All over the corners of the internet, dedicated fans are keeping their favourite online games afloat. If I ever get a nostalgic pang to return to Toontown—an MMO that has been dead since 2013—there are a myriad of faithful and evolved servers I can jump right into. It's part and parcel of our hobby. Unfortunately, it seems Atlus doesn't love these fan revivals quite as much as I do.
As spotted by MarshSMT on Twitter, the developer is suing two fans (operating under Rekuiemu Games and COMP_Hack) for copyright infringement over its MMO Shin Megami Tensei Imagine Online. The game's official servers shut down in May 2016, with the revived fan server cropping up sometime in late 2020. A website that Atlus says is a "blatant copy" of the original Imagine website was also allegedly operated by Rekuiemu. The website seems to be a major pushing point for Atlus, with the suit claiming Reukuiemu "falsely added its own copyright information" alongside the ones for Atlus, Sega and co-developer Cave Interactive.
The suit was originally filed back in December 2021, but has now reached the point where both Rekuiemu and COMP_Hack are being summoned to appear in court. The suit claims the fan server has "caused and will continue to cause irreparable damage to Atlus unless restrained by this Court," despite the servers being dead for over six years. The developer is seeking "statutory damages of up to $25,000 per violation of the DMCA," plus "monetary relief including damages sustained by Atlus in an amount not yet determined."
It could be a pretty big deal if Atlus wins, potentially opening the floodgates to more publishers pursuing fans who diligently preserve games that would otherwise never see the light of day again. It's a worrying time for game preservation, and the suit alone already seems to have successfully spooked some people. ReImagine, another fan server dedicated to the MMO, released a statement on its Discord server announcing it too would be closing its doors. "While ReImagine hasn't been served any sort of notice (that we know of), Atlus's decision to outright sue instead of issue a C&D has made us worry about the safety of the users who helped keep the game alive.
"So with a heavy heart, we regret to inform everyone that the decision has been made to close down the ReImagine server permanently."