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Atari spikes plans to launch Tempest successor on PS4, creator says (Update)

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Jeff Minter's TxK, a spiritual successor to the Tempest franchise he worked on for Atari in the 1990s, will not release on PlayStation 4, Windows PC and Android following a copyright claim and shutdown demand from Atari, Minter said.

Minter said via Twitter this morning that he is "beyond disgusted" by Atari's actions, which end plans to release the game on three additional platforms a year after it launched on the PS Vita. In promoting the game, Minter had said that TxK would "do for (Tempest 2000) what T2K itself did for its ancient arcade ancestor." Minter was producer on Tempest 2000, which was released in 1994 for Atari's Jaguar console.

TxK still is listed on the PlayStation Store at $9.99. On his personal blog, Minter wrote that Atari is "still trying to insist that I remove from sale Vita TxK."

Polygon has reached out to an Atari representative for comment and will update this story with any reply.

Update: Atari says it was "surprised and dismayed by the very close similarities between TxK and the Tempest franchise," when it launched last year, noting that "several major gaming outlets," expressed the same opinion. ("This is essentially Tempest," IGN said in its review at the time.)

Update 4:55 p.m. In comments to Kotaku, Minter disputes that Atari ever contacted him about TxK, saying he does not consider communication from Atari's attorneys to be contact from Atari itself. (This letter, dated June 2014, shows Atari contacted him about NxT on April 1, 2014; moreover, Minter's attorney replied.) He says he tried to initiate backchannel contact with Atari over NxT ("We did try to approach them via a non-lawyer route," he says) but was unsuccessful.

Minter founded Llamasoft, the studio developing TxK. It also developed Space Giraffe, a 2007 Xbox Live Arcade release that echoed Tempest's gameplay.

On his blog, Minter says that the two sides had been in discussions "for a while now," and that he had hopes "we could maybe work something out, maybe ‘Atari' would commission an officially licensed version from us; we made it clear we'd be willing to negotiate about that sort of thing."

Instead, Minter says, Atari lawyers accused him of — among other things — having access to and stealing source code from Tempest 2000 to create TxK, and also alleged that TxK's soundtrack was a ripoff of Tempest 2000 (it is original, Minter said.)

Minter said he consulted a lawyer and they said it would be very expensive to contest all of the claims Atari was making. He said Atari demanded that he "sign papers basically saying I can never make a Tempest style game ever again."

Atari notes that "there is no lawsuit," although Minter said only he felt threatened by legal proceedings. "Atari has been in continuous contact with the developer since the game launched in hopes that the matter would be resolved," Atari said.

The quote marks around Atari reference the fact the brand has been sold and reorganized repeatedly over the past two decades, including a 2013 bankruptcy. A year ago it announced a push into mobile and social gaming with Atari Casino, which draws on longtime trademarks it owns like Missile Command and Centipede. It later announced a partnership with a lottery game developer to bring those brands to real-money gambling formats.