Sawyer settles Atari suit

Sawyer settles Atari suit
Michael French

By Michael French

February 5th 2008 at 2:10PM

EXCLUSIVE: RollerCoaster Tycoon royalties dispute ends with out of court settlement

Games designer Chris Sawyer has settled his long-running dispute with Atari over unpaid royalties, Develop understands.

An out of court settlement has brought to a close the legal battle Sawyer (pictured) initiated in 2005 claiming that Atari had not paid some $4.8m in royalties.

Previously, Sawyer alleged Atari had breached a licensing agreement by not allowing his auditors access to accounts from 1999 to 2001. Atari’s revenue from Sawyer’s games, including Transport Tycoon and three versions of RollerCoaster Tycoon, was at the time estimated at around $180 million of which Sawyer received about $30m - but he said the figure fell short of what was due. He said forensic accountants had discovered 13 instances of payments which were wrongly withheld.

Atari counter-claimed, saying he too had part in breaking a deal with Atari by letting Frontier to create a demo based on RollerCoaster Tycoon - which induced Frontier to breach its contract with the publisher. The publisher's lawyers also wanted the case heard in the New York rather than London courts, but UK magistrate Justice Lawrence Collins at the time said the firm was playing "tactical games".

Last year, it seemed the case would go to the High Court, but now the dispute has been settled. However the terms of the settlement are confidential, with the parties involved unable to discuss details; Sawyer and his legal representatives at London law firm Marjacq were unable to comment on the matter when contacted by Develop.

Given the recent appointment of David Gardner as Atari's new CEO, the timing may not be coincidental. In his new role Gardner, the former EVP and COO of EA's worldwide studio operation, is charged with "rejuvenating the Atari brand" in the industry - and perhaps also, with the closure of this dispute, plans to revive the development community's faith in one of gaming's oldest brands.