Valve’s upcoming multiplayer online battle arena, DOTA 2, was one of Gamescom 2011’s hottest topics, still drawing attention over the possibility of a trademark dispute. To recap, the original DOTA (Defense of the Ancients) wasn’t published by Valve, in fact it was a mod for Blizzard’s Warcraft III and has since gone on to create its own sub-genre, spawning successful PC titles such as League of Legends and Heroes of Newerth in the process.
Clocking on to the genre’s surge in popularity, in 2009 Valve enlisted the aid of DOTA creator IceFrog to develop a spiritual successor, even trademarking the “DOTA” title. Some saw this as a low blow; though not directly responsible for DOTA, if not for Blizzard the community which built the game would never have come together, cynics claiming that Valve simply snatched up the DOTA trademark hoping to tow away a portion of Blizzard’s colossal fandom.
Here’s where it gets even more complicated. Blizzard is planning to release a “Blizzard DOTA” official mod for Starcraft II but with the trademark in Valve’s possession, Blizzard could face legal action for the use of a brand name the publisher actually helped to establish.
According to Blizzard co-founder Frank Pearce, carrying the actual DOTA nametag won’t be necessary for the upcoming Starcraft II mod.
From my perspective, DOTA is a genre [...] At the end of the day, the name and the label we put on that mod for StarCraft 2 is not as critical as the gameplay experience we create and deliver to the fans. We will not hold back the experience from the fans because of a naming conflict. We’ll find a way to get it into the hands of our fans either way.
In the other corner of the ring, Valve boss Gabe Newell has finally explained why the team started work on DOTA 2. As hardcore gamers (Newell having already clocked 800 hours of DOTA 2 himself) a number of Valve employees had been flirting with the idea of creating their own take on the MOBA genre.
Despite Valve’s pedigree it would still be hard for the publisher to compete in the free-to-play MOBA market; Newell explained that carrying the actual DOTA label would allow gamers to clearly associate with the project instead of reaching for a completely new title. When asked if Valve would respond to the launch of Blizzard’s Starcraft II DOTA mod with a lawsuit Gabe didn’t give a solid reply:
I don’t know, that’s really not my domain. I’m sure there will be a bunch of nattering back and forth, but I’m more concerned about the game than anything else.