Editorial: The Ion Maiden Controversy & Why You Shouldn’t Blame The Band

Some of you might be aware that 3D Realms created a successor to the Duke Nukem series in Ion Maiden, which was their answer to the broken and nearly unplayable mess that Bombshell left us with.The idea of an ass kicking cyborg waifu with a gun sounded like a great idea to me personally, as it held that kind of retro nineties throwback quality that a person of my age might look for when it comes to gaming. It even looked the part.

Though the game was available for purchase while in development, I simply haven’t bought it yet because it wasn’t a finished product and I don’t feel that it is worth spending money on a game that is subject to change without warning. However, the biggest change to this game wasn’t in it’s play control or graphic quality… no no no, this was something far more unexpected: Copyright Infringement. Even though there is an all-female tribute act called The Iron Maidens, who not only have covered the band’s songs but have released an album of said covers; apparently the name Ion Maiden was far too derivative of the band’s name and it was also claimed that the game was too derivative of the band’s mobile game. Seeing as Ion Maiden was meant to be a first person shooter like that of it’s ancestor in Duke Nukem, I’d consider that pretty far of a stretch from a mobile action shooter.

Although the case can be made in court that perhaps 3D Realms, despite their long history of game development since the eighties (they’ve been around almost as long as the band) might have derived some inspiration from the mobile game (scoffs) it is highly doubtful at least to my mind, that the whole of Ion Maiden was copy-pasted from the Iron Maiden mobile game. After all, Ion Maiden is more or less just an updated new coat of paint for a style of game that 3D Realms have been familiar with since the early nineties. If anything, perhaps that developers of the Iron Maiden mobile game might be in copyright violation of the gameplay elements that were nicked from other titles into what many felt was derivative as a whole. Honestly, it felt like the copyright holders and the label felt a little sore that their mobile game wasn’t doing quite so well and that a follow-up to a franchise that was actually pretty good back in the nineties was coming out with a spiritual successor that seemed heavy metal influenced and would definitely find it’s place at the table among other successful spiritual successors like Bloodstained and The Messenger.

Considering the fact that Iron Maiden’s copyright holders and their label won the case against 3D Realms, resorting in the game’s name changing to Ion Fury with a release date of August 15th, 2019 we have to wonder how this bodes for future titles. Mighty No. 9 may have crashed and burned, but there was more than enough Mega Man utilized there to be derivative. As for Bloodstained, well… it was Castlevania with another coat of paint. Unlike Mighty No.9 however, it did not crash and burn. Rather, it became lauded as one of the most successful and best-selling games of the year. Imagine that, give the fans what they want and they buy it. My God, could this be how you make money with a franchise? It certainly worked for Mega Man 11. Regardless, if names and play styles can be copyrighted as we have seen with this Ion Maiden case and Iron Maiden’s copyright holders, then that means that a lot of publishers and independent developers could be taken to court for a slew of discrepancies. That’s no bueno. Additionally, it could effect the fan community and even tribute bands in the future. If things really get out of hand, bands could start suing bands over their musical similarities and then the entire world of metal would crash and burn overnight. If Metallica or God forbid, Meshuggah wanted to sue right now for the djent riff, they would be swimming in pools of money as we speak.

Thankfully, the heavy metal community is not like that. We’re not that petty and we let bands build new sounds from classic styles all of the time. That’s how this genre has evolved so much in the first place. There are more classifications of metal now than were books in the library of Alexandria, and that’s all thanks to bands jamming out and discovering new things while playing the sounds and styles of bands that they loved. I don’t think that 3D Realms intentionally wanted to rip-off Iron Maiden and were only titling the game as a tribute to music that they probably enjoyed and I of course still do today. Please keep in mind that this isn’t the band’s fault. This isn’t old man Bruce shaking his hand and demanding money from the brand. These are lawyers with copyrights to protect as far as they saw it and if there’s anyone at fault here, it may very well be current copyright laws, which have changed dozens of times throughout the years and are certainly having a hard time adapting to new technologies. That being said, this is a fight that they thought they could win and they were right.

Despite this far from glamorous ending, there are still fans of the game who refuse to accept that the name has been changed and are even “going to burn their Iron Maiden CD’s” as you might expect. Not I, because I of course have been in this business long enough to know that it is not a pretty place and people’s feelings often get hurt as much as their aspirations. Some can handle it, but some can’t. The world of business as a whole is not for the faint of heart and definitely can cause more stress and anxiety than one ever had before entering it. This case is probably one of millions of copyright cases both on and off the records, where the winning party was not the one that everyone was rooting for. So when you pick up Ion Fury next month, be aware of what it was and not what it was forced to be changed to. Long live Iron Maiden and Ion Maiden respectively, even though this is far from the change that anyone wanted.

You know, in a perfect world; the band might have been so delighted by this tribute that they would have contributed a couple of original songs for the game. That would have been cool, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Some might say that the world we live in today is quite far from it.

– The Grim Lord

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