PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Studio Is Suing Over Fortnite

Illustration for article titled PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds Studio Is Suing Over Fortnite

South Korea’s PUBG Corp., the studio behind PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, is suing Epic Games, the developer of Fortnite, for copyright infringement.

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The lawsuit was filed this past January, according to The Korea Times, although it only became public this weekend. PUBG Corp. is claiming that Fortnite’s popular Battle Royale mode copies PUBG’s interface and in-game items. When Epic launched that Battle Royale mode, in September of 2017, the makers of PUBG took public shots at the developer, saying they were “concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known.” Now, the people behind PUBG have bolstered those threats with concrete action.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite have always had a tangled relationship. PUBG, based on an Arma mod that dropped 100 people into an arena and pitted them against one another, came out in March of 2017 and became a massive success, drawing millions of players.

It would also go on to inspire countless clones, with Fortnite becoming the largest competitor with its own Battle Royale mode. Whereas PUBG launched only for PC (and, later, Xbox One) and cost money, Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode was free-to-play and launched on PC, PlayStation, and Xbox. Since then, Fortnite has become a cultural phenomenon, reaching mainstream success the likes of which we have not seen since Pokémon Go.

PUBG runs in the Unreal game engine, which is maintained and developed by Epic. Both companies also have received big investments from China’s massive Tencent conglomeration.

This isn’t the first time PUBG Corp. has taken another studio to court over alleged copyright issues. This past spring, it sued Chinese gaming giant NetEase for its copyright claims in mobile games Rules of Survival and Knives Out.

Bluehole, the parent company of PUBG Corp., has not yet responded to Kotaku’s request for comment. Epic declined to comment.

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Update (9:39am): This post has been updated for clarity.


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DISCUSSION

The primary reason Bluehole has to lose this case is because Fortnite is a derivative work with the derivation lying solely on the vague concept of what constitutes “battle royale” gameplay.

In that same breath, we must be reminded that Battlegrounds itself was a derivative work with the derivation lying solely on the gameplay mimicking the vague concept of the hit movie, “Battle Royale.”

If Bluehole wins, that is a slap in the face to the work it is derived from and a slap in the face to the entire interactive entertainment industry that has heavily achieved much of its success based off of incredibly loose and vague derivative work. Winning this lawsuit would create a precedent that could severely cripple the industry as a whole.

Honestly? Shame on Bluehole for trying to create such a precedent. That being said, if Epic comes to a realization that it is somehow in a “wrong” over this whole ordeal, I’m looking forward to them preventing the precedent by simply settling the lawsuit and becoming the hero of the story anyway.