Eeek. Writer and narrative designer Rhianna Pratchett has kindled a little frail hope that we might one day play another brand new Discworld videogame, while responding to earlier comments from Perfect Entertainment co-founder Gregg Barnett about who exactly owns the intellectual property rights to Perfect’s old Discworld adventure titles from the 90s.
Barnett made these comments during a lengthy interview with Time Extension about the creation of the 90s games. In between the anecdotes about collaborating with Terry Pratchett and getting cussed out by John Cleese, he dangled the carrot of a potential re-release, explaining that the key problem is that half the intellectual property rights for the games have now reverted to the British monarchy under UK law. To quote Night Watch, “two types of people laugh at the law: those that break it and those that make it.”
“I don’t want to give you a scoop, but a Discworld rerelease may happen,” Barnett said. “The original rights are complicated in the UK, but it turns out that 50% reverted to me as the creator because the company Perfect Entertainment had been closed for over 10 years.
“Whenever something closes in the UK, intellectual property rights revert 50% to the original creator and 50% to the crown, which is King Charles. So that’s the two owners of the games. So yes, there have been discussions and something may be happening down the track – a rerelease or a remaster. But it’s obviously a complicated process when you’re dealing with the crown.”
Now, Rhianna Pratchett – who is joint owner of the production company, Narrativia, which controls the multimedia rights to her father’s works – has weighed in. She, too, would like to re-release the old Discworld games, but isn’t sure the UK monarchy does, in fact, own a share of the rights.
“We only have rights to the characters, not the games themselves,” Pratchett told PCGamer following Barnett’s statements. “If we did have the rights, then this would be a whole lot easier. We’re genuinely not sure who does own the rights because studios have been bought and sold over the years, along with IP.
“Last time we investigated this, they were thought to be with Sony, but that’s never been fully confirmed,” she continued. “We’d certainly love to see the old games rereleased. It’s news to us if His Majesty owns 50% of the Discworld games. Who knows what might happen if that’s really the case. Maybe he’s a fan!”
In the same interview with Time Extension, Barnett broached the ambition of making a brand new Discworld game, but suggested that this would be impossible, again due to legal obstacles. “Unfortunately, before Terry passed away, him or his agent or somebody had signed off every property to either ITV or Prime or the BBC literally across the board,” he said.
Pratchett says this is incorrect, however. “No one has signed off everything to anybody,” she told PCG. “We still own the IP rights… The reason why Gregg got the rights to do the games was that he came with solid ideas which fitted the nature of Discworld. The simple reason that there’s never been a fully fledged Discworld game since then is no one has come to us with the right ideas and the resources to actually make it happen.”
Do you have the right ideas and the resources to actually make a new Discworld game happen? Please pitch Narrativia immediately. I am currently picturing a Rincewind adaptation in the style of Pentiment.