“Hello, my name is Randy, and I’m being sued by Activision for being an indie game developer.” That’s how Randy Ficker, creator of a browser and mobile game called Warzone, begins his GoFundMe page. Ficker and Activision are involved in a trademark dispute over the name Warzone as applied to a videogame, and things are getting heated.
Ficker launched Warzone in 2017. Activision launched Call of Duty: Warzone in 2020. As Ficker says on his GoFundMe, “The law is clear: If you use a name in commerce before someone else, they can’t sue you to get rights for that name.”
Meanwhile, Activision’s complaint mentions that while Call of Duty: Warzone isn’t available on mobile devices, “Defendant’s Warzone is one of many games titled ‘Warzone’ that are available on the internet as a browser-based game or on mobile distribution platforms”. It then goes on to list 16 examples. However, the ones simply called ‘Warzone’ all seem to post-date Ficker’s game, while those released before it, like Anomaly: Warzone Earth from 2011, use variations on the name. It seems like Ficker may have been the first to simply call a game Warzone.
(Anomaly: Warzone Earth is available on PC as well as mobile, by the way, and came out on Xbox Live Arcade in 2012. I mention this purely out of a love of facts.)
The reason Activision’s complaint makes such a big deal about Ficker’s Warzone being available on mobile devices and in browsers is to establish that there’s no risk of anyone mistaking the two. “Call of Duty: Warzone could not be more different from Defendant’s game, a low-budget, niche virtual board game like Hasbro’s Risk”, Activision’s legal team says in honestly a kind of snide way, and “it is inconceivable that any member of the public could confuse the two products or believe that they are affiliated with or related to each other.”
Fickers disputes this. As evidence, he presents the Twitch category he created for Warzone, which clearly has his game’s logo at the top. I had to scroll down past 25 people streaming Call of Duty: Warzone, and one Fortnite streamer, to find a player streaming the game the category is supposed to be for. (Hi, Biopilot17.) “The regular streamers of my game are frustrated by this,” Ficker writes, “but apparently it’s inconceivable to Activision that this could happen.”
Ficker also mentions that he’s been contacted by Call of Duty players “about how their xbox can’t connect, or how their PS4 got hacked, how they wish they could carry teammates” and that “Activision’s actions have buried us on Google and the App Stores, where we used to be the #1 result for our own name.”
And that’s why he’s raising money to take the publisher on in court, promising that “100% of the funds raised in this GoFundMe will be directly used in the legal fight against Activision.” Right now, 431 people have donated and Ficker has raised 12,094 of his $50,000 goal.