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Power Rangers studio goes after indie dev team over hero game

Saban Brands, the company that holds the Power Rangers IP, is targeting a rights-sharing deal for Behold Studios' Chroma Squad.
The company behind the Power Rangers franchise is targeting an indie studio making a game in the "sentai" super-hero genre, Chroma Squad, in hopes of taking a share of the profits or shutting the project down, USGamer reports. Saban Brands owns the rights to the Power Rangers series, which is produced in partnership with Japanese studio Toei (based on its Super Sentai Series.) Chroma Squad was successfully funded on Kickstarter almost one year ago by the six-person Brazil-based Behold Studios, but the game is on hold while Behold negotiates with Saban. "This week they've contacted us to offer a deal. They see two options in this negotiation: the first one being using the court to make sure that our game wouldn't get released. The second option would be that they would join our project with a royalty share. We both prefer the second option, considering that going into court would would be painful for both sides," Behold wrote in a backer-only updated quoted by USGamer. Behold's Saulo Camarotti told USGamer that negotiations with Saban are going well, and he's hoping for a "win-win negotiation" that puts the game back on track for release.

Is sentai a genre, or an IP?

The situation does open up the question of whether Saban owns the "Super Sentai" concept thanks to its Power Rangers IP -- or whether Toei does, too. Japanese developers have long released games that build on the sentai concept without a specific license (two examples include Sega's Rent-a-Hero franchise and Sony's Seigi no Mikata). The multicolored hero-team trope is also a common one in Japanese pop culture, popping up constantly even in works that don't center on the concept. It's also worth noting that the game takes in more ideas than the five-person Super Sentai team -- concepts more closely aligned with other Japanese live-action genres such as tokusatsu ("rubber monster" shows and films.) The question of whether something is a reference or a parody can be legally thorny. For example, this screenshot of Chroma Squad references a character called "Trini," which is the name of the Yellow Ranger in the original Power Rangers show. (It's been pointed out by one of the developers in the comments below that the character names are user-created; that is also an official screenshot from the developer's site.) The issue of whether Saban or Toei have the legal right to go after Behold may never be answered if the studio signs the partnership -- but the tiny indie likely doesn't have the money to defend itself against an onslaught by billionaire Saban.

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