Valve has now filed for a trademark for Deadlock, the hero shooter it refuses to admit exists

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Deadlock is a hero shooter that both does and does not exist, which is to say that we've all seen it and talked about it, and plenty of people have played it and are likely playing it at this moment, but Valve has steadfastly refused to acknowledge that anyone is even paying attention to it, much less that it's something currently in development, thus leaving it in a suspended state not unlike, say, a metaphorical cat in a box. But now Deadlock does not exist slightly less than it did not exist yesterday, because Valve has applied for a trademark on the name.

Word of the trademark comes from Twitter user Gabe Follower, the guy who got us all excited for Deadlock and then admonished us for being excited about it. A couple weeks after saying he had to stop talking about Deadlock "completely," he has apparently changed his mind, although to be fair he is talking here about a trademark filing and not a videogame, and so arguably it doesn't count.

In any event, the Deadlock trademark application is intended to cover "on-line computer games" and various related matters, including most notably "organization of competitions relating to videogames." The application has been accepted by the USPTO but has not yet been approved.

Deadlock trademark filing:
Deadlock trademark filing:

So what does it mean? Not necessarily much: Valve filed a trademark application for Neon Prime in 2022, which was rumored to be a new game; that application is now "dead," in the USPTO's words, meaning it was "refused, dismissed, or invalidated," and is thus no longer active. But there are also rumors that Deadlock is in fact Neon Prime under a new name; Neon Prime, meanwhile, was reportedly the game originally known as Citadel way back in 2019. In other words, it's possible this project has been trundling along for years, and Valve has just been switching up names to keep us on our toes.

The only thing we can say for sure at this point is what associate editor Ted Litchfield said last week: This is getting ridiculous. Deadlock is out there for anyone with an interest to see, and it's a rumor only in the most technical sense: As long as Valve refuses to acknowledge that anything is going on (which, frankly, it's very good at doing), we are obligated to treat it as a game that may, or may not, be happening.

And it may not happen. Valve has the resources to do pretty much whatever it wants, including building a full game, rolling it out to technically-closed beta testing, and then deciding "nah" and shutting the whole thing down, without ever publicly admitting that it had something cooking in the first place. It's part of what makes Valve legendary: While most big game companies take pains to keep their fans reasonably informed (albeit with carefully-controlled, corporate-approved comms), Valve is like this inscrutable monolith that just does things, and then occasionally whips them out when the mood strikes. I find it fun and frustrating in equal measure: The commitment to the bit is undeniably impressive, but sometimes I really do wish they'd just tell us what they're doing once in a while.

It's possible we'll get a proper look at Deadlock in June. Half-Life: Alyx, Valve's last next big thing, was formally unveiled at The Game Awards in 2019; the summer version of that event, Summer Game Fest, takes place on June 7, a week from today. Of course it's also possible that Valve will maintain the wall of silence until The Game Awards—in 2025. Either way, we'll keep you posted.