At the time of the Kickstarter launch for Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins – Demon World, Phantasm’s submission for the license was apparently in review, and therefore was not confirmed. That’s what it read on the Kickstarter, at least. Unsurprisingly, Capcom have since gone into a legal dispute with Phantasm over the use of the Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins franchise, and the Kickstarter has been cancelled following a DMCA notice from Capcom.
“…clearly violate Capcom’s exclusive rights under copyright law to create derivative works of the Property.”
To make matters worse, in the DMCA notice, Capcom says that they don’t have any knowledge of ever being contacted by Phantasm about acquiring the license to the Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins franchise. The full statement is below, as provided by GamesIndustry.biz:
“The project acknowledges its goal is to create an update to the Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins franchise based upon the characters, stories, music and other copyrightable elements of the Property,” said Capcom’s DMCA notice.
“Such unauthorized update would clearly violate Capcom’s exclusive rights under copyright law to create derivative works of the Property. It would also violate Capcom’s trademark rights in the Property. The project admits it will need Capcom’s permission to proceed and has not received one. To its knowledge, Capcom has not been contacted by the project.”
I pointed out at the time of the Kickstarter’s launch that it was foolish on Phantasm’s part to attempt to raise funds for a game that they didn’t even know if they’d be legally allowed to produce. But to then find out that they may not have even submitted for the license fee at all? Well, that’s just beyond ridiculous.
Of course, it’s unclear as to whether Phantasm did send a submission that Capcom didn’t see for some reason, but Phantasm did say that the submission was in review on their Kickstarter, but the fact is that it actually wasn’t if Capcom’s DMCA notice is any indication.
Phantasm did have a back-up plan, which was outlined as follows on the Kickstarter:
“Capcom only promised to review our submission, and nothing more. We have only discussed a possibility of a developer’s license if the game is up to their standards. We do not currently have one and may not get one. If we can’t secure a developers license, we will change King Arthur and the name of the game, but that is all. Thankfully, werewolves, demons, skeletons, reapers, ghosts, goblins, etc. are all public domain. The modifications will be so minor, the changes will be easy and will not change our release schedule.”
By the looks of it, even making these slight changes to the game may not be legally possible. I expect Capcom don’t want a game created in the likeness to the Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins franchise at all and could probably find a way of shutting it down, even without the official names from the license being used.
At the time of the Ghost ‘N’ Goblins Kickstarter’s launch, a couple of people suggested that a game development studio wouldn’t take that kind of risk, and that they probably knew they would have the license during the Kickstarter at some point, and would announce it as such. The suggestion was that it was probably a publicity stunt as no one would believe that a studio would be so foolish in its actions.
“…relying entirely on acquiring public interest in the Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins reboot in order to acquire a license”
Assuming it was all a publicity stunt is sound thinking, really. You could see that it gave Phantasm the ability to say to prospective backers that raising the funds they were after may encourage Capcom to give them the Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins license a little more. It seems that Phantasm were relying entirely on acquiring public interest in the Ghosts ‘N’ Goblins reboot in order to acquire a license, assuming that it would woo Capcom over, presumably.
I wanted to point this whole scenario out just in the hopes that it doesn’t happen again. Do not try to raise funds for a game you still need to acquire the licensing rights for. Luckily, the Kickstarter has been cancelled before it finished, saving people from donating money towards something that would have been disputed and cancelled. That would have caused a lot of unnecessary hassle.