Information found on the website of the United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) shows that Nintendo of America have Re-Applied for their trademark on Eternal Darkness with the reveal of the launch lineup for their new console Switch just over a week away. While this hardly serves as confirmation that Nintendo intends to revive or remake the long unused franchise, the timing of the re-filing has led many to speculate that a return to the IP may be in the works, whether in the form of a re-release or a full sequel.
The timing of the filing may just be coincidence, however, as the move comes shortly before the extension period for their previous 'Intent to Use' filing expires. For those unfamiliar with the trademarking process, an Intent to Use filing is a preemptive action that allows a company with a 'bona-fide intention to use a specific mark in commerce' to file that intention with the USPTO. The patents office then gives the applicant six months before requesting they either provide evidence of their use, request a further 6-month extension, or allow the application to expire. With a limit of five extensions on an application of six months each, this gives a company a potential three and a half years to act. Nintendo's previous trademark application was filed in June 2013, meaning that they were unable to extend this any further and had to re-apply for the trademark now to avoid it being considered abandoned.
You may ask 'Why preserve the trademark if there aren't any short-term plans for the game?' but given that Nintendo is famously protective of their intellectual property this argument is difficult to support, as the filing protects Nintendo against anyone else attempting to use the trademark in the meantime. It is worth noting, however, that an 'Intent to Use' filing does not grant a trademark, the trademark is only granted if evidence of the product in question (in this case a new game or re-release of an existing game from the IP) is eventually presented to the USPTO. For more information on the complicated world of trademarks and the intent to use filing, see the USPTO's FAQ here.
It is not beyond the realms of possibility for Nintendo to revisit the Eternal Darkness IP, the original Gamecube title Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem may not have been a runaway commercial success but it gained a lot of praise from players and critics alike. A horror story that spanned vast amounts of time (from ancient Rome to the Somme) with its twelve playable, interconnected, characters and notable 'Sanity' motif, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem developed a cult-following and is arguably more widely regarded today than when it originally released in 2002. As we reported at the back end of last year, three separate sources close to Nintendo have suggested to Eurogamer that the Switch will be able to emulate Gamecube games through its virtual console. This suggests that if Nintendo intends to activate the trademark filing anytime soon then the emulation of the Gamecube classic seems the most likely option.
Nintendo's answer to backward compatibility, the virtual console, may be the most likely route to a return for Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem but they're not the only ones looking at reviving the franchise. A recent attempt by the original games' writer and director Denis Dyack to create a spiritual successor to the game through Kickstarter, titled Shadow of the Eternals, stalled in development back in 2013 but despite his statements alluding to the continued development of the project with new studio Quantum Entanglement Entertainment not much has been heard of the game since. This presents an interesting opportunity for Nintendo to gain some brownie points in the eyes of series fans; were they to revisit the franchise with an official sequel, a remastered original, or even to work with Dyack and QEE in bringing Shadow of the Eternals to fruition.
Would you be up for a return to Eternal Darkness? Are you one of the many who has been following the troubled development of Shadow of the Eternals? What do you think of the odds this will feature in the big Switch announcement on the 13th? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!