The Store is Closed is an in-development survival game with a fun premise: You're stuck inside an "infinite furniture store," the mutant staff is trying to kill you, and the only way to stay alive is to explore the aisles and use the furniture to craft weapons and fortifications. If that description makes you think of Ikea, the famed Swedish purveyor of assemble-your-own furniture and oddly popular meatballs, you're not alone: In fact, creator Jacob Shaw referred to it as "an infinite Ikea game" on Reddit, as have some sites and streamers reporting on the project.
Unfortunately for Shaw, the project came to the attention of the real-life Ikea, and its legal representatives have sent him a letter demanding that the game be changed, and threatening a lawsuit if it's not.
"Our client has learned that you are developing a video game, The Store is Closed, which uses, without our client’s authorization, indicia associated with the famous Ikea stores," the letter, shared with PC Gamer by Shaw, states.
"Your game uses a blue and yellow sign with a Scandinavian name on the store, a blue box-like building, yellow vertical striped 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."
The letter also notes that multiple press reports on the project "make an explicit connection with Ikea," as do many comments made by readers. And you can certainly understand why: There's no mistaking the Ikea-inspired touches seen in the announcement trailer, like the big yellow Styr sign on the blue building, or the "Swedish meat" poster on the cafeteria wall.
The good news for Shaw is that Ikea's lawyers aren't demanding that the project be halted, just that it be changed so that it doesn't look like, "or suggest," an Ikea store. "You can easily make changes to your game to avoid these problems, especially since you do not plan to release the game until 2024," the letter states.
The bad news is that he's not perfectly clear on how to do that. Some aspects of the project, like blue and yellow colors, seem clearly inspired by Ikea, but he's not sure what to do about "furniture that looks like Ikea furniture," for instance.
"I bought generic furniture asset packs to make this game," Shaw told Kotaku. "I don’t know what that means."
Speaking to PC Gamer, Shaw said he's going to comply with the demands because he'd "really rather not get sued," but reiterated his uncertainty about what exactly will satisfy Ikea: "Their requests are a little vague. Like, 'furniture that looks like Ikea furniture,' that's not particularly specific."
His solution for now is "basically just ripping out anything that is blue or yellow and adding some garish red everywhere," he said. "Removing all the Scandinavian furniture, changing all the posters, probably remove the path [from the floor]."
As for the furniture, he said some of the items in the furniture packs he purchased have Scandinavian names, so he's going to start with removing those.
Shaw shared a couple images showcasing a quick take on the potential new look:
But even if he's able to change the game to Ikea's satisfaction, the legal threat has left him with other worries. "It makes me very nervous of changing the colour scheme to something else," he said. "What if Target sues me for using red?"
Despite this surprise legal headache, Shaw is going ahead with development on The Store is Closed, although his plan for the final week of its ongoing (and very successful) Kickstarter campaign has changed: Instead of a new game update to prepare for alpha testing, he's working on the visual overhaul instead. And it shouldn't make a "huge difference" to the overall development schedule, he said: "Just more stress."