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Atlus is suing fans who hosted their own servers for the long-closed MMO Shin Megami Tensei Imagine Online.
As spotted by Twitter user ‘Marsh’, the lawsuit was first filed in December 2021 but has recently progressed to the point where defendants behind unofficial fan servers have been summoned to appear in court.
Imagine Online was an MMO for PC set in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo, which had players exploring locations and completing quests in the hunt for loot.
The game was first released in 2007 in Japan, followed by North America and Europe in 2008 and 2009. On May 24, 2016, nine years after it first launched, Atlus made the decision to shut down the game’s servers.
In 2020, a group of fans doing business as ReImagine, Rekuiemu and COMP_Hack resurrected Imagine Online with a launcher, website and servers mimicking the original game and allowing fans to play the MMO once again.
Rekuiemu and COMP_Hack are the defendants named in the lawsuit docs.
ReImagine has reportedly released a statement on its Discord server, claiming that until recently it was unaware of the court filing, and that it’s now chosen to close down its server prominently.
VGC has been unable to verify the legitimacy of the message, since the Discord server and the ReImagine website both seem to have been pulled.
Atlus declined to comment on this story when contacted by VGC.
These kinds of fan-made servers for closed MMOs are not uncommon: similar projects exist for Star Wars Galaxies, City of Heroes and The Matrix Online and many others, for example.
However, Atlus states in court docs that it believes the fans behind the unofficial servers “have caused and will continue to cause irreparable damage to Atlus unless restrained by this Court”.
The company is seeking the total shutdown of all websites and servers related to the named fan servers, as well as up to $25,000 per violation decided by the court.
One potential challenge Atlus will have to overcome are protections introduced by the US Copyright Office in 2018, which allow archivists to break DRM security in order to preserve online games. However, these protections are technically in relation to museums or archivists, and not public emulators.
The lawsuit again highlights the issue of preservation in the games industry and the many games that risk disappearing entirely in the future, should crucial services such as online platforms disappear.
Journalist Brittany Vincent argued in a VGC column that the games industry needs to increase its efforts for preserving video games, before more titles are lost to time.
“What becomes of the unplayable games doomed to become nothing but a blip in the medium’s history? Should we steel ourselves and prepare to accept the eventuality that any title we love could eventually become unavailable in its current state? It doesn’t have to.
“Game preservation, by way of purchasing hard copies of the titles you love, and documenting the adventures we have now is so important.”