Evil Genius Games Sues Netflix Over 'Rebel Moon' Roleplaying Game

Evil Genius Games--creators of the d20 Modern-inspired Everyday Heroes RPG, with its licensed settings such as The Crow, KingL Skull Island, Pacific Rim, Highlander, and more--was all set to release a tabletop RPG based on Zack Snyder's upcoming movie Rebel Moon until the contract was cancelled by the streaming company over alleged confidentiality breaches. Evil Genius is suing Netflix for breach of contract.

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Rebel Moon, which comes out later this year, is a space opera movie featuring a peaceful moon defending itself against tyrannical invaders.

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The contract was cancelled back in May 2023, at which point Evil Genius had nearly completed the TTRPG design, with the Player's Guide and GM's Guide fully written and a 'world bible' for the setting created; the latter is an internal developer tool, which other franchises use also.

The termination is based on alleged confidentiality breaches. In addition, Netflix has asserted ownership of the world bible, which constitutes significant work undertaken by Evil Genius. The streaming company did offer to pay for that work--to the tune of $50,000--but Evil Genius did not accept that offer.

Snyder has also indicated that the contents of the world bible would be incorporated into future cinematic and video game properties.

Gizmodo spoke to Evil Genius and has more information. Additionally, Evil Genius has put up a web page about the situation.

I've since received an email from Evil Genius, and they have made a press release:


LOS ANGELES – (Sept. 28, 2023) – Evil Genius Games today sued Netflix for wrongfully terminating Evil Genius’ contract to create a tabletop role-playing game (TTRPG) for the widely anticipated Rebel Moon film franchise by Zack Snyder. The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.

Snyder, the acclaimed director of action and science fiction films, revealed in a podcast in March 2023 that a TTRPG based on Rebel Moon was in the works, lauding the work of Evil Genius’ team of creators.

Evil Genius began working with Netflix in early 2023 and signed an official agreement with Netflix on March 22, 2023, to develop the game and related materials, promising a delivery date to coincide with the film’s release on December 22, 2023. Evil Genius paid Netflix for a license, with an agreement to share profits.

Evil Genius stopped other projects to focus on the Rebel Moon TTRPG, the lawsuit states. By May, Evil Genius had produced a 228-page World Bible (which vastly expanded on the universe envisioned by Snyder), a 430-page Player’s Guide and a 337-page Game Master’s Guide. The initial script for Rebel Moon was “missing background information vital to the story as a whole and to the world,” the lawsuit states, with Evil Genius supplying “all the missing pieces” along with “a cohesive backstory for the entire Rebel Moon franchise.” According to the lawsuit, “the speed at which the project came to fruition astounded Netflix executives, and [Evil Genius] exceeded everyone’s expectations.”

Later that month, on May 25, Netflix suddenly terminated the agreement with Evil Genius, claiming the company had violated confidentiality provisions in its contract by sharing artwork at an industry trade show one month earlier. In the lawsuit, Evil Genius said the termination came as a surprise because it had sent the artwork to Netflix in advance of the event, the Game Manufacturers Association Exposition (GAMA), and Netflix had approved its use. Documents containing the artwork were handed out to retailers at GAMA by Evil Genius’ staff and two Netflix employees.

Two weeks later, Netflix notified Evil Genius that all of its work on the project “belongs solely and exclusively to Netflix,’’ the lawsuit states, with Netflix refusing to honor its agreement with Evil Genius to allow the release of the game and compensate the company for its work.

“It became clear’’ the lawsuit alleges, “that Netflix was simply using the alleged breach and termination to hijack [Evil Genius’] intellectual property and prevent [Evil Genius] from releasing the game.’’

David Scott, Evil Genius’ CEO said the decision to file a lawsuit was not made lightly.

“Our aim is to ensure our team is recognized for their fantastic work, and that we can release this game for millions of TTRPG enthusiasts to enjoy,’’ Scott said. “It’s disheartening to see Netflix backpedal on content that was jointly showcased and had received their prior consent. We urge our supporters to contact Netflix and Zack Snyder to push for the release of this game.’’

Evil Genius is encouraging supporters to visit Evil Genius Games, where they can sign a petition asking Netflix to acknowledge the creators of the Rebel Moon World Bible and allow Evil Genius to release the tabletop role-playing game.
 
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mamba

Legend
I think probably EG has a case. But I’m not confident enough in my knowledge of the situation to put money on it. EG has gone very early to the court of public opinion, without revealing the actual agreement, which I wouldn’t do in their position. If you have a case, what is the purpose of the petition? That isn’t going to resolve a lawsuit. Which suggests that they are hoping to avoid one—why?
avoid the cost of one?

Again, I’d like to see the contract. But that was omitted from the filing. And I’d like hear the other side, but of course Netflix will be saving that for the court hearing.

I want to side with EG, and in principle I support a small publisher over a corporation, but I’ll reserve judgement until I have more information.
I have not passed any judgement yet, I just find what we are hearing incongruent with Netflix' claim
 

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MGibster

Legend
Most of you are probably too young to remember FASA and the Star Trek license fiasco. The Star Trek RPG was doing very well, a cash cow for FASA and probably worth a few bucks to Paramount as well. Then FASA inadvertently violated an NDA / product embargo by releasing a product early. No more Star Trek license. If you violate an NDA it doesn't matter if it was a big oopsie or a little one.
I was always under the impression FASA lost their license because their vision of Star Trek was different from how the producers of The Next Generation envisoned things. FASA started releasing Star Trek RPG books in 1982 when the only sources of information came from the original series, the cartoon, and the Motion Picture (I doubt they would have had access to Wrath of Khan material but maybe they did), some novels, and fan fiction. FASA's drew from the original series, The Motion Picture, and a novel to fill in the background for their Klingons which was published in 1984 just three years before TNG started. The TNG Klingons were some faux Viking/Samurai who talked about honor and family all the time and were quite a bit different from FASA's version.

In 1989, I think Paramount very reasonably didn't want a version of their universe being published that didn't align with what they were doing. Especially for a product that wouldn't provide Paramount with much of a revenue stream.
 

I was always under the impression FASA lost their license because their vision of Star Trek was different from how the producers of The Next Generation envisoned things. FASA started releasing Star Trek RPG books in 1982 when the only sources of information came from the original series, the cartoon, and the Motion Picture (I doubt they would have had access to Wrath of Khan material but maybe they did), some novels, and fan fiction. FASA's drew from the original series, The Motion Picture, and a novel to fill in the background for their Klingons which was published in 1984 just three years before TNG started. The TNG Klingons were some faux Viking/Samurai who talked about honor and family all the time and were quite a bit different from FASA's version.

In 1989, I think Paramount very reasonably didn't want a version of their universe being published that didn't align with what they were doing. Especially for a product that wouldn't provide Paramount with much of a revenue stream.
They were releasing material in sync with the current movies, and then they got ahead of the movies... oops. They released a couple of Star Trek the Next Generation titles. there was a lot going on between Paramount, Rodenberry. and FASA. The conflicting thoughts on Star Trek figured into it, but they released a title ahead of schedule as well. I don't recall all the specifics on the situation, just what was heard at the time by a lot of angry Star Trek: The RPG fans.
 

vecna00

Speculation Specialist Wizard
Is there ever an instance where a plaintiff cannot attach the agreement with the complaint? Would there be an NDA (or similar document) that would prevent that from happening?
 

pemerton

Legend
I think probably EG has a case. But I’m not confident enough in my knowledge of the situation to put money on it. EG has gone very early to the court of public opinion, without revealing the actual agreement, which I wouldn’t do in their position. If you have a case, what is the purpose of the petition? That isn’t going to resolve a lawsuit. Which suggests that they are hoping to avoid one—why?
Suing Netflix seems like it would cost an absolute bomb - which would be a good reason to avoid the cost of a suit, by generating pressure on Netflix to settle in some fashion.
 

Yeah, EG could* be entirely in the right, and still lose, because they don't have the money to go up against Netflix if Netflix wants to drag this out.

* honestly, sure, it is possible EG are in the wrong, but that's much less likely considering it's Netflix, a multi-billion company that has already screwed a ton of creators. They are almost certainly throwing their weight around to do bad shite. Generally, you can err on the side of the small guy in a lot of these cases, especially business versus business.
 


aramis erak

Legend
Most of you are probably too young to remember FASA and the Star Trek license fiasco. The Star Trek RPG was doing very well, a cash cow for FASA and probably worth a few bucks to Paramount as well. Then FASA inadvertently violated an NDA / product embargo by releasing a product early. No more Star Trek license.
That's not what was reported at the time. I can't find the reference at the moment (namely, TFG's Nexus issues 16, 17, or 18), but it was that TNG was not included in their license, and they released TNG materials. This was also related from the distributor warehouse, when I tried to special order the TNG Officer's Manual. Wikipedia also cites that the TNG modules were the cause, citing Shannon Applecline.
 

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