Fans of battle royale games like PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds , also known as PUBG, may have noticed that it's not the only popular game that follows a particular format. This isn't uncommon in the gaming market. When a game becomes wildly popular and draws a huge audience, similar games will begin to appear. This is especially true with mobile games. After PUBG released a mobile version earlier this year, countless "clones" began to appear on mobile app stores.
On April 2, PUBG Corp, which is owned by the Korean publisher Bluehole , filed a lawsuit in the US District Court of Northern California against Chinese publisher NetEase . NetEase is responsible for two clones in particular: Rules of Survival and Knives Out. Objectively, if you take a look at these two games, the similarities to PUBG can't be ignored. Both games are 100-player battle royale games, with battles taking place on an island that players access by parachuting from a plane. The battles feature shrinking "safe zones" and a similar collection of weapons and vehicles across their maps.
Bluehole is suing NetEase for both copyright and trademark violations. In the lawsuit, Bluehole states that “PUBG has suffered irreparable harm” due to the clone games' presence in the mobile gaming market. They are asking that NetEase cease distribution and development of Rules of Survival and Knives Out.
There is some speculation as to why they are choosing this moment, as well as these particular games in the lawsuit. The legal action follows PUBG's mobile release, and Bluehole is addressing the mobile games that may be taking profits away from their own game. If PUBG had stayed exclusive to console and PC, these mobile clones wouldn't be as much of a threat and would have most likely been ignored.
Another game that follows the popular formula is Fortnite Battle Royale, which also started as a PC game and released a 100 player mobile version, was not addressed by the lawsuit, even though Bluehole has vocally criticized the game in the past. Fortnite is quickly becoming the battle royale game to play and has legions of devoted fans. However, Epic Games, Fortnite's developer, is the creator of the Unreal Engine 4, the engine that Bluehole licensed for use in PUBG. So, it seems that the companies behind both games are keeping things civil — for now.
In an interesting twist to the battle royale storyline, NetEase has decided to sue clones of their games. NetEase has stated that other developers are copying their "unique ideas" and that they plan to pursue legal action in order to protect their intellectual property.
It is unclear as to how this battle of the Battle Royales will eventually play out in the courts. However, though both Bluehole and NetEase are arguing that very specific creative aspects of their games have been copied, none of the games involved in the lawsuits are the first of their kind. Games like The Culling, Last Man Standing, and GTA: Motor Wars were battle royale games before they were the must-play games of the moment. While they may lack the polish and overall playability of blockbusters like PUBG and Fortnite, neither title can claim that they were the first.