The sad story of No One Lives Forever

I usually remember No One Lives Forever periodically. Sometimes it has to do with external stimuli and other times it just pops up in my head, and every time it does, a plethora of feelings about it are intermingled. Some are very good and others… well, I’d better tell you the story and let you name them yourself, do you think?

I will start by commenting that on this occasion the reason why I have remembered NOLF and its sequel has been the article dedicated to abandonware published a few days ago by my colleague Juan and whose reading I highly recommend, especially if you already comb some gray hairs and/ or you are comfortable with nostalgia. In my case, the simple mention of the term abandonware translates into a few hours dedicated to reminiscing some of those games, whether they were from the first generation of home computers (Spectrum, MSX, Amstrad CPC, etc.), from consoles from a few decades ago or, as in this case, from the history of video games on PC.

The focus in that article was put, quite wisely, on the strange legal limbo in which some of those games find themselves. These are, at a glance, the most common situations:

  • The owner ceased to exist without ever transferring the copyright to another entity.
  • The owner is still in business, but he no longer sells the software and spends no time or money defending his rights.
  • It is unclear who the current copyright holder is, making it impossible for anyone to buy, defend, or claim the copyright.

The second case is, legally, the least complex by far, since the ownership is clear and active. For its part, for users, including the maker community, the former is also an open door to act freely since, if there is no owner of the rights, who is going to claim for them? However, to talk about No One Lives Forever, we must look at the third of the assumptionswhich also personally seems to me the most outrageous by far.

The video game sector is quite dynamic, with some companies buying others, some closing and others acquiring their rights, with the most exotic distribution contracts… in short, a group of many actors, each one of them with their own interests, and in between the games that are subjected to to these movements. And the players, of course, surprising as it may seem to an industry that is crying their eyes out over piracy all day long, would like to be able to pay for reissues of not a few of those games.

The sad story of No One Lives Forever

The perfect example of this is found in GOG, you know, Good Old Games, that store specialized in classic games, where we can find great fragments of our childhood and youth for more than reasonable prices (especially during their sales). I put my hand in the fire and I won’t get burned if I say that if No One Lives Forever were to reach GOG or any other digital store at some point, its sales volume would be more than remarkable. The problem is that today it is impossible.

In case you don’t know him, No One Lives Forever is a game developed by Monolith Productions and published by Fox Interactive. and what was it published year 2000. It was a shooter with stealth elements and an aesthetic from the 60s, clearly inspired by the action and spy movies of that time. In the game we put ourselves in the shoes of Cate Archer, a secret agent who works for the international organization UNITY during the Cold War. The game also had a refined humor that completed the gaming experience to make it memorable.

After an overwhelming success from both critics and the public and a special edition that added a new mission to the original game, in 2002 the second installment of the series saw the light, No One Lives Forever 2: A Spy in HARM’s Way, which knew how to maintain the bar of its predecessor and win our hearts. To this day, more than two decades later, both titles continue to be highly remembered and exceptionally valued, as you can see in the Metacritic tab for both the first and the second.

And why is it impossible to buy it? Well, because after a tangle of mergers, purchases and sales and so on, no one knows for sure who owns the rights to both titles and all other intellectual property associated with No One Lives Forever. When pulling the thread on what happened with the studio and distributor, it is not clear if the rights are from Activision (pending to be acquired by Microsoft), 20th Century Fox (now owned by The Walt Disney Company) or Warner Bros.

During these years there have been several attempts, by independent publishers, to republish them, to make remakes and, in short, to bring back to life a franchise that was very, and could have been, much more. But of course, this is absolutely impossible if the issue of ownership of intellectual property rights is not clear. And despite the request by them to the potential owners of the same, they have not moved a finger.

The sad story of No One Lives Forever

The problem is that, in addition, the three companies do affirm that they could be the owners of the rights, but they do not take any steps to clarify it. On the contrary, they hide behind the fact that the operations in which the intellectual property of No One Lives Forever took place before all the documentation was digitized, so the contracts must be found in a box that accumulates dust in a storage room from their offices.

According to an investigation carried out by the developer Night Dive, which at the time wanted to relaunch both games, the legal tangle is as follows: No One Lives Forever and its sequel were developed by Monolith, which is now owned by Warner Bros. NOLF was created using LithTech, which is now also owned by Warner Bros. However, the first game was published by Fox Interactive, and there is some question as to whether 20th Century Fox or even Activision might have partial rights to the series, due to the merger. from Activision in 2008 with Vivendi, a separate media company that had acquired Fox Interactive in 2003.

The problem is that they don’t seem willing to lift a finger to determine if they own the intellectual property of the game… unless, of course, someone tries to edit it. Thus, when Night Dive communicated their intentions in this regard, the response was that if they found out that they owned the intellectual property, they would see each other in court. Curiously, in that case, with lawyers involved, they were willing to rummage through the boxes in the storage room. You can read more about Night Dive’s frustrating experience with his plans to bring No One Lives Forever back on Kotaku.

As it is, the three possible owners of the intellectual property of No One Lives Forever are not willing to lift a finger to prove their ownership of the rights (or their refusal), but they get excited like a pack of hyenas around a badly injured antelope. before the possibility of launching their legions of lawyers before any initiative such as Night Dive. I think this, this attitude, perfectly describes what companies that manage intellectual property rights have become over the years. In the meantime, the community periodically posts revisions to No One Lives Forever 1 and 2 so that it can be used on current operating systems.

If you know the case, you probably think that I have forgotten (or that I do not know) that the developer and distributor did not release two, but three titles in the saga, and that therefore I am forgetting CONTRACT JACK, published in November 2003 and which it intended to expand. the NOLF universe. No, I haven’t forgotten… unfortunately, but I think that the best thing we can do, for the good memories of NOLF, is to forget that failed title.

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