After a year of squabbling over licensing rights, Mechwarrior 4 will finally be available as a free download. If you haven't been following the drama, here's what's been going on.
Smith & Tinker, an offshoot of FASA, the former development house responsible for Mechwarrior 4, announced that in honor of Battletech's 25th anniversary (Battletech is the official name of the Mechwarrior franchise), Mechwarrior 4 would be released for free. It was also in the wake of an announcement that the series would be getting a reboot. They gave MekTek Studios, the team that has basically supported the community for the decade since MW4's release, rights to distribute it. They released an SDK called "MekPak 3.1" that allowed players and developers to weed out any stray bugs before its re-release. All systems were go until Microsoft showed up and crashed the party. It turns out they needed sign-off from Microsoft, who owns part of the Battletech franchise, to push this through. Needless to say, Microsoft wasn't very quick about this, and the project seemed to have disappeared off the radar.
Nevertheless, MekTek proundly announced this week that the deal did indeed go through and that the free release of Mechwarrior 4 is "imminent." No date yet, but I'll take imminent over "whenever Microsoft decides to let us have it."
From the MekTek website:
"After nearly a year since the announcement came, MekTek Studios is pleased to announce, that Microsoft Legal has given the all clear for the free release of Mechwarrior4. This hallmark movement by Microsoft Games couldn't come at a better time, as the Mechwarrior community is attempting a rebirth, amidst an announcement of a Mechwarrior Reboot. Thank you Microsoft."