Battle royale games have become the hot new genre over the last year or so, with the success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds inspiring a wave of imitators. With Fornite stealing more and more of the limelight, however, it looks like PUBG Corp is starting to get more serious about squashing its competition. From TechCrunch:
Now the company behind PUBG is taking Fortnite’s creators to court. PUBG (the company), a subsidiary of Bluehole (the company behind PUBG, the game — slightly confusing, I know), has filed a suit against Epic Games over copyright infringement concerns. The South Korean suit, noted by The Korea Times, takes particular issue with Fortnite’s battle royale mode.
Bluehole has been vocal about the similarities since the new mode was released in September. The developer released a statement at the time, addressing “growing concerns” with its former partner.
It’s hard to imagine PUBG Corp being too upset about Fortnite were it not enjoying such incredible financial success; the game made almost $300 million in April alone. Fornite is also steadily garnering more mainstream press attention, with Twitch streamer Ninja breaking the record for concurrent viewers when he played with Drake in March. All of this has eaten away at mindshare PUBG once occupied almost exclusively, so it’s easy to see why its creators are anxious for the game not to become an also-ran in a genre it popularised. That said, there’s something about taking actual legal action that comes off as a little… desperate.
While it’s true that Epic Games almost certainly wouldn’t have added a Battle Royale mode to Fornite were it not for PUBG’s success, I’m not sure that they’ve infringed upon any copyrights with their game. I’m not a lawyer (as my bank balance will happily attest), but PUBG’s concept is lifted wholesale from the novel and film Battle Royale and bears distinct similarities to games that creator Brendan Greene has worked on in the past such as H1Z1. There are other, smaller similarities between the way two games play, but given that PUBG Corp has previously tried to sue creators of mobile PUBG clones for including frying pans as weapons, it’s hard to know how much they can legitimately lay claim to and how much is just them being rather petty.
Even if there is a legitimate legal case to be made here, the decision to sue makes PUBG Corp look scared of the existential threat that Fortnite poses. What’s the net benefit of such a public display of low confidence? Whatever happens next in their case against Fortnite, PUBG Corp have got bigger problems coming their way. Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII is set to include a battle royale mode of its own, and I’d put money on other juggernaut franchises like Halo doing the same sooner rather than later. Once the scrappy upstart, PUBG now finds itself in a strange middle ground, neither David nor Goliath in an industry that thrives on iterating upon existing ideas. Fornite isn’t the first game to borrow ideas from PUBG and won’t be the last, and PUBG Corp is going to have to figure out how to deal gracefully with the flood of imitators that always follows a successful product.