It seems surreal, but it is that time of the year again when we wax nostalgic about the year that was. Well, maybe this year is a bit less “wax nostalgic” and more of a “kill it, kill it with fire” kind of response to the particular year that 2020 turned out to be.
In a year that will be remembered here in the United States for deep ideological divides, temper tantrums of presidential proportions, and a devastating disease itself that in some ways stopped the whole world from turning, there wasn’t much space left for gaming companies to get into legal shenanigans. Compared to 2019, 2020 was pretty much dead on the legal front, which is good or bad depending on your outlook.
However, that doesn’t mean that Lawful Neutral wasn’t able to dig into some tasty topics. I started out the year with a dive into everyone’s favorite mismanaged MMO: ArcheAge. I took a critical eye into what exactly went down that lead to a consumer class-action lawsuit suit against Trion Worlds. While the settlement was touted by some as a win for gamers’ rights, my critical analysis uncovered that the win was less an endorsement of consumer rights and more of an indictment against the gross incompetence of Trion Worlds.
I followed up a few months later with a review of a landmark case, MDY v. Blizzard, where I examined cheating as copyright infringement under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. It’s not the most exhilarating topic on earth, the DMCA is often misunderstood as it applies to cheating, and MDY v. Blizzard was a good example of that.
Personally speaking, I then hit a bit of a slump on Lawful Neutral. Partially because of day-job aggro, and partially because of lack of meaningful legal topics to cover, it was a few months before we were able to put out another piece. I was still writing, though – I wrote several Soapboxes, and one even generated my very first Reddit hate thread — it’s a rite of passage in any sort of gaming related writing!
The biggest gaming-law news of 2020 was of course the Epic v. Apple drama, which I covered because of the wide-reaching implications of the lawsuit across the gaming sphere, despite not being directly related to MMOs. The case is still being decided, and we shouldn’t expect any real outcomes until much later in 2021. But the basic premise is that Epic is suing Apple for its anti-competitive businesses practices resulting from the stranglehold that Apple holds on the AppStore for all Apple devices and the stranglehold on payment processing.
In a full on schoolyard recess fight, the case is most notable because Apple and Epic started acting like tweens, using increasingly bombastic and over-the-top rhetoric on each other to try and curry public favor, including one particularly absurd statement calling Fortnite a trojan, which it is not. Since I wrote the original piece, not much has happened other than a judge throwing out the claims of theft from Apple against Epic. But this isn’t a huge surprise as Apple didn’t really have any legal ground on that particular claim anyway; it was mostly over-the-top rhetoric more for the ravenous fanboys (and they are legion). But of course, we’ll see as the rest of the suit and countersuits wear on who emerges victorious.
There were a few other stories that broke that I haven’t covered here in-depth yet, either because of the timing or that there isn’t enough meat to them yet to break out into a full article. First up is a topic that I’ll likely be covering in 2021: the CD Projekt Red investor lawsuit, filed on Christmas Eve. The lawsuit alleges that CDPR made misleading comments about the performance of the Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox One and PS4. Nothing has happened here yet beyond the filing, but this is likely to be an interesting case.
Another topic that is of particular interest to us that I’ll most definitely be tackling in 2021 is the passage of the CASE Act, which was roped into the US COVID-19 Relief Bill. Despite broad criticism, the act passed and will have a dramatic impact on streaming, sharing memes, and many other things we do on a daily basis. So happy holidays with that one too.
Outside of that, it was a pretty quiet year from this one perspective. I have a feeling that 2021 is going to be a lot more exciting. We can expect lots of movement on Epic v. Apple, the CASE Act, lootboxes, and privacy law, just to mention a few.
You can check out the full list of legal topics we covered this year on MassivelyOP below.
Crytek’s latest legal maneuvering against CIG suggests Squadron 42 won’t release this summer
ArcheAge players score $420,000 in ancient class action suit over consumer law violations
CIG fires back in response to Crytek’s request to pause Squadron 42 lawsuit
Lawful Neutral: Examining the ArcheAge class action lawsuit – and what it means for gamers
Riot Games’ $10M settlement could climb to $400M due to California state agency filings
Blitzchung: No regrets for speaking up for Hong Kong despite Hearthstone suspension
MMO Business Roundup: Tencent, Ubisoft, Rockstar, energy, Creativerse, and Cold Iron Studios
US Court of Appeals upholds decision that a RuneScape player’s muting did not violate free speech
Kentucky high school athletic commission bans Fortnite from high school esports competition
Lawful Neutral: Examining DDoS attacks and their impact on MMOs
New French lawsuits accuse EA’s FIFA franchise of promoting illegal gambling
Lawful Neutral: Examining the infamous MMO lockbox, 2020 edition
The IRS deleted guidelines citing Fortnite’s Vbucks as virtual currency like Bitcoin
Star Citizen explores microTech’s moons and Anvil Carrack as the Crytek lawsuit reaches a settlement
The mayor of Boston asks Sony to reconsider withdrawing from PAX East
Activision is trying to locate its Call of Duty leaker via Reddit subpoenas
Plaintiffs in the Riot Games class action discrimination lawsuit take up new counsel, withdraw settlement plans
Lawful Neutral: Cheating, copyright law, and the WoW Glider lawsuit
Lootbox regulation recommended by Australian parliamentary committee
Popular Chinese MMO JX3 Online will close in Taiwan following COVID-19 protest
Call of Duty wins a ‘first amendment’ lawsuit, Tencent sues cloud company for hosting its games
Make My MMO: Following Chronicles of Elyria reports, state attorney general addresses crowdfunding scams
Player who claims a mobile RPG’s gacha mechanics were falsely advertised loses court case
Lawful Neutral: Leakers, trade secrets, and lawsuits in the online gaming world
ROSE Online’s Japanese operator filed for bankruptcy while promising new content
Cartoon Network successfully shut down FusionFall’s rogue servers
Ubisoft takes Google and Apple to court over an alleged Rainbow Six Siege mobile clone
Australian retailer admits to misleading customers about refunds for Fallout 76
Sony will need to pay Australia $2.4 million in fines due to digital refund obfuscation
English lawmakers may classify lockboxes as straight-up gambling
Class action lawsuit alleges Apple promotes gambling via lootboxes through its storefront
Who really owns RuneScape? A new Chinese lawsuit in the UK is poised to find out
Pakistan becomes the latest country to crack down on PUBG for the children
Chronicles of Elyria backers have now hired a lawyer to file a class action suit
Ubisoft devs speak out on their ‘inability to feel safe or protected within’ the studio
Former Bungie composer Martin O’Donnell calls the deal with Activision ‘bad from the start’
Chinese fraudsters posed as a famous chili sauce brand to get free keys out of Tencent — and it worked
Lawful Neutral: No really, who owns Jagex and RuneScape?
EU study recommends taking on lockboxes as a consumer issue rather than a gambling issue
Epic Games is suing Apple (and probably Google too) over its payment monopoly
Epic Games could lose almost $50M every month the Fortnite Apple/Google lawsuits go on
This is the weirdest Fortnite lawsuit you’re going to read about all week
The $420K ArcheAge class action lawsuit settlement is finally paying out
So Epic Games is taking on Apple and Google – but can it win?
Apple’s retaliatory measures against Epic Games threaten Unreal Engine, not just Fortnite
MMO Business Roundup: Gamers have launched a new class action gambling lawsuit against EA
Chronicles of Elyria fans have filed the pre-litigation paperwork necessary to sue Soulbound Studios
Epic’s new #FreeFortnite Cup promo is another cynical dig on Apple
Epic-Apple lawsuit filings reveal Epic’s pre-suit efforts at securing competing payment options
Microsoft general manager says Apple’s block of Unreal Engine ‘will harm game creators and gamers’
Epic secures early win against Apple for Unreal Engine, but Fortnite remains barred
MMO Business Roundup: Fortnite iOS’s lost parity, Halo Infinite’s debunked rumors, Funcom’s movie
Apple officially terminates Epic’s dev account, cutting Fortnite iOS and Mac players from future updates
Path of Exile’s Heist expansion lets players infiltrate Rogue Harbor on September 18
Path of Exile’s Heist expansion will launch on Mac with full crossplay
Kids MMO developer Age of Learning must pay the FTC $10M to settle ‘dark patterns’ complaint
Google seeks to dismiss Epic’s lawsuit as Epic talks up the Fortnite ‘Metaverse’
Massively Uplifting: MMOs from LOTRO to ESO bring comfort, healing, camaraderie, and charity
Apple’s new countersuit decries Epic’s ‘subterfuge’ and ‘brazen’ rule-breaking with Fortnite ‘Trojan horse’
Apple reverses its decision to block ‘Sign In with Apple’ functionality for Fortnite after Apple user blowback
Tim Sweeney insists Epic Games’ legal battle is meant to stop a monopoly
Apple argues Epic’s lawsuit is ‘part of a marketing campaign’ to ‘reinvigorate interest in Fortnite’
Massively Overthinking: How to deal with cheater scum in MMORPGs
The US government is now probing Epic and Riot in relation to Tencent’s data security
Epic ends support for Fortnite: Save the World on Mac because Apple won’t sign patch updates
SuperData August 2020: Fall Guys dethroned League of Legends, pushed WoW to its lowest rank in over a year
City of Heroes rebuild project SEGS expects to have an alpha by the end of the year
MMO Business Roundup: FarmVille’s sunset, Netmarble’s acquisitions, Intrepid hiring, WoW esports, PUBG India
Epic/Apple lawsuit proceeds to trial by jury as early as July 2021, Fortnite still barred on iOS
Epic Games and Apple both ask to have their case be heard by the judge, not a jury
WoW Factor: Shadowlands’ delay is a genuinely good thing – for everyone
Soulbound Studios insists work on Chronicles of Elyria continues in pre-litigation paperwork response
Development of Reckful’s MMORPG Everland is on hold pending probate court resolution
City of Heroes’ SEGS rebuild project releases a pre-alpha version of its engine
Epic Games versus Apple case will go to judge-led bench trial in May 2021
The Game Archaeologist: Deadlands Legends, the western MMO that never saw the light of day
Judge ensures Epic’s Unreal Engine remains on Apple’s iOS while warning of ‘serious ramifications’ for consoles
Perfect Ten: 10 notable MMO developers that shut their doors
Canadian class action lawsuit argues EA’s lootboxes constitute illegal gambling
Epic’s latest legal clapback says it couldn’t steal from Apple something Apple never owned
Counterstrike: Global Offensive players in Australia get a year-long ban for betting on themselves
Lawful Neutral: The Epic vs. Apple lawsuit – when titans are tweens
Judge enforces a Dutch government order for EA to remove FIFA lockboxes or face over $11M in fines
World of Warcraft multiboxing just got a whole lot harder thanks to Blizzard’s new policy
What’s going on with Epic Games’ lawsuit against Google?
iOS players may be able to play Fortnite after all thanks to Nvidia’s cloud gaming service
Judge dismisses Apple’s claim of theft by Epic Games in ongoing litigation
Epic is suing Apple in Australia over Fortnite as Apple halves its profit cut from indie devs
MMO Business Roundup: Activision’s Netflix lawsuit, Tolkien’s house, Roblox in China, and more
MMO Business Roundup: Twitch’s anti-hate policies, Cyberpunk’s concurrency, and the CASE Act
Ask Mo: The hits and misses of MassivelyOP’s 2020 predictions
Chronicles of Elyria is still in development, new video from Soulbound vows
China’s video game regulators introduce a three-tier age rating system for games
Life is Feudal MMO announces imminent closure, cites ‘reasons beyond [its] control’
Massively OP’s 2020 Awards: Best MMO Player Housing
Into the Super-verse: A heroic year of superhero MMO development
Cyberpunk 2077 discovers a new game-ending save bug and investors consider a class-action suit
Massively OP Podcast Episode 302: Your MMO mail, our MMO opinions
CD Projekt Red investors make good on Cyberpunk 2077 class-action lawsuit threat
Every other week, Andy McAdams
braves the swarms of buzzwords and esoteric legalese of the genre to bring you Massively OP’s Lawful Neutral
column, an in-depth analysis of the legal and business issues facing MMOs. Have a topic you want to see covered? Shoot him an email