CD Projekt Red and Zenimax on Trademarking Bonanza

Yeah. Such is the world. Polish video game company CD Projekt Red has trademarked the genre name cyberpunk in the EU and is seeking to do the same in the US as they develop their next game under the title Cyberpunk 2077. They didn’t even come up with the term. It would still be a shit move even if they had. Ironically enough, totally un-punk, too.

At the same time it is quite essentially cyberpunk. As in, there’s always this evil corporation that hoards property and privatizes anything it can in cyberpunk works, isn’t there? And in this case guess who that is? I wanted to say I don’t understand. But I’m not surprised at all. CD Projekt Red have the resources to make more money and they obviously use them to that end. And we consumers accept that and keep purchasing their products.

This is similar to what more recently happened with Prey, Arkane’s (well, Bethesda’s. But really Zenimax’s) new game. We are talking about a high-profile corporate release with Prey. And so, when the time drew near to publishing Prey, the corporate masters behind the game took to attacking Prey for the Gods, an upcoming indie title, for using the word prey in the name of the game. It’s a different game, a different genre, but it’s still a video game and I guess it’s still entertainment and that’s similarity enough. Again, this is a case of major corporate players, mega corporations even, protecting their profits by attempting to privatize assets from within the public domain, which is itself corporate lingo for just words. They are trying to privatize words now, whether through trademarking of copyrighting or what have you.

I know what that is about and it makes sense within the logic of corporate life. It’s about money and profits and branding and the public perception of all those. They want people to think about their product when they think “Prey.” Their product and nobody else’s. And so the relatively makers of Prey for the Gods were put before the alternatives of either 1) fighting (and probably losing) an enormously costly battle against an army of corporate lawyers; or 2) budging and changing their game’s name. When threatened with legal action, they opted to the change the name and now Prey for the Gods is Pray for the Gods. Smart, if also obvious and sad.

It’s not even about respecting their particular product, though. Even the game Prey from Arkane studios is just a means here to building up a franchise, creating a shortcut between word and profit. I guess as video game fans there’s more and more unpleasant facts about where the world is going that we are faced with accepting.

Or rejecting. Because how far CD Projekt Red and Zenimax and the others are willing to take this is fairly clear: they’re willing to take things as far as necessary–as far as possible–to make the bottom line and beyond. The question is how far the little guys are willing to swallow in order to have our entertainment in this day and age. Entertainment which is undoubtedly fun to many, but that also arrives with some undeniable and increasing ugliness.

Sometimes when seeking entertainment the last thing consumers want to do is think. It’s a shame but it’s also understandable, predictable, and something the rich and powerful have always counted on dearly. But for those wishing to know where their entertainment is coming from and what world it is a part of, this should prove worrying.

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