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Slitherine loses "tens of thousands of dollars" in EA Battlefield dispute

Multiple titles put on hold before strategy publisher settles over copyright issue

Strategy publisher Slitherine has admitted it lost "tens of thousands of dollars" due to a legal dispute with Electronic Arts over the use of the word "Battlefield" in a game title.

The UK publisher had secured a licensing deal with the BBC History department for Battlefield Academy, based on a flash game, and released a PC game aimed at a casual strategy audience.

"It was a big success for us, it was an approachable war game that found an audience outside of our niche gaming fans," Marco Minoli, marketing director at Slitherine, told GamesIndustry.biz. "We were just about to announce the first add-on when we received a letter from EA's lawyers and at first we laughed."

A month after release in August 2010, Electronic Arts claimed the game was infringing copyright, instantly putting a planned expansion, PSP, Mac, iPad, Xbox 360 and DS versions of the game on hold.

What we learned was copyright infringement is based on how deep your pockets are, not who's right and wrong.

Marco Minoli, Slitherine

"We were caught in the middle because it was a BBC brand. They've been really helpful but the BBC wasn't prepared to start at fight with EA for a minor wargame," he added. "But we couldn't change the name because it was a licence we acquired."

While the issue was debated between company lawyers, production on the series stopped, costing the strategy publisher dearly until a settlement was reached in July this year.

"We decided that for purely financial reasons it was best to reach an accommodation with EA. It caused a lot of problems and has been difficult, we had to rebrand the game entirely. It cost us tens of thousands of dollars and we lost a big commercial opportunity. We missed out on the PSP game, it was already in submission at Sony, but it took so long that now we're trying for the PS Vita instead."

The series has now been renamed BBC Battle Academy, and the company hopes to reignite interest in the game with new demos and add-on Operation Market Garden, but Minoli admits "when you lose momentum like that it's difficult to get back."

He added: "I guess what we learned was copyright infringement is based on how deep your pockets are, not who's right and wrong."

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Matt Martin

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Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.

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