You know what they say: If it looks too good to be true, it’s probably been hit by a bizarre copyright claim and delayed for eight months. That’s what’s happened to The Day Before, (opens in new tab)Steam’s second most-wishlisted game, which has been struck by a trademark dispute just ahead of the release of a “raw gameplay footage” trailer (opens in new tab) which was promised for later this month. But now that trailer has been indefinitely postponed while Fntastic consults with its lawyers, and the game’s March 1 release date has slipped all the way back to November 10.
In an update posted to Fntastic’s Twitter this morning, the studio claimed that “Steam blocked [its] game page at the request of a private individual,” who had filed a trademark for The Day Before in the United States several months after the game’s January 2021 announcement. The studio says it “found out about this only on January 19, 2023, when [it] received a complaint” from the trademark holder. So everything—the game, the trailer, anything that could tell us more about this still-mysterious survival MMO—is on hold, while Fntastic tries to fulfil its pledge to “definitely solve everything”.
It’s suspicious, to say the least. The Day Before already had a number of red flags about it—from feature lists that seemed unclear on what would be in the game just months ahead of release, to its heavily orchestrated “gameplay trailers”—and for it to suddenly vanish just as it was (apparently) primed to really show itself off makes the whole thing feel fishier than ever.
In fairness, Fntastic does link to the relevant document on the US Patent and Trademark Office website (opens in new tab), and it really was filed—by a South Korean applicant—in May of 2021, so it’s not like the whole thing has been made up out of whole cloth. But it is utterly baffling to think that, in the studio’s own version of events, it announced its game with a lot of splash and pizzazz but without all of the relevant trademarks in place. And then, presumably, proceeded with development for years without ever noticing that someone else owned their game’s name in the United States. There’s even a record of Fntastic’s own application for a trademark (opens in new tab) in January last year. Did that somehow proceed without anyone catching wind of the other one?
It may have been Steam’s second-most wishlisted game before its page disappeared, but it doesn’t look like many people are willing to accept the studio’s explanation for the delay. The replies to the announcement on Twitter are mostly a patchwork of gifs that all suggest some degree of doubt. On the game’s subreddit (which only has 4.6K subscribers, not many for a hotly-anticipated game), the prevailing narrative seems to be that the game just isn’t ready to be shown, let alone launched. “I doubt this actually had anything to do with a delay,” says deathbatdrummer (opens in new tab) in the top-rated comment on the announcement thread, “the game was in no way, shape or form going to be released in March”.