Bethesda’s lawyers are putting them in hot water from the perspective of gamers. It began with an out-of-the-blue legal notice sent to Minecraft creator Markus Persson (Notch) over the use of the word “Scrolls” as the title of Mojang’s next game. See, Bethesda’s cornerstone franchise, The Elder Scrolls, also contains that word and therefore, according to their legal team, it’s trademark infringement.
Bethesda just came out of another failed legal proceeding against Masthead Studios and Interplay Entertainment regarding the Fallout MMO they’re working on and it’s possible they’re setting themselves up for another failure by going to court against Mojang.
Common sense about gamers actually referring to The Elder Scrolls titles by their installment-specific name (Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, etc.) aside, what is Bethesda’s ultimate goal here? Mojang’s in-development Scrolls is a card game and has nothing to do with the vast open-world RPGs that Bethesda is attempting to safeguard.
Worse, “Scrolls” is just another noun in video game titles. Go to Metacritic, specify video games and search the word “Dragon” and there are literally 387 results at the time of this writing. One of the “Dragon” game publishers better start suing the rest, right?
We jest about the topic because it’s laughable from a fan’s perspective and it’s generating bad PR for Bethesda because of it. Notch cannot resist making jokes of the topic either and offered an alternative resolution to the matter, by challenging Bethesda to a match of Quake 3 where if they lose, they’d rename the game. Bethesda of course, remained completely silent and their staff has been muzzled. It’s a lawyers game and the actual developers at Bethesda – who Notch himself describes as “good people” – have nothing to do with the suit and probably don’t want it to exist either. This is the impression I got from speaking to a Bethesda representative who said he wasn’t allowed to comment outside of saying that the team at Bethesda are big fans of Minecraft.
While we and Notch joke about the situation, Notch does take the actual legal proceedings seriously and he will gladly go to court to defend against what he calls a “bogus” claim. According to his Twitter feed today, Bethesda has set a court date so it’s happening.
Minecraft exits beta status on November 11, 2011.
Follow me on Twitter @rob_keyes.