While most game publishers are happy for people to mod the products they release, it appears that it’s possible to modify a title in a way that incurs the wrath of those who make money from it. Such is the case of Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive, who is alleged to have sent private investigators to the home of the GTA Online ‘FiveM’ mod founder in order to intimidate him into shutting down his project.
Rockstar banned those behind the FiveM mod – an alternate online mode that other players could mod without fear of punishment – back in August. At the time, Rockstar said the ban was due to it containing “code designed to facilitate piracy.”
Now, mod creator Ntuathy has released a statement on Reddit alleging that Take-Two went as far as to send a pair of private investigators to his home to strong arm him into cancelling all work on FiveM.
So I just got a pair of PIs at my door claiming to be sent by Take Two, handing me a phone with a person somewhere in the UK or US or whatever to 'discuss how to cease my activities with regard to Grand Theft Auto', that 'they know what happened before with Activision and want to not get the lawyers involved at this time', however they 'have tested their legal standing already and are quite certain of their point' and 'aren't willing to accept any solution other than ceasing my activiites'. Oh, they also 'couldn't disclose any conversations they're having with other modification developers', didn't want to talk about general modification policy as 'it was just about my case' and admitted they 'looked through my source code'.
In a separate incident, Take-Two also went after the modder behind a similar alternate online mod, GTA: Multiplayer, although the statement on that particular mod developer's website makes no mention of private investigators in this instance.
Take-Two Interactive Inc. have contacted us and they asked us to stop GTA: Multiplayer, because from Take Two's point of view GTA:MP is a rival of their business. Grand Theft Auto and all its content is produced by Rockstar Games Inc. and published and owned by Take-Two Interactive Inc. We, as developers, respect other developer's intellectual property and their legitimate interests. Rockstar's developers have invested so much time to create this beautiful game. We have repeatedly stated our position: We are not going to cross this line, we won't damage them. We clearly see that this may not only result in problems for us, the mod creators, it even may result in a Social Club ban for you, and this is something we do not want to be responsible for. We always respected the copyright of others, and we will not stop doing so.
The modder behind GTA: Multiplayer claims he was in contact with developer Rockstar about his mod and the company had no problems with it. "We were in contact with Rockstar Games and got feedback from them. But you have to see that Take-Two Interactive Inc. is the publisher and Rockstar Games only the developer,” he said. "We have never endorsed piracy, in fact we encouraged the buying of the game and never touched Rockstar Social Club as other modifications did or still do. All we ever wanted is to increase the experience and gameplay feeling of Grand Theft Auto 5, we tried, we did our best, we were close to a release, but unfortunately we were not able to make it.”
Even though Take-Two claims the reason behind its shutting down of these projects is because they “facilitate piracy,” both mods only made their multiplayer servers available to players with valid licenses who had purchased the full Grand Theft Auto V game, thereby not taking any sales away from Take-Two. It's been suggested, however, that the real motivation behind the publisher’s actions is the fact that it can't use its microtransactions in these mods - an area that has made in excess of $100 million for the company to-date.
Take-Two has not commented on the allegations.