Ragnarok Game Seek Millions in Damages
Rune II is a game that some early reviews described as Skyrim on steroids, and according to publishers Ragnarok Game, that was enough for Bethesda to sabotage the game, and they’ve now been implicated in a lawsuit where Ragnarok Game are hoping to get $100,000,000.
Rune II is described as a Viking brawler, and sees you travelling the land of Midgar to crush our foes and work towards dismembering Loki, the Norse God of Mischief. The game was publicly abandoned by developers Human Head Studios on release day, leaving publishers Ragnarok Game with a buggy game which they had to take responsibility for – or so, the lawsuit alleges, as they never provided the publishers with the final source code for the game.
Immediately after Human Head Studios was shuttered, senior members of staff began to work with Bethesda, forming Roundhouse Studios – a subsidiary of the company. Ragnarok allege that Bethesda were given the chance to play the game prior to its release, and were scared by the similarities to Skyrim, working to actively sabotage the title to preserve its cash cow’s reputation.
Of course, Skyrim has been out for nine years and three console generations at this point, with an upcoming PS5 and Series X to look forward to. Does a game that’s been successful enough to still sell consistently almost a decade after its initial release need to benefit from sabotage?
According to Kellen Voyer, founder of Voyer Law Corporation: “When the defendants have deep pockets, it makes complete sense to seek a large amount as damages. The fact that they are seeking damages of $100 million is just an ask—real payout depends on the jury finding in their favor and agreeing with the damage amount sought. Plus, any damage award that large would likely be challenged on appeal. Many cases ultimately don’t go to trial so seeking a large amount for damages provides a good starting point for a settlement, which would most likely be a smaller amount.”
Voyer also claims that the important thing is the possible motive that Bethesda would have: namely, the repeated claims that Rune II was a threat to The Elder Scrolls franchise: “The claim that Rune 2 was a ‘threat to Skyrim franchise’ adds to the claim’s narrative by providing an underlying motive for all the other alleged conduct. Why go through the alleged plotting and planning, prior to release, and the very real risk of a lawsuit (as seen here) just to acquire a development team unless there’s a material benefit to Bethesda, beyond just the team?”
What Kellen says makes a certain degree of sense, but it’s important to remember that The Elder Scrolls is one of the biggest franchises in gaming right now, and Skyrim is the most popular game in the franchise. There’s room for more than one high fantasy RPG franchise, and had Rune II been a success, it’s unlikely that it would have made a significant dent in Bethesda’s pockets.
Do Ragnarok Game think $100,000,000 is the likely outcome? Well, it’s a tall order – Bethesda have deep pockets, but that also means they can afford some expensive lawyers. It’s likely that, like Voyer says, this is just a starting point to work down from.