GTA 5, RDR2, Mafia: Take-Two issues cease-and-desist letter to VR modder
VR modder Luke Ross brought GTA 5 and Red Dead Redemption 2 to virtual reality. Now the publisher is threatening him.
In April, I published a long article about Luke Ross, in which the VR modder spoke out about his work. Ross develops mods that make 2D hits like GTA 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, Cyberpunk 2077 and most recently Elden Ring playable in VR. He distributes his mods via Patreon. Thanks to the broad support of his fans, he earns between 10,000 and 20,000 US dollars a month.
Last Friday, US tech magazine The Verge picked up the story and published a similar article about Ross' successes. This apparently made its way to Take-Two's top management and mobilized the publisher's lawyers, who sent Patreon a cease-and-desist letter.
Ross was then contacted by Patreon and asked to remove all mods and content related to Take Two games from his Patreon page. If he does not comply with the request, his account will be closed. The VR mods for GTA 5, Red Dead Redemption 2 and Mafia Definitive Edition are affected by this measure.
Ross denies the accusations
The accusation is of copyright infringement. In a Patreon article, Ross denies this and says that he only develops modifications for existing games, which also do not use software from Take-Two and require the purchase of the games.
In my article, Ross made a similar argument. He's not afraid of lawsuits from publishers because he's just providing an additional way to experience the original games, which ultimately means more revenue for studios and publishers.
A sad day for the Flat2VR modding community. @Take2Interactiv has submitted a quite anti-consumer DMCA request to remove ALL VR mods for their games (GTA V, RDR2, Mafia, etc.)@LukeRoss_00 Has always been extremely careful not to use any IP in his mods. pic.twitter.com/GH6OX1eZIy
- Flat2VR (@Flat2VR) July 6, 2022
Ross is now hoping for clarification from Take-Two. Patreon, meanwhile, is trying to establish a direct channel of communication between Ross and the publisher. He still has to remove the said mods and content, otherwise he faces closure of the Patreon account. Ross would thus no longer earn money with his mods. The Patreon FAQ states a deadline of 48 hours.
"I will not risk other games being involved in the purge in case Patreon elects to shut down my page. That means that all posts, images, guides, recommendations, tutorials and above all my VR mods for GTA V, Red Dead Redemption 2, Mafia: Definitive Edition, Mafia II: Definitive Edition, Mafia III: Definitive Edition will be taken down and will no longer be accessible to download," Ross writes in his Patreon post.
Take-Two likes to resort to legal means
The VR modder does not have much room for maneuver. Unless he would be willing to go to court. A measure he rules out.
It is unlikely that Take-Two will explain itself to Ross or show mercy. The publisher has had a rigorous policy in the past when it comes to unwanted mods for its games and brands, and in one case even sued modders who refused to comply with a cease-and-desist order.
Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick defended such measures at an investor conference in 2021, saying that the company is "pretty flexible" on this point and knows how to react when sales are threatened or someone displays "bad behavior".
Could it be that Take-Two itself is working on VR versions of the affected games and sees the VR mods as a threat to its own business? It's very unlikely: Zelnick is a VR skeptic and has called investments in the technology a "waste of money." Lucrative contracts are exempt: For example, the company is currently working on a VR port of GTA: San Andreas for Meta Quest 2.
Ross, meanwhile, hopes Take-Two can be swayed. "I refuse to believe that is what Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. wants, because that would be an extremely anti-customer and anti-gamer move on their part," the VR modder writes. "But I am not getting in a legal battle with them. If what they want is to assert their corporate dominance with gamers' interests as collateral damage, I have no power to stop them."