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Ikea’s lawyers demand changes to horror game set in furniture store

Developer of The Store is Closed has 10 days to comply

Oli Welsh is senior editor, U.K., providing news, analysis, and criticism of film, TV, and games. He has been covering the business & culture of video games for two decades.

Ikea has demanded an indie game developer make changes to an unreleased horror game set in a furniture store which, the firm claims, bears too close a resemblance to its own.

According to a Kotaku report, Ikea’s New York legal representatives Fross Zelnick have written to solo U.K. developer Jacob Shaw, giving him just 10 days to “remove all indicia associated with the famous Ikea stores” from his game The Store is Closed.

The Store is Closed is a survival game set in an infinite furniture store where the staff attack when the lights go out at night. Players need to craft weapons and build fortifications to survive and find escape. The store is called Styr, and appears from the outside as a large blue building with a yellow sign. There’s no way to play the game yet, but it can be seen in video above and in images on its Steam and Kickstarter pages.

In the letter seen by Kotaku, Ikea’s lawyers say that the game “uses, without our client’s authorization, indicia associated with the famous IKEA stores.”

It defines these “indicia” as follows: “Your game uses a blue and yellow sign with a Scandinavian name on the store, a blue box-like building, yellow vertical stiped shirts identical to those worn by Ikea personnel, a gray path on the floor, furniture that looks like Ikea furniture, and product signage that looks like Ikea signage. All the foregoing immediately suggest that the game takes place in an Ikea store.”

Kotaku, which has played a build of the game, says the outside of the store and its branding appear only on the menu screen. Shaw told Kotaku that he used generic furniture asset packs to make the game, rather than creating furniture to resemble Ikea’s products. Although Shaw is careful never to mention Ikea, the firm’s lawyers point out that press coverage of the game, and user comments, have been quick to make the connection.

The Store is Closed appears to be a riff on SCP-3008, a joke entry in a fictional paranormal wiki about “a space resembling the inside of an Ikea furniture store, extending far beyond the limits of what could physically be contained within the dimensions of the retail unit.” Inside SCP-3008, humanoids dressed as Ikea staff attack at night, saying, “The store is now closed, please exit the building.”

There is an undeniable resemblance between the game store’s branding and signage and Ikea’s. Whether this constitutes fair use or “unfair competition and false advertising,” as Ikea claims, is certainly debatable. But Shaw, who goes by the studio name Ziggy, does not feel he has the resources to fight it. “I was going to spend the last week of my Kickstarter preparing an update for all the new alpha testers,” he told Kotaku. “But now I’ve got to desperately revamp the entire look of the game so I don’t get sued.”

Contacted by Polygon for comment, Ikea said in a statement:

While we think it’s flattering that others are inspired by the Ikea brand, we must be diligent to ensure that the Ikea trademarks and trade dress are not misapplied. Various elements of the video game currently correspond in appearance with the Ikea brand features. We’ve reached out to the creator of the video and asked them to make changes to those elements to ensure that this is no longer the case. They expressed that they understand our request and agreed to make those changes. This should all be well in time for the expected 2024 launch of the game.

We wish the creator of the game the best of luck!

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