Markus Persson—A.K.A. Notch, the guy who made Minecraft , a game that’s already sold more than three million copies and has yet to be released—has been having a bit of a spat with U.S. game maker Bethesda Softworks. The problem revolves around the word “scrolls,” which Mr. Persson intends to use as the name of another game that his company, Mojang, is working on, but which also happens to feature prominently in a little role-playing game franchise of Bethesda's called The Elder Scrolls. Bethesda threatened to sue Mr. Persson’s company over the use of their trademark in early August.
Fresh off his honeymoon, the Swedish game maker put up a post on his personal blog explaining how good he feels about everything in his life—save, of course, the Bethesda dispute. But his time off has given him fresh perspective, and he thinks he may have come up with a suitable solution: A fight to the death to decide who takes ownership of the contested word. Well, lots of deaths, really. And all of them virtual. Mr. Persson wants to pit three members of his team against three members of Bethesda’s team in a series of Quake 3 Arena deathmatches that will settle the spat once and for all.
Writes Mr. Persson: “I challenge Bethesda to a game of Quake 3. Three of our best warriors against three of your best warriors. We select one level, you select the other, we randomize the order. 20 minute matches, highest total frag count per team across both levels wins. If we win, you drop the lawsuit. If you win, we will change the name of Scrolls to something you’re fine with. Regardless of the outcome, we could still have a small text somewhere saying our game is not related to your game series in any way, if you wish. I am serious, by the way.”
What an absolutely marvelous idea. It would save both companies plenty in legal fees, likely reduce the risk of either harbouring ill will toward the other moving forward, and, most importantly, it would act as terrific publicity. Indeed, some 17,000 people liked his post on Facebook in the first 12 hours after it went up.
Of course, the corporate attorneys of the world have to hope this doesn’t happen. Imagine the precedent it would set. What if Samsung suddenly suggested to Apple that the two tech giants settle their legal differences with Angry Birds tournaments? No more need to lawyer up. In fact, they could turn the matches into full-on spectacles, making money off of investors who would pay dearly to have seats at the games, buying and selling shares with each flung fowl.
Silly digressions aside, I’ve no idea the likelihood of Bethesda actually accepting the challenge. But I hope the company’s executives are at least considering it. Is what they would lose in allowing another developer to call its game “Scrolls” worth more than what they would gain in publicity and gamers’ good will by accepting Mr. Persson’s dare? This is a unique situation in which a wacky resolution like this might just work; a rare opportunity to turn a potentially nasty legal battle into a win/win for all involved.