Nexon files a US Lawsuit against studio Ironmace for its multiplayer shooter game Dark and Darker as the messy legal situation surrounding copyright infringement escalated to a lawsuit between two Korean Game developers.
Intellectual property is everything in the field of video game creation. The ownership of gaming assets, concepts, and code is fiercely guarded, and any suspicion of theft may result in legal action.
The latest legal battle in the gaming industry is between Korean games publisher Nexon and indie developer Ironmace over the upcoming game Dark and Darker.
Although both Nexon and Ironmace are Korean game publishers, the complaint was brought before the US District Court for the Western District of Washington because Ironmace’s playtests were carried out on the Steam platform and some of its marketing was directed at American players.
From Police Case to US Lawsuit, Nexon goes all gun blazing
Nexon first accused the former P3 project director Choi in August 2021 of leaking business information and assets while operating from a distance during the epidemic. In August 2022, the police forwarded the case to the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office, which compelled them to gather additional evidence by December.
However, since February, Nexon and Ironmace have been engaged in a legal dispute over what Nexon claims to be Ironmace’s unauthorized use of Nexon’s trade secrets and copyrighted material. Ironmace is allegedly abusing “source codes, art resources, build files, and other company intellectual property according to Nexon.
Even Ironmace’s office was raided by Korean Police in the first week of March. Nexon has charged Ironmace with stealing trade secrets and copyrighted content from a Nexon project dubbed P3 that was ultimately abandoned.
Allegations and counter allegations
Nexon claims that Dark and Darker uses stolen code and assets from P3, a project that many members of Ironmace formerly worked on. Ironmace, however, denies those accusations and has insisted that Dark and Darker was built from the ground up.
According to Nexon, P3 was a game developed in-house by Nexon, and the development team included Ju-Hyun Choi and Terence Seungha Park, who is now named defendants in Nexon’s lawsuit.
The suit alleges that Choi, former P3 project director, solicited team members to create the project outside Nexon for monetary profit. He recruited almost half of the project’s team, including Park.
Nexon claims that Choi and Park stole P3 source code, audiovisual, and other materials that Nexon developed through a substantial expenditure of time and money.
Ironmace founder Terence Park was aware of the terminated employee’s actions, according to Nexon, and therefore benefited from the misappropriation of Nexon trade secrets.
Nexon states that Ironmace can’t have developed Dark and Darker in such a short timeframe without using Nexon’s trade secrets and confidential information. However, Ironmace refutes this claim and insists that the game was built from the ground up.
In a statement released on Reddit and the official Dark and Darker Discord server, Ironmace had strong words for Nexon. “Just because it may be difficult for a large bureaucratic company such as Nexon to develop games in such a short time frame does not mean it is impossible for another studio, big, small, new, or old, to develop games quickly,” Ironmace’s statement reads.
Ironmace explained that most Dark and Darker were built using 3D assets bought from the Unreal marketplace. The studio purchased more than 90 percent of the game’s assets from the market, which helps to explain the studio’s ability to create a demo version of Dark and Darker within ten months.
Ironmace also stated that it used a third-party game engine to build Dark and Darker, not the engine that Nexon uses. This means that the code used in Dark and Darker is not related to P3’s code or Nexon’s code.
However, Nexon claims that the similarities between P3 and Dark and Darker are so striking that they cannot be reasonably explained through independent development. According to Nexon, P3 was never disclosed to a third party, and no other game had the same concept, genre, and plot as the P3 game before Dark and Darker.
The legal battle between Nexon and Ironmace escalated when Nexon issued a DMCA takedown and ceased and desisted notice against Dark and Darker, leading to the game’s removal from Steam. Ironmace had planned to enter Early Access in April and release a full version.