Activision (ATVI) thinks it has a hit on its hands: The upcoming DJ Hero, due out later this year. But the company’s aggressive efforts to avoid a Rock Band – Guitar Hero type of faceoff, where two very similar music games were on the market at the same time, has prompted a lawsuit.
Publisher Genius Products, which has its own turntable music game Scratch: The Ultimate DJ in the works, has sued Activision for breach of contract and unfair competition.
Genius and Activision have something of a tortured history. When Activision heard Genius had development team 7 Studios working on Scratch, Activision attempted to buy the game, presumably to kill Scratch and keep competition for DJ Hero off the market. But Genius refused to play ball, and in separate negotiations Activision acquired all of 7 Studios outright.
Which gets to the heart of the suit: 7 Studios still had a contract to deliver Scratch to Genius, but Genius contends the now Activision-owned studio “began conspiring to prevent Scratch from getting to market on a timely basis by withholding work product, code and the proprietary game controller.”
We won’t try to handicap the case. But a Genius victory in court could turn into a headache for Activision.
Genius is not only asking for “substantial damages,” the publisher wants Scratch back. If Genius gets Scratch — and if Genius can get Scratch to market near the release of DJ Hero — then it could be Rock Band – Guitar Hero all over again — with turntables instead of plastic guitars. Just the situation Activision was trying to avoid.