There is a lot of heat going around lately focused on Bethesda, Prey, and the much lesser known Prey for the Gods. Or should I say Praey for the Gods? Technically it's the latter now, since Bethesda (and owner Zenimax) contested indie game developer No Matter on their trademark.
Probably the most interesting tidbit of news to come out of this whole process is the fact that Bethesda and Zenimax not only opposed No Matter's use of the word “Prey” in their game title, they also contested “præy.” The game was actually originally going to be called Præy for the Gods, but No Matter realized it would be difficult enough for people to type in the “æ” character that it would hurt their search results. They're certainly not wrong about this. Whenever I have to type a strange character into a search engine, I generally have to search for that character first, copy it, and then paste it into the word I was originally searching. This sort of thing is fun for me (weirdly enough) so it doesn't bother me to the point where I wouldn't search for the game. But I admit that is incredibly unusual. Most people are not going to do a Google search to do another Google search.
Because of this knowledge, No Matter changed their original working title to Prey for the Gods. According to Bethesda, they reached out to No Matter as early as 2015 about the use of the word “Prey” in their game. They also said they had tried to contact them about it multiple times since then. So according to Bethesda, their legal action towards No Matter and Prey for the Gods was just a final effort to protect their trademark. There is a related quote from Bethesda making its rounds on the Internet saying, “We really didn't have much of a choice. If we didn't oppose the mark, we risk losing our Prey trademark and that isn't acceptable. Unfortunately, that's how trademark law works.”
When faced with a potentially lengthy and incredibly costly lawsuit, tiny studio No Matter decided they would acquiesce Bethesda's request. Did I mention that No Matter Studios is made up of three people? Yeah, this is a tiny (tiny) studio that just couldn't and didn't want to deal with the might of a giant corporation like Bethesda. Had No Matter contested Bethesda, they could have been locked into a court battle that could have lasted years.
No Man's Sky is a well-known name at this point for various reasons, but one in particular reason is possibly lesser known. That is the quiet three year “secret stupid legal nonsense” (according to Hello Games managing director Sean Murray) that No Man's Sky developers went through with Sky broadcasting. The British corporation has decided multiple times that they have sole rights to the use of the word “sky.” But many others disagreed with that statement, including the court system that ultimately decided No Man's Sky had nothing to do with telecommunications or broadcasting. Two companies that faced Sky that weren't so lucky were giant Microsoft and Skype. The former had to change Skydrive to Onedrive (the more you know), and the latter had to give up their “cloud-like” logo.
If big companies like Microsoft can end up losing some trademark battles, it's no wonder that small studios are scared off. No Matter did what they thought was best for them by changing their game's name to Praey for the Gods. Easier to search than Præy for the Gods, but still a silly change considering they got to keep their logo. Yup, the logo still reads Prey for the Gods, with the beautiful image of a woman kneeling and praying in place of the “e.” Or ae depending on who you ask now.
It's such a petty matter, considering that the logo is staying the same and Prey for the Gods has nothing to do with Prey. The Bethesda game is a science-fiction action title where you have to battle against aliens on a space station. Praey for the Gods is inspired by Shadow of the Colossus and takes place on a snowy island. In it you have to survive your hostile environment and take on giant hulking bosses, “the very gods you believe in.”
Prey and Praey for the Gods never had anything in common to begin with. They were two very different games in two very different locales featuring very different gameplay and characters. Now they have even less in common, since Bethesda was able to scare a tiny studio into changing their name. Trademark disputes are the most silly example of the law being a little too specific. Yes, we can't have people using the same names for things over and over again because that will get confusing for developers and consumers alike. That's the reason the trademark law exists in the first place, so developers can protect their creations and so consumers can tell them apart. There's no reason to fight over instances like this where the differences are so obvious. All I have to say to Bethesda is this: why did you bother?