In an increasingly common occurrence in the videogame industry, it seems that Bethesda/Zenimax Media have been flexing their legal muscle again. This time, the publisher has forced the hand of a small-time developer – telling them to switch out the name of their upcoming ‘Prey for the Gods’ game or face the legal hammer.
The revelation has come to light in a blog post from the indie developer, They explained that the game is still in development, but the incident caused a heap of stress while it was ongoing.
Wha!? Why are you now PRAEY for the Gods!?
Oh yea that…so we didn’t want to do this but we had to change our game name from Prey for the Gods to Praey for the Gods. Thankfully we get to keep the logo but we will spell it “Praey for the Gods”. Honestly, we could make this entire newsletter about our thoughts on this. Trademark law is what we were dealing with and we aren’t under any NDA so we can state the opposition in this situation, Bethesda/Zenimax.
We could’ve fought this and we did think about it for quite a while. Something like a trademark opposition can be long and depending on how far someone wants to fight it can be very expensive. We didn’t want to spend our precious Kickstarter funds, nor did we want to have to ask for additional funds to fight this in court. Using backer money towards something that doesn’t go towards the development or backer rewards felt horrible to us. Even if we did win we’d have to spend a solid chunk of our funds and in our opinion it wasn’t worth it.
The truth is we initially thought about naming the game Præy for the Gods prior to our initial trailer. The logo has both the woman praying against the duality of prey, and thankfully we get to continue to use that. We figured people would have a hard time trying to type in the æ symbol in search engines etc. This was back in 2015 when we posted a trailer on Facebook and Twitter with had no idea if 100 or even 1000 people would watch the trailer. We were applying for both Prey for the Gods, and Præy for the Gods trademarks shortly after as we realized the extent of what we were making. Unfortunately, Zenimax chose to oppose our mark, as they felt both were too similar to their mark “Prey” which they purchased from Id Software, in 2009. While we disagree with their opposition we were able to come to an agreement.
It was something that kept me up many nights, and no doubt shifted our focus from our game frequently. Worrying about the outcome if we went to trial, if we’d lose our fans or walk away from the mark and still potentially get sued for millions on trademark infringement. This is really something no starting company should have to deal with let alone a tiny team of 3. So the fact that we came out the other end intact still developing the game was a win. One that will no doubt shape our company moving forward.
The worst thing in all this is that Praey To The Gods isn’t remotely connected to Bethesda’s upcoming Prey 2. The only legal tie is a Trademark (One which Bethesda acquired from id Software when they purchased them back in 2009).
Of course Bethesda are legally entitled to enforce this Trademark. That’s an argument that’s appeared numerous times over the years in these sort of cases. The onus is on Zenimax and Bethesda to protect it, and will do so with the full power of their legal team.
Sadly that doesn’t help paint a great PR picture for the firm though. They did the same to MineCraft creator Notch a few years back, when he was working on his Scrolls title. There have been other threats in the past from trademark trolls (That sounds so cute) over the use of the word ‘Edge’.
Clearly as the industry continues to grow – this kind of thing is set to become a more common occurrence.
Doesn’t stop it from making Bethesda look like chumps in the process though.