Today when I opened my email my heart sank.
I’ve been following the progress of a certain indie adventure game for eight years. The Silver Lining, produced by Phoenix Online Studios was a fan-made game based on the King’s Quest series. The game’s development has been rocky. It’s been delayed by, among other things, a volunteer part-time development staff and by the King’s Quest intellectual property changing owners. In 2005 Vivendi Universal, who then owned the rights to King’s Quest, issued Phoenix Online a Cease and Desist letter. Later after negotiations with Vivendi, a non-commercial fan license was granted to the development studio. Work on TSL resumed. Soon a demo of the game was released and things were looking pretty good.
Recently the King’s Quest IP was acquired by Activision. After months of new negotiations between Phoenix Online and Activision, Activision has decided that they’re not interested in granting a non-commercial license to The Silver Lining. They’ve issued a Cease and Desist letter. All work on TSL is being shut down and the game won’t be released.
As I’ve written before, the original King’s Quest games are what got me into adventure gaming. The original games, remakes of Sierra On-line games, and The Silver Lining itself are what inspired me to start writing about games in general.
It’s been a long while since a fully licensed King’s Quest game has been released. King’s Quest 8 was released in 1998 and frankly its status as an actual King’s Quest game is highly debatable since it was so very different from every other game in the series. King’s Quest 7 was released in 1994. Depending on your opinion it’s been at least 12 years since a King’s Quest game has been developed.
Activision’s decision is baffling to me. They’re a large corporation protecting their interests, I get that. But protecting what? Are they coming out with a new King’s Quest game? They only recently released Sierra On-Line’s classics like King’s Quest and Space Quest for sale through Steam and on GOG.com. And even then that was in response to the re-releases of the Monkey Island games.
Phoenix Online was building a free game that was to serve old fans like myself. How does TSL do anything other than build buzz for the series and sell even more of the original games? The same audience who would be interested in TSL would fall over themselves to get a new licensed King’s Quest game if Activision ever published one. How is allowing this game to be made a bad thing?
Activision is a business and I’d prefer not to paint them as the bad guy. But their decision smells of greed and corporate heartlessness. I hope they see that there’s still a large amount of King’s Quest fans out there. If Activision decides that a new King’s Quest game isn’t commercially viable, it needs to grant non-commercial fan licenses. We fans have all played the original games hundreds of times and are just looking for further adventures in the land of Daventry (and beyond).
I’m so sorry for the developers at Phoenix Online Studios. I hope all their hard work doesn’t end up being for nothing. But right now, The Silver Lining will never be played.