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Atlus is suing Shin Megami Tensei MMO players who are keeping the game alive

Atlus has filed a lawsuit against a trio of fan servers that have been keeping Atlus' defunct Shin Megami Tensei Online running for two years.

Justin Carter, Contributing Editor

September 28, 2022

2 Min Read
Cover art for Atlus' Shin Megami Tensei Imagine: Online.

Towards the end of 2021, Atlus filed a lawsuit in New York District Court against players of the MMO Shin Megami Tensei Imagine: Online. The game has been "dead" for years, but the fan project "ReImagine" has established fanmade servers to keep it afloat, and the players running those servers (Rekuiemu, ReImagine, and Comp_Hack) have recently been summoned to appear in court. 

It isn't uncommon for an online game's servers to be kept alive by passionate players, particularly with MMOs. Such action risks the deployment of cease-and-desist orders from developers or publishers, since such efforts often violate the games' end user license agreement. 

Shin Megami Tensei Imagine: Online released in Japan in 2007 and North America the following year. Management of the game changed hands in the west, and its North American service ended in 2014. Japan service would end two years later., and the "ReImagine" project revived the defunct game in 2020.

Atlus' court documents focus solely on Comp_Hack and Rekuiemu, as ReImagine shut down its server and website voluntarily. Atlus accuses the two servers of violating copyright law, by "creating and operating an exact copy" of Imagine Online's original website. The two groups were also accused of creating a "server emulator" that emulated the original game and let players play the game online.  

Rekuiemu, and its Discord server, have also reportedly been taken down.

"Atlus seeks injunctive relief to stop Defendants’ unlawful acts complained of herein," the documents continue. "Atlus also seeks monetary relief (up to $25,000 per violation) in an amount sufficient to compensate it for its loss, an accounting and award of Defendants’ total profits flowing from their infringing activities."

It sounds like an open-and-shut case, however in 2018, the Library of Congress ruled that video game historians can circumvent the DMCA to preserve online games. That said, the ruling didn't cover emulators, which adds some complications to the case.  

Update 9/29: This story has been updated to better reflect how game studios respond to fan-maintained MMOs.

About the Author(s)

Justin Carter

Contributing Editor, GameDeveloper.com

A Kansas City, MO native, Justin Carter has written for numerous sites including IGN, Polygon, and SyFy Wire. In addition to Game Developer, his writing can be found at io9 over on Gizmodo. Don't ask him about how much gum he's had, because the answer will be more than he's willing to admit.

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