Another week, another Wednesday! The GYGO crew is going to be going biweekly for a bit, which might mean that I may actually be playing something new next time you hear from me. Ha ha, just kidding, I’ll still be creating a series of island paradises in Tropico 4.
Here’s the news:
Monster Energy? More Like Trademark Troll Energy
According to game designer Vincent Livings, Monster Energy’s lawyers are aggressively coming after indie developers who use the word “monster” in their game titles for copyright reasons. Livings, who works on a game called Dark Deception: Monsters and Mortals, stated on Twitter that he will be taking the company to court to fight the bullying.
2. Monster Energy's lawyers are coming after us right now, because @MonstersMortals has the word "Monsters" in it. They claim that our game is confusingly similar to their energy drink. Yep, that's really their claim. Rather than roll over, I'm going to fight them in court.
— Vincent Livings (@VincentLivings) March 29, 2023
In his tweet thread, Livings included a link to a list of trademark trials from the US Patent and Trademark office, which does include a notable amount of claims filed by Monster Energy against various brands (including a small business in Arizona selling shaved ice with no resemblance whatsoever to Monster Energy or its various chemically flavored beverages). It is legally Monster Energy’s right to do this—if we want to be as cynical as possible, it’s about “protecting the brand.” But is it likely that Monster Energy’s trademark is in any way threatened by shaved ice companies, high-end luxury eyewear, or an indie video game? Dubious.
Obligatory “I am not a lawyer” disclaimer here, but whether these lawsuits are frivolous or unlikely for Monster Energy to win is not as relevant as it seems. When big companies throw their weight around with lawsuits and cease and desists, small companies with fewer resources (and fewer attorneys on retainer) often have to give in because they’re unsure of their legal standing or unable to afford the expense of going to court. I mean, really, Monster Energy? A shaved ice truck?
Monster Energy has also tried to go after Ubisoft, Pokémon, and Monster Hunter in the past, without success—unlike a shaved ice truck with a cute little yeti on it, these companies have the resources to hit back.
Pokémon GO? More Like Pokémon… Don’t GO
Many Pokémon GO players are boycotting the game after a raise in price for participation in Remote Raids—a feature introduced in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic—and a nerfing of the same system. Remote Raids allow players to catch special Pokémon, such as Lugia or Regieleki, that may not be available elsewhere in the game. Remote Raids let players do that at a distance, which was helpful during lockdowns and also for players with disabilities or those who live in remote areas. The changes to the system include a doubling of the price as well as a limitation for how many Remote Raids players can participate in per day.
Players who have attempted to participate in Raids during the boycott have found that, without participation from Remote Raid players, Raids are nearly impossible to beat. Though Nintendo has stated that the changes are good for the long-term health of the game, players aren’t convinced. The current number of players participating in Remote Raids could be hampered somewhat by the ongoing boycott, but fewer people are able to play due to the limitation in how many can be done per day, potentially making Raids increasingly difficult over time without adjustments.
Microsoft Acquiring Activision Blizzard? More Like… Sorry, I’ve Got Nothing
Microsoft’s attempt to acquire Activision Blizzard continues, with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority looking likely to approve the deal. The current fight is largely centered on Call of Duty, which Sony has stated is an important franchise for the success of their console, and which could theoretically become an Xbox/Windows exclusive if the buyout is approved. Microsoft and Activision Blizzard have suggested that the series will not become exclusive, but Sony has insisted throughout the process that it is not outside the realm of possibility.
Sony is no stranger to exclusivity deals—their consoles feature them heavily, including deals that prevent popular games like Final Fantasy XIV from ever reaching Xbox at all. While these policies are decidedly anti-consumer and Sony is absolutely behaving hypocritically in this regard, Microsoft purchasing Activision Blizzard is still a huge loss for those of us who are not on the board of either company. One company owning more media channels is exactly what we don’t need! If Sony’s “tantrum” has to become a full-on floor-stomping, wailing, and shouting session, I support it. None of these companies are my friends and they would probably rather throw me into a meat grinder than make a decision that actually benefits consumers, but if it takes Sony banging their fists on the floor and shouting, “It’s not fair!” to stop it from happening, then I will be the first to treat them to an ice cream cone afterward.
While we’ve got Activision Blizzard on the brain, the US Department of Justice filed a suit against the company last week because of a policy that keeps esports player salaries low. The Activision Blizzard rule, called the Competitive Balance Tax, penalizes teams who spend more than the company allows on player salaries. Do you ever read a piece of news that momentarily makes you feel like that meme of Nick Young with all the question marks? Because I frankly can’t believe what I just read and then had to write out. Activision Blizzard has said that the rule has never resulted in actual “taxing” of player income, and that it was dropped in 2021. Which, sure, of course it wasn’t ever used, because it would have punished teams for paying higher salaries—the goal is deincentivization! As Brendan Sinclair points out at GamesIndustry.biz, esports leagues generally lack the player unions of other professional sports, leaving players at the mercy of their owners when it comes to salaries.
And lastly, the National Labor Relations Board will investigate Activision Blizzard on two charges made by the Communication Workers of America (CWA). The first concerns accusations of illegal surveillance during a July 2022 walkout in protest of the US Supreme Court ruling on Roe V. Wade, and the second concerns the company blocking access to an internal communication channel where employees discussed their salaries and working conditions.
Microsoft has stated they will remain neutral and will honor any collective bargaining agreements made at Activision Blizzard, which earned the merger the support of the CWA last summer.
In other news…
Phil Harrison, who formerly led the Stadia division of Google as well as having a history at Sony and Atari, has left the company. Stadia shut down in January of this year.
— Game Developer (@gamedevdotcom) April 5, 2023
Klaus Teuber, designer behind Settlers of Catan, has passed away at 70 years old.
It is with profound sadness that we at CATAN Studio acknowledge the passing of Klaus Teuber, legendary game designer and creator of the beloved board game CATAN. Our hearts go out to Klaus' family during this incredibly difficult time. pic.twitter.com/gPPIVtleHJ
— CATAN – Official (@settlersofcatan) April 4, 2023
Bubsy the Cat creator Mike Beryln also passed away last week. He was 73.
Vampire Survivors took home the top gaming prize at this year’s BAFTAs, defeating God of War Ragnarok, despite not having an original Hozier song on its soundtrack.
If you’ve got time to kill and the desire for some delicious drama in the world of game development, the ongoing saga of Ironmace, accused of stealing materials from Maplestory publisher Nexon, is worth a read.
Amazon has laid off almost 100 people from various gaming divisions as part of the March announcement that they would be laying off some 9000 people company-wide.
A Street Fighter movie and TV show are in the works with Legendary Entertainment, which previously released films like Dune and shows like Paper Girls. A Tomb Raider TV series is also in the works from Legendary.
Tsunekazu Ishihara and Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka have stepped down from their positions at Pokémon franchise owner Creatures, Inc.. Ishihara, former CEO at Creatures, will continue his role as president of The Pokémon Company.
Microsoft is releasing a new controller made partly from reclaimed materials in celebration of Earth Day. Perhaps this is how they plan to offset the 21% increase in emissions at the company that the New York Times reported on in 2022?
PlayStation will now feature accessibility tags so developers can signal accessibility options within the platform’s storefront. I don’t have a snarky remark to follow this one up—it honestly seems like a pretty good idea and more platforms should do it.
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.