If you're feeling like reading some legal tea leaves this afternoon, put the kettle on and try this on for size: We just got news that Peter Hirschberg's Vector Tanks and Vector Tanks Extreme have been pulled from the App Store due to their resemblance to Atari's Battlezone. According to the recent Kickstarter update for the planned-but-currently-unfunded Vector Tanks 3, "Tank games, asteroid shooters, and so on have all been pulled."

There's a number of ways you could read into this, largely depending on which way your dowsing rod is pointing. Atari could be planning on releasing their own version of either a direct port or modern re-imagination of Battlezone, and are sweeping the App Store of "clones" (I'm using that word very loosely, mind you.) to make room. Alternatively, it's entirely possible that Atari has a whole department of lawyers whose sole purpose is to protect their IP by any means necessary, and the Vector Tanks series were just casualties of of a legal war.

I could really go either way on that one, as Atari is all about milking their old IP, but they've also become a company that seems to consist of little more than retro branding and lawyers. Either way, it's just sad to see Vector Tanks and Extreme caught in the crossfire, as I never saw those games as "rip-offs" or "clones" of Battlezone, rather, just very tasteful fan-made homages.

If you haven't already, it's a good idea to backup the .ipa files for both Vector Tanks and Vector Tanks Extreme, as it's unclear if they'll ever be back on the App Store.

  • Anonymous

    Great. I'm sure they're planning to turn Battlezone into a hollowed out shell filled with in-app purchases (see also: Asteroids, Breakout). And they were doing so well with Atari's Greatest Hits...

  • Anonymous

    Thats bullshit. I can see stopping the sale of it, but not stopping people who've paid for it from getting at the game.

  • Anonymous

    This is BS as if you removed every game that simply looked like another game, or played like another game there would be maybe 100 games ever made. That said, Im pretty sure you can't copyright the idea of a tank game made up of lines. 

  • Anonymous

    Also, why isn't Apple going after Spectre, the original BZ clone? Oh, its made up of filled polygons rather than vector lines. Of course.

  • http://twitter.com/TauPowered Tau

    I think this is really bad, Vector Tanks might look like, but not a clone... There is a way to stop Atari - start a petition on Change.org

    • Anonymous

      Online petitions have never changed anything. Ever.

  • http://toucharcade.com blakespot

    Very sad to see Vector Tanks / Extreme gone. I loved that game. 

    I think the first casualty I saw in the App Store, tied to Atari IP, was Vector Blaster. It's a really fun game -- I still play it:

    http://toucharcade.com/2008/09/18/retro-shooter-vector-blaster-tempest-for-the-iphone/

  • http://www.mrqwak.com Jamie Woodhouse

    I was around when the Arari 2600 came out, they were pioneers .. and a company I used to have a great deal of respect and admiration for.

    I can't see that they're doing anything original or creative now, just milking their old IP, and using the might of their legal team to crush any competition. All games are in essense, copies of other game ideas. All games are influenced by other games (can they claim the games they made were never influenced by other non-Atari games?).

    Well, all I can say is that warm fuzzy feeling I had for Atari, it's gone. I can't see myself putting any more money in their coffers anymore, no siree.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/XAVSOPQF7GMIMKNLVPKNEH3T4U fred

      Just to keep your Atari spirit alive...this new "Atari" is actually a totally different french company called Infogrammes, and totally unrelated. Atari has been gone sinc 1995. Infogrammes bought the label and changed their name to Atari. And yes, they suck. Bad.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jeffmd JeffD D

    So I guess if your game has a vector drawn tank in any way.. its copyright violating? aside from being vectors, there is nothing the looks like battlezone in this game. 

  • Anonymous

    Oh noes! A company is trying to protect its intellectual property. Quick! Everyone get your torches and pick forks!

    • http://twitter.com/singapoera Erik WP

      Battlezone is not the intellectual property of Apple so your remark makes no sense. Although I hate the unimaginative cloning of games, I think the Apple Store and SIcherheitsdienst (Stasi) is even worse. If Atari thinks that Vector tanks skirts too close to their Battlezone IP they need to address the culprit. If that doesn't help they have enough legal means to get justice. Apple's hypocritical action shows that if you bring in big bucks (Gameloft anyone?) you can copy whatever you want but if your an independent developer you get banned. This is exactly the reason why people should use Cydia.

      • Anonymous

        Pro Tip: Before telling other people their comments make no sense make sure your own comments make sense.

        I didn't say Apple owned the Battlezone IP. Frankly I'm not sure what orifice you pulled that out of. Obviously Atari does and they had the clones pulled (i.e. addressing the culprit). Apple can be held responsible for hosting infringing content. If Apple is serving up an app that breaks copyright law (or could be interpreted as breaking the law in court) and they don't pull it if the copyright owner requests it's removal then said owner has the right to sue both Apple and the clone developer. This isn't rocket science. It's protecting-your-butt-from-lawsuits 101.

  • Anonymous

    So I'm confused because the last time I checked Battlezone was a game that featured a vector monitor with colored gels, hand drawn artwork surrounding and making up part of it's playfield like the radar, a vacu-formed plastic viewfinder, twin joysticks, a giant cabinet with a step on the front, a lit marquee, and hand-drawn side art on both sides of the cabinet.  Are you saying there was a game that got pulled that somehow turned an iOS device into that? How did I miss that?!  Does it project it holographic out of this little hole here on my iPad? I'm smelling fair use or I'm smelling fantastical technology I wasn't aware of.

  • http://extension.ws/ Jedediah

    What in the hell is the legal basis for this?? You can't own a game idea. At least not in North America.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/HR3TJBH4DKDZ247EQXTF3YG4NQ Montgomery

      hilarious - you'd make a great copyright lawyer - for the losing team. More proof America is dumber than a bag of hammers.

      • Anonymous

        He's right. Your not. you can copyright the name, but how do copyright a game play style or design? I'm a graphic designer and some people think graphic design can be protected by copyright like other arts such as music, poetry and photography. You know what? It can't be.

         Thats is because Congress doesn't recognize the entire trade of printing as art. It is a trade in same vein as being a blacksmith or a wood craftsman. The art produced by all these trades is not seen legally as expression that can be protected. 

        I would buy you a drink if you can show me how the newer form of art (by more than 200 years) of video game design enjoys any more protection other than the name of game than my trade of graphic design. Of course we are talking in the US. From your comment I can imagine you are not a US citizen, in which case you probably have no clue as to what I am speaking of.

  • Anonymous

    So if this is a "clone" worth pulling from the app store, how are Gameloft's titles really any different? 

    Surely Microsoft and Bungie have enough muscle to get Nova kicked out. Nova is easily as much of a look-alike as vector tanks.

    • Anonymous

      Gameloft can afford enough lawyers to make it expensive to fend them off.

  • Jim, Smith

    No more Atari for me.  I bought both games but deleted temporarily for space. And it's not in iTunes either. My purchases are now gone. This is the stupid Atari Asteroids with it's most outrageous in app offences I have ever seen, mean I will not only stop buying atari but I will spend considerable effort on twitter and other mass social medial bringing these issues so that more people can see this new dark Atari in better light.

  • http://twitter.com/singapoera Erik WP

    Atari is only an empty brand name cynically exploiting it's old IP. They used to be the frontier runners but now only go for the money. A shame really.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OV57ZJWVZJCHVZ7RRKRFNSFH4I Quint

    Not saying it's right but if mining their old IP (and keep in mind that this Atari is just some French company that bought the brand a decade ago) is their only viable business plan right now, they are going to do everything they can to protect it. They're short stack holding a 2-7 offsuit and they are going all-in on this classic gaming on iPhone thing.