Indie developer and YouTube personality Jordan Maron is changing the name of his upcoming mobile game Fortress Fallout after receiving a cease-and-desist notification from Zenimax Media, the parent company behind Fallout publisher Bethesda.
Maron explained in a video published yesterday on his popular YouTube channel CaptainSparklez (via Polygon) that while he's been working on Fortress Fallout since last August, he only heard from Zenimax's lawyers last week when Xreal, the indie studio making Fortress Fallout, received a letter asking them to rescind a trademark application for the game. He hadn't considered potential legal ramifications of including "Fallout" in the name of his game prior to that because he didn't see any reason to since, Fortress Fallout is such a different game than Bethesda's Fallout titles.
Whereas Fallout is a massive first-person open-world role-playing game played on consoles and PC, Fortress Fallout is a free-to-play mobile game with cartoonish 2D graphics and an emphasis on competitive multiplayer. The game is still in beta and has no firm release date. Here's a screenshot from the game's Twitter profile, to give you and idea of what it looks like:
And here's a screenshot from Fallout 3, which Bethesda released in 2008:
Maron makes it clear at several points in his video that he and the other Fortress Fallout developers never intended to mislead consumers into thinking their game is related in any way to the Fallout series.
Likening his situation to the 2012 legal dispute between Zenimax and Minecraft developer Mojang over the latter using the word "Scrolls" in their game, Maron said in the video that the Fortress Fallout team doesn't have the time or money to push back against Zenimax's request. We've reached out to Bethesda for comment and will update this should they say something.
"Our lawyers said that Bethesda is a notoriously litigious company," Maron said in the video. "Obviously they have lots of money and resources at their disposal which we don't really have at the moment. So essentially we are being strong-armed into having to change our name, which is unfortunate because I personally don't see how there is any confusion between Fortress Fallout and the Fallout games."
Seeing no other feasible resolution, Maron decided to just change the name of Fortress Fallout. The developers haven't settled on a new name yet, though he said that he'd like to keep "Fortress" if at all possible.
While he might have accepted defeat, Maron made it clear in the video that he thought the intellectual property dispute was a comically absurd case of a small indie developer being "strong-armed" by a larger and better-funded rival. He likened Zenimax's actions to the practice of patent-trolling, suggesting at one point that he should make a game called "The" and then go after any other developer trying to publish a game with the word "The" in the title. Later in the video he mentions plans to change the name of Fortress Fallout, joking that using the word "Of" might land him in hot water with Nintendo for infringing on the company's trademark for The Legend of Zelda.
"Congratulations, Bethesda," Maron said in the video, clapping his hands briefly. "You won. You beat us. You exercised your might, showed us who's boss. We'll make sure that people do not think our game is part of the Fallout franchise. Wasn't our goal from the start. So...yeah. Well, we'll change it."
You can read a copy of the letter Zenimax sent below: