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BitComposer Games, the publisher of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat in the US and Europe, had claimed yesterday it had acquired the license to the franchise and was planning new games. That didn't sit well with developer GSC Game World, which claims it holds the trademark to the games.
In an email sent to Gamasutra, Eugene Kuchma of GSC Game World noted that the trademark filings still show GSC's CEO in possession of the license. "From time to time news on the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand purchase by this or that company appear over the Internet," read an e-mail from Kuchma. "We have doubts regarding the mentioned product by BitComposer (the publisher of S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat in some territories), since the latter has significant debts in terms of fulfilling the obligations under the existing contract between our companies."
BitComposer defended its position, saying: "We hold the license for PC and video games from the Strugatsky brothers," he said. He reiterated, "The owner of the license was the Strugatsky brothers. As far as we know, GSC never had the license for S.T.A.L.K.E.R."
However, a marketing director at the Russian games company Nival may have discovered another wrinkle that complicates matters. BitComposer may have actually bought the rights to the novel universe, not the game franchise rights themselves. That would give them the ability to make something similar to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., even if they couldn't use the name.
After S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 was cancelled, former members of developer GSC Game World founded Vostok Games to continue the ideals of the open-world survival shooter series with Survarium. As for the actual S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand, though, it wasn't quite clear what was happening. Shady rumours said Skyrim developer Bethesda was sniffing around, but publisher bitComposer today announced that it has grabbed the games license and plans to make more S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
"S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a reputable brand with a long history of success. To date, the series has sold many millions of units worldwide," bitComposer executive Wolfgang Duhr said in today's announcement. "Naturally, we'd like to tap into the success of this series, and we see a great deal of potential for the future."
bitComposer published the third and almost final S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game, Call of Pripyat (pictured above), in Europe. Who exactly it'll draft to develop the new games is a mystery for now. One might hope it'll find its way back to Vostok, who established its own new setting in Survarium after failing to secure the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game rights.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is based upon the sci-fi novel 'Roadside Picnic' by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, which was also the inspiration for the 1979 Russian movie Stalker.
RussianUkrainian blogger and marketing man Sergey Galyonkin – who tipped off the closure of the STALKER 2 project earlier this year – has claimed that Bethesda now have the rights to make a publish a STALKER game. They apparently do not> have rights to the extended universe. GSC owner Sergei Grigorovich has not sold the brand, but apparently Bethesda could now make a game based on the property with their own technology. We’ll report more on this as we get it.
We’ve contacted Bethesda for a statement. UPDATE: Currently they are saying “No comment.”
After the cancellation of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, members of the dev team at GSC Game World went on to found a new studio and start their own irradiated shooter-RPG, Survarium. Yet, according to a fresh rumour, the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series may live on at Bethesda.
A strange rumour indeed, but the source has been reliable before. Nival marketing director Sergey Galyonkin was the chap who broke news of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2's woes, and now he claims a little bird whispered in his ear that Bethesda has picked up the rights to publish a S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game (via Rock, Paper, Shotgun). GSC founder Sergiy Grygorovych still owns the brand, though.
According to Galonkin's source, Bethesda will put out a multiplatform S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game built upon its own tech, though Fallout 3 and Skyrim developer Bethesda Game Studios wouldn't necessarily be the team behind it.
This isn't the first time rumours about Bethesda dabbling in S.T.A.L.K.ing have swirled. They were denied in April, but something may have changed since then. Bethesda's declining to comment on this latest report, as it usually does with rumours.
Story image from S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Call of Pripyat.