Fox Faces Chinese Company's Refund Demand Over 'Planet of the Apes'

In a lawsuit, Snail Digital says Fox ruined its opportunity for a timely game with delays and vague guidance.
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
'War for the Planet of the Apes'

Apes watch as mankind fights itself into oblivion. Not quite there yet, but China's Suzhou Snail Digital Technology is now suing Fox Entertainment for allegedly being less than cooperative on a would-be game based on War for the Planet of the Apes.

In a complaint filed Tuesday in California, Snail Digital says that it came to an agreement with Fox whereby it would pay a $2.5 million advance plus royalties in exchange for rights to develop and release the game. The plaintiff says that Fox was obligated to provide necessary source material prior to the release of the film. Snail Digital says that didn't happen and that it has now "lost a significant market opportunity."

Snail Digital seeks a rescission of the contract plus damages for an alleged breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

According to the complaint, the agreement called for both an interactive, action role-playing game plus an option for an augmented reality game based on War for the Planet of the Apes. Snail Digital decided to focus on a mobile version after the Chinese government banned AR games in the wake of the Pokemon Go craze.

Snail Digital says it got an early version of a script for Fox's movie plus other assets from a previous Planet of the Apes film, but not much else despite "repeated request for additional assets and information."

The timing was critical, stresses the plaintiff.

"Were the Games to be released months, or even weeks after the film, the zeitgeist 'buzz' surrounding the Motion Picture would have died down and the Games may struggle to be relevant, let alone marketable," states the complaint. "That is why, on information and belief, film-based video games generally are released prior to or concurrently with the films upon which they are based. This is not only the industry standard, it is common sense."

There may have been another problem.

The contract gave Fox certain approval rights over the game, and when Snail delivered an "alpha" version in April, the complaint says Fox only gave back "vague game notes that did not offer Snail Games reasonable sufficient guidance in order to permit Snail Games to sufficiently upgrade the Mobile Game to [Fox's] standards."

An example of the critical notes from Fox is that one character "looked too much like a character from the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, with no workable suggestion of how Snail Games should fix the purported issue to meet FDE’s approval or its unstated, desired outcome."

The plaintiff adds that Fox's "comments were akin to the game 'Whack-a-Mole,' or perhaps more simply: 'Read My Mind.'”

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