Bethesda, for many, is a company best known for franchises like Elder Scrolls or Fallout and in recent years, Doom and Wolfenstein. However, there is a side to Bethesda, a darker, evil side that many seem to quickly forget—their staunch and ever aggressive legal team that will stop at nothing until they have their way. In a jarring, but unsurprising move by Bethesda, the company has opted to threaten a lone seller of a sealed copy of The Evil Within 2 on Amazon with a lawsuit. In response to Polygon’s inquiry into the matter, Bethesda responded with the following:
Bethesda does not and will not block the sale of pre-owned games. The issue in this case is that the seller offered a pre-owned game as “new” on the Amazon Marketplace.
We do not allow non-authorized resellers to represent what they sell as “new” because we can’t verify that the game hasn’t been opened and repackaged. This is how we help protect buyers from fraud and ensure our customers always receive authentic new product, with all enclosed materials and warranty intact.
In this case, if the game had been listed as “Pre-Owned,” this would not have been an issue.
The problem with such an interpretation and approach from a consumer perspective could be far-reaching. If Bethesda successfully was able to litigate such a claim, it could effectively ban the sale of new games from non-authorized sellers, essentially allowing the company to police new sales in their entirety. For consumers, this would give them fewer outlets to purchase new games and less freedom to sell any games they have that are still sealed.
As of this time, the individual that Bethesda threatened has opted to simply relist the game as pre-owned, escaping their wrath—for now. But the fact that Bethesda is able to do this and threaten individuals in such a manner who are selling new games is concerning in its own right. Due to the unfortunate nature of the United State’s legal system, even if you know you may win a case, a company can still strong-arm its way into getting what it wants by simply threatening smaller prey who have no means of paying for a lengthy legal case. The result is that Bethesda, in this case, can use this situation as a scare tactic to prevent future similar instances all without having to legally prove it can.
Now, the issues that this presents for consumers are obvious and we should all be opposed to such actions. However, what many have started to do is compartmentalize the actions of Bethesda, for the actions of ZeniMax, Bethesda’s parent company. And, on some level, they are not wrong; Todd Howard isn’t the one serving papers to a lone seller on Amazon. But to break apart Bethesda from ZeniMax from these actions is simply a means to feel better about a bad situation.
As a consumer, when you purchase a game from Bethesda, you are also supporting ZeniMax, even though the sale is not being made directly to ZeniMax. ZeniMax is the parent company of Bethesda, meaning any actions that Bethesda takes, be it good or bad, also reflects on Zenimax. This same logic applies the other way as well, that is, any action that is taken by the parent company should be reflected in the subsidiary. They can’t be separated because they are one in the same, the parent is the company, and the company is the parent.
Take for example a company that pollutes the local water in the area that it operates. Day after day, month after month, the water in the area continues to become more toxic. However, the company happens to own a smaller subsidiary, where it’s sole service is to purify the water. The company that is purifying the water is creating a good product, it’s cleaning up the environment, and generally is a good company. However, the parent company in this case, that owns this company, takes actions that are actively bad. Even if the company that purifies the water is doing a good service, the fact of the matter is that the parent company is not only doing bad which reflects and effects the smaller company but also is making it worse for everyone. If you choose to support the company who is purifying the water, who is owned by the larger more polluting company, you are still promoting the company that pollutes, even if it is indirectly. In the case of the Bethesda and ZeniMax, this is much of the same.
If you are purchasing their latest title, be it Fallout, Doom, Wolfenstein, or something else, you are not only supporting Bethesda, but you are also supporting ZeniMax. Compartmentalizing them may make you feel better when purchasing something from Bethesda, but it is still promoting ZeniMax and their poor practices. Here is the part many may struggle with but need to learn to accept. You can still buy Bethesda games and hate what ZeniMax is doing, but know that you are still supporting them in the process.
I am not here to say “don’t support ZeniMax by not buying Bethesda titles.” Rather, what I wish to impart, is that it is ok to have conflicting feelings on a situation. You can love Bethesda, hate ZeniMax, and still buy Bethesda games all in the same, but don’t pretend that Bethesda isn’t involved and is not on some level part of the problem just because you love their games. Learning to accept that you can have a conflicting feeling towards a company is important in keeping the greater discourse at hand on point. By compartmentalizing, we are just furthering the wrong narrative for the sake of us feeling better, rather than tackling the ugly truth at hand that we may not entirely disagree.
No matter how many mental gymnastics we make, you can’t separate the parent from the company.