Every now and again you get a report of a game studio/company attempting to file a lawsuit against another company or even individual for use of what they claim is their trademark and/or protected brand. Some even go as far as to trademark what many would consider commonplace or not so specific words…like…cyberpunk for example. And sometimes, this takes place between a AAA company and a smaller, lesser-known independant studio. Well earlier today, No Matter Studios — whom prior to today’s news were hard at work on their successfully Kickstarter-backed, Shadow of the Colossus-like title Prey for the Gods — were forced to change the name of their game, albeit slightly, to Praey for the Gods following a dispute with Bethesda — and their parent company, ZeniMax Media — regarding the name “Prey”.
As you know, [publisher] Bethesda have a similarly-named game releasing less-than-24 hours from now and despite the indie studio’s disagreeing with the claim, the company felt they had no choice but to change the title. Posting on the studio’s newsletter, the team explains that they didn’t want to take the matter to court — thus using the half a million dollars they managed to raise on their campaign — out of fear this would go against their promise of spending backers’ money on something not pertaining to the development of the project.
“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.”
In response, Bethesda have issued a statement, claiming that they had reached out to the developers as early as November 2015 before adding: “We really didn’t have much of a choice. If we don’t oppose the mark, we risk losing our Prey trademark and that isn’t acceptable. Unfortunately, that’s how trademark law works.” While it wouldn’t be a stretch to claim the majority of readers and perhaps neutrals may well be on the side of No Matter Studios in this case, it’s at least fortunate to see this resulting in no more than a slight name change and hasn’t (here’s hoping) affected the development of the game in the long term. Praey for the Gods is targeting a release on PS4, Xbox One & PC though no firm release date has so far been issued.