In rather frustrating news, an effort by Night Dive Studios to make the beloved No One Lives Forever series available for digital purchase has been scuppered by Warner Bros. Interactive.
Dedicated PC gamers will remember No One Lives Forever as the brilliant first-person shooter series from Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor developer Monolith Productions. Released in 2000, the original NOLF was critically acclaimed for its unique fusion of the FPS genre with 1960s James Bond aesthetics. Many reviewers regarded it as the best shooter since 1998’s Half Life. A sequel, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in H.A.R.M’s Way, was released in 2003 and was Gamespy’s Game of the Year.
Despite its reputation, the NOLF games have thus far been unavailable for purchase through popular digital platforms like Steam and GOG. Enter Night Dive Studios, a publisher specializing in bringing classic games to digital platforms and making them compatible for modern PCs. Their previous accomplishments include bringing System Shock 2 and the Wizardry series to the fore.
Night Dive applied for the trademark to NOLF last year, but ran into a wall when trying to figure out who owned the rights to the series. The games were originally developed by Monolith, who were bought over by Warner Bros. Their publisher at the time, Fox Interactive, were sold to Vivendi, who are now in a merger with Call of Duty publisher Activision.
Speaking to Kotaku, Night Dive’s director of business development Larry Kuperman said:
We knew from the Monolith connection that Warner Bros had some ownership, not sure exactly what, but at the very least, they were involved with the development of the code. Remember, the game ran on the LithTech engine. So we started talking with Warner Bros. and Warner Bros. said, ‘Well, it wouldn’t be possible to do a deal with you because Activision has some ownership of this and we’d have to have them involved in this process.’
After several frustrating episodes of trying to figure out who had the most claim to the NOLF name, Kuperman and Night Dive’s founder Stephen Kick received a letter from Warner Bros.’s lawyer that threatened legal action if they continued with their efforts to re-release the series. Kuperman explains:
Steve [got] what I like to call, the legal term for it is a ‘Scary Letter.’ It comes from an attorney representing Warner Bros. and basically says they’re aware of our filing for trademark, that they had contested that, and that if we went forward, specifically with a new version of No One Lives Forever, without doing a new deal with them, we would be infringing their rights and the hammer would fall.
The duo tried to work out a compromise with Warner, but in the end it became plainly obvious that the publishing giant had no interest in re-releasing NOLF.
Although Night Dive currently controls the trademark to NOLF, the unwillingness of Warner Bros. to work with them means that all they can do is allow the trademark to expire. It’s possible that somewhere down the line we’ll finally get to relive this classic franchise without having to illegally torrent it or hunt down scarce physical copies, but that will only be when the Warner Bros, Activision or Fox become interested and get their acts together.
One thing’s for sure: there are plenty of gamers out there who will happily buy these games and it would be a stupid decision for those in power to ignore that.