The Mechwarrior franchise looked to be coming back in a big way, thanks to enthusiastic response to a stunning new game trailer released by Piranha Games for the upcoming Mechwarrior video game reboot. The title does not yet have a publisher, and is still reportedly early in development. Unfortunately, it seems forces are at work behind the scenes to halt production of the new game, and it all stems from legal wrangling back in the late '90s between Mechwarrior's owners and the folks behind Robotech.
IGN reports that it has been asked to pull down its new Mechwarrior trailer through a cease and desist order from Harmony Gold. The name should be familiar to anime fans, as the company was reponsible for the Robotech cartoon series. Robotech was created by merging and adapting three different Japanese sci-fi anime series, the first and most famous of these being Super Dimensional Fortress Macross. Robot designs from Macross were used without permission in the original BattleTech and Mechwarrior pen-and-paper RPG sourcebooks, leading to legal taken against the franchise's original owner FASA back in 1996.
Though FASA stood its ground against Harmony Gold, it agreed to no longer use the designs in question to avoid further legal issues. So long as FASA still functioned, it held true to keeping the offending designs "unseen" no matter how many fans actually wanted them back. Then FASA collapsed, and the BatteTech rights were acquired by new companies like WizKids. It's here that the "unseen" began their revival in new hands, though usually after some serious redesigning.
However, the new license holders were sometimes not aware of the finer points behind the original 1996 settlement. Harmony Gold was definitely keeping tabs since then, as it demonstrates it is ready to spring to legal action. The company is complaining that at least one of the BattleMechs featured in the new Mechwarrior trailer happened to be strongly based on one of the Macross designs it still holds the sole and exclusive worldwide rights to (outside of Japan) thanks to its 1996 settlement.
IGN is fearing that their reasons could potentially throw a spanner into the works for the actual game's production at Piranha Games. The video game licenses for FASA franchises including BattleTech and Shadowrun are currently held by Smith & Tinker, who licensed these rights back from Microsoft.
Trademarks over the use of Macross designs outside of Japan have most recently forced the revision of new BattleTech sourcebooks, care of Catalyst Games. To be sure, their update on the restrictions surrounding the "unseen" designs lifted from Macross did not explicitly name the company who still held the North American licenses.