Earlier today, bitComposer Entertainment AG issued a press release indicating that they had purchased the “exclusive worldwide rights for future video game adaptations of the acclaimed S.T.A.L.K.E.R. brand” and that the event “ensures that the successful series will continue”. Great news for fans of the atmospheric series, especially in light of the apparent closure of original developer, GSC Game World, earlier this year which meant that it was widely deemed dead. As it transpires, as noteworthy as this turn of events would be in its own right, things are a bit muddier that they appear.
That initial press release mentioned specifically that bitComposer had purchased the game rights from Boris Natanovich Strygatsky (sic), who passed away on the 19th of November this year at the age of 79. The peculiar thing in this is that Boris Strugatsky is the co-author (with his brother, Arkady Strugatsky) of Roadside Picnic, the novel upon which S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl is loosely based, but has no specific affiliation with the game itself. Instead, again with his brother Arkady, he is credited with the screenplay of Stalker, a 1979 Russian cult classic film loosely adapted from the same novella. Bearing this in mind, it is implausible that he held the rights that bitComposer claims to have purchased.
Contrasting with this revelation, bitComposer acted in the role of European publisher for Call of Pripyat – the third game in the series – and their press release highlights the critical reception and sales figures of several S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games, which plays upon the notion of them acquiring the rights to the existing game series. Curiously, GSC Game World has outed itself as an active company, and has responded with a release of their own making clear that they remain the owners of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. IP and everything that it entails. Further strengthening this is the company’s claim that they are still working on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2 as part of a multimedia project.
Looking more closely at the wording that bitComposer has used, it seems even more clear that they haven’t the rights to existing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. game universe at all, as it is a video game property in its own right, and not an adaptation from any other form of entertainment. The logical assumption is that they have used the name to evoke the existing S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series to garner interest in whatever project it is that they have in the hopper, surely another adaptation of Roadside Picnic. Whatever the status and identity of this project, it appears to have no direct ties to GSC Game World, or the companies that its former members founded: 4A Games (Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light) and Vostok Games (Survarium). We’ll update you when and if bitComposer offers an update.