The whole Friday the 13th franchise has been in a state of legal purgatory for a while now, as the original writer of the original Friday the 13th movie has been fighting for ownership of the characters he created back in the 80s. As a result of that trial, not only could no new media for the franchise be produced by rights-holders Horror, Inc., but that hammer eventually came down upon Gun Media, publisher of Friday the 13th: The Game. That meant that while the developers could maintain the game by way of things like bug fixes and maintenance to keep the servers up (and of course sell new copies), no new creative work could be done, effectively killing the game. Gun Media was more or less forced to move on to something else, as sitting on a game that can’t be further monetized is suicide. But now, the initial trial is over. Can Friday the 13th: The Game make a comeback?
Well, here’s what happened with the trial. Victor Miller, the writer in question, won his case. The court ruled in his favor, granting miller the rights to, specifically, the first movie in the series in the United States. Horror, Inc. did release a statement on the ruling, which paints a strange picture of the whole situation:
We are disappointed in the court’s ruling and disagree with its conclusion. We are considering our options including an appeal. In the meantime, the court was very clear that its ruling in favor of Mr. Miller is limited to the original screenplay in which Jason’s mother is the killer and that Mr. Miller’s termination notice did not purport to terminate the separate copyright in the iconic supernatural killer who wears a hockey mask. It also does not grant any rights to Mr. Miller that would enable him to use any element of the original screenplay outside of the United States.
Following the guidelines set down by the Court’s ruling, we intend to aggressively explore many opportunities for new projects featuring settings and characters (including the hockey mask-wearing killer) not included in Mr. Miller’s screenplay, and in fact are currently in development on new projects that are consistent with the ruling which will be announced soon.
This has been a long legal battle, which explains why there hasn’t been a new movie in the series in such a long time. Now that the case is over (for now), Miller has the rights to the screenplay, while Horror, Inc. still has overall ownership of the series’ name, subsequent movies, and the hockey mask-wearing Jason Vorhees character. Of course, questions about the video game adaptation came rolling in after this came out, especially since this outcome happened to coincide with the game being the PlayStation Plus free title of October 2018. Here is the relevant stuff:
We understand that this ruling has created confusion among some fans of the franchise and, more specifically, “Friday the 13th: The Game” players who have questions about new Friday the 13th content in the game.
The court was very clear that its ruling in favor of Mr. Miller is limited to the original screenplay in which Jason’s mother is the killer and that Mr. Miller’s termination notice did not purport to terminate Horror, Inc.’s separate copyright in the iconic supernatural killer who wears a hockey mask. While the ruling does not prevent Gun from continuing to sell and operate the existing game, it may complicate adding certain content to the current game in the future.
Complicating matters is that following the earlier roadblack, original developer IllFonic moved away from the game after finishing up contractual obligations, with Black Tower Studios taking over for support. Black Tower Studios is a much smaller team, with a tiny release list. Black Tower has contributed to the game in the past, but would it be up to the task of ramping up content once the dust settles? It’s hard to say.
Unfortunately, the real issue is that it’s hard to start up work on something after being forced to walk away, from a management perspective. In order to make pace and meet demand, that would likely mean more upfront expenses for something that isn’t a sure thing. The damage has already been done, and while the PlayStation Plus thing might provide a nice boost, that’s really all it will be. There were already some development issues when Friday the 13th: The Game was new, and having less resources and a smaller player base as a result of time and the lawsuit as it was in progress likely limits whatever options may have been on the table before.
There’s only so much fan demand can do for a project once legal issues get involved. The unfortunate reality is that when something slows down, especially a live service type of game, it’s a near-impossible task to revitalize it without resources. It can happen for something like Rainbow Six: Siege or Destiny 2, when you’re talking about AAA scale, but for smaller projects like Friday the 13: The Game, it’s a lot harder to be optimistic. Still, never say never, and perhaps if Horror, Inc. is willing to just let the case go at this point, things can get moving for the future of the franchise overall, and the game could possibly benefit from that. We’ll see.