrities able to argue that their likeness and/or properties are being used by players without permission.
The defining aspect of this case is the simple fact the players are using Marvel likenesses on a wide scale.
The timing of the suit is somewhat cynical and reflects what could be Marvelís anxiety concerning its own online MMO title: which is to be a co-project with Vivendi that has gone off the radar of late.
Whatever the outcome, weíll let you know.