UPDATE: Star Control: Origins is back! The space role-playing game was pulled from Steam at the start of this month after a DMCA takedown request from the IP's original co-creators, Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford.
Valve received the DMCA noticed and immediately took Star Control Origins down from its Steam storefront in order to quickly comply with regulations.
It appears as if SC: Origins developer Stardock had a bit of back and forth between itself, Valve and GOG, eventually coming to the conclusion the game could legally be put back on sale.
When asked whether Star Control: Origins would be coming back to GOG, Stardock founder Brad Wardell said "Nothing I can discuss publicly, unfortunately. Other than to say that the dispute is Stardock/GOG/Valve on one side and Reiche and Ford on the other."
It's an odd story and the air of mystery only thickens.
UPDATE: Stardock has reached out to us to confirm that a direct purchase option for Star Control: Origins is available directly through Stardock's website. They're even knocking 50% off its sale price for a limited time, meaning Star Control Origins is now available for $19.99.
Original Story: Star Control: Origins, the well-regarded reboot of the classic sci-fi strategy series, has been totally pulled from the Steam store just three months after launch due to a DMCA take-down notice.
Developer and publisher Stardock Entertainment has been embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with the creators of the original Star Control games. Paul Reiche III and Fred Ford, designers of Star Control, sent the take-down notice to both Valve and GOG, prompting Valve to remove Star Control: Origins from Steam with immediate effect. Star Control Origins is currently still purchasable on GOG.com.
It’s the latest chess move in an ongoing saga that has seen Stardock and the original Star Control creators battling over the rights to the series. Stardock acquired the rights to the Star Control franchise in 2013, and then Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III announced a direct Star Control sequel the day before the Star Control: Origins beta went live in 2017. This led to Stardock filing a lawsuit for trademark infringement in December 2017, before Ford and Reiche counter-sued for copyright infringement on what they believe is their Star Control franchise.
Rather than wait for the lawsuit to be settled in court though, Ford and Reiche have taken direct action and issued the DMCA take-down notice. Stardock attempted to file an injunction to prevent the DMCA request, but it was to no avail. It would appear this is the first ever instance of a DMCA takedown notice being issued to a game after its launch, setting quite the precedent.
As with a ton of companies, Valve’s immediate course of action following the receipt of the notice was to remove Star Control Origins from the Steam store. It’s the quick and easy route for Valve to remove itself from any potential legal ramifications, whether right or wrong. Google pulls a similar trick with YouTube, effectively automating DMCA take-downs and then placing the onus on the content creator to prove it’s theirs.
Stardock CEO Brad Wardell claims that even despite the take-down notice, Ford and Reiche are suing Steam and GOG “using GoFundMe money”.
As always though, nothing is ever quite so simple as it first appears. This rift runs deep and there have been some controversial moves by both sides over the years. First and foremost, Ford and Reiche allege Atari’s rights to publish the original Star Control trilogy expired a decade before the rights to the franchise were ever sold to Stardock. As a result, they claim “Stardock has zero rights to our games, including any code and other IP we created."
Despite this claim, Stardock re-released Star Control 1 and Star Control 2 as the Star Control: The Ur-Quan Masters bundle, games which Ford and Reiche suggest Stardock neither own the rights to nor helped develop. If true, Stardock has been profiting from the sales of a game that was never even its own game to sell in the first place. Star Control: The Ur-Quan Masters, Star Control 1, 2, and 3 were removed from digital storefronts in December 2017. The counterpoint is that Brad Wardell suggests Ford and Reiche “never owned the Star Control trademark or had any trademark rights whatsoever”, making any case redundant.
As you can probably tell this is a right old mess. We’ve got two separate developers working on games in the same franchise, both laying claims to older games in the franchise, neither willing to budge an inch, and their games being pulled from stores for copyright infringement. There’s an interesting YouTube video series here, but good luck getting to the bottom of this little quandary.