Update: As we suspected, this is a misunderstanding rather than a conspiracy. A Linux version was never planned. Details below.
Activision have always been a strange lot. Peculiarly aloof to games journalists, they put out their billion dollar generating games with a raised nose, and that seems to be working out for them. But it doesn’t stop them from having a really rather meticulous stranglehold on the IPs they own but never touch. Try to create a fan game based on, say, the Atari 2600’s Fishing Derby, and you can be sure to have a letter from their spinning-eyed shark-teethed lawyers promptly delivered to your door. But most strange of all is the news that the new Gabriel Knight, created with Activision’s eventual blessing, is not allowed to be released on Linux.
After Jane Jenson’s ambiguous Kickstarter blasted its goal last year, it became obvious that fans wanted more than Moebius, and would like to see some of that cash funding a return to the world of Gabriel Knight. The studio announced in October that they (along with partners Phoenix Online) had gained the rights from Activision to recreate the original, Sins Of The Father, in modern shiny graphics with a whole new voice cast. Built in Unity, it will be only a button press away from a Mac and Linux version, so of course they promised these at the time.
Now they’ve had to take that back. While the game will be coming to PC and Mac and handhelds, Activision – they say – have prevented there being a penguin-flavoured port. Phoenix’s tech director, Weldon L Hathaway, took to their forum to sort of explain:
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but my previous statement that GK would be available on Linux turns out to be incorrect. I can’t even begin to imagine why, but Activision isn’t allowing the game to be made for that platform. Just PC, Mac, Android, and iOS devices.”
Their, and indeed our, immediate reaction – that doesn’t make sense – seems a pretty appropriate one. It doesn’t. While Activision have shown absolutely no interest in Linux, and don’t support the platform for any of their games, it seems extremely odd that they would want to prevent this game reaching more players. Which makes me wonder what’s actually going on here. Is this a case of the massive, rusting cogs in the Activision behemoth turning so slowly and clumsily that it doesn’t have a way to process this option, and so just fed out “NO” in angry red letters? Have there been crossed wires, misunderstandings, with either party not following what the other meant? Or is Activision just so batshit goat-eyed crazy that it sees it as its ongoing mission to bring down Free Software and all it stands for?
We’ve reached out to Activision to see if they’re willing to say why, and contacted Phoenix for some clarity on what happened from their side. (Oh, and no one tell them that Android is based on Linux!)
Update: Jane Jensen has posted to the Pinkerton forum to explain that this is all a misunderstanding. It seems there was never a Linux version planned. Odd, since Unity would spit one out for them, with just some additional Q/A needed, but not something they were aiming to do. So Activision have, to the best of our knowledge, not blocked anything.
Which makes it all the more odd that all we got out of Acti was a “no comment”. They seem to want to appear like the bad guys even when they’ve done nothing wrong!