US publisher Ideas From the Deep (IFD) has contacted the FBI with allegations that Take Two Interactive is selling illegal copies of Bugdom, a PC game for which IFD claims to own the license.
According to a report on US site Game Daily, the firm claims that Take Two has published the title under the Global Star label for the past three years. It was originally published by Gathering of Developers in 2000, shortly before Take Two aquired the company.
IFD alleges that Gathering failed to make payments on the Bugdom licence, and as a result ceased to own the publishing rights.
Lane Roathe, who co-founded IFD with John Romero of id Software fame and is president of the company, purchased the Bugdom licence in January 2002. However, he says, Take Two continued to publish the game regardless.
Roathe claims he has discussed the matter with Take Two, and that the publisher has acknowledged it has no legal ownership of Bugdom. However, he says, no steps have been taken to resolve the issue - and IFD is losing money as a result.
"They basically have just kept putting me off," Roathe told Game Daily. "I'm not getting paid for those titles and they are preventing me from getting my legal copy in to retail."
Roathe estimates that Take Two has shifted a minimum of 70,000 copies of Bugdom.
To make matters worse, the developer continues, the game is full of bugs, and customers who buy the Global Star version are contacting IFD for technical support. Although the company is not mentioned anywhere in the game's manual or packaging, consumers come across IFD when they do a Google search for help.
Roathe says this is damaging his brand name and company reputation, adding: "Even if I wanted to support [Take-Two's] version I couldn't. I can't put out a patch for it because I don't have the source code; I can't make their version work at all.
"So customers post bad reviews on message boards and complain about how I was unresponsive to their needs."
Such is Roathe's level of frustration that he has now contacted the FBI in the hope it will investigate the matter.
"I called the FBI basically because I don't have the financial resources to go after [Take Two] with a civil lawsuit, and it occurred to me that what they're doing should not actually be legal," said Roathe.
"So in talking with various agencies I was informed that the FBI would be the people that would handle that type of investigation," he added.
It's not yet known whether the FBI will take on Roathe's case. Take Two was unavailable for comment at the time of writing.