12th June, 2018
The Battle Royale genre is currently one of the hottest game modes out there at the moment. With tens of millions of players playing both Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, there’s a serious amount of money up for grabs.
With so much profit to be made, many game developers are rolling out their own Battle Royale games faster than you can say winner, winner, chicken dinner! (Please don’t sue us PUBG).
But recently, there has been an announcement that has shocked a lot of the gaming community. Almost out of nowhere, PUBG has decided to file a lawsuit against Fortnite on the grounds of copyright infringement.
As shocking as it might sound, this isn’t actually the first time a games developer has been sued for “stealing an idea”. In fact, back in 1984, the movie studio Universal sued the games developer Nintendo claiming that their Donkey Kong game was wayyy to similar to the movie King Kong. Not only did it have “Kong” in the name, but it also had a giant gorilla throwing barrels at everyone!
In the end Nintendo won the lawsuit, but it also turned out that Universal didn’t even own the rights to King Kong and had no claim in the first place. As a result, Nintendo was allowed to keep making their Donkey Kong franchise and was awarded $1.8 million in legal fees. Looking back, it was an incredibly dumb moment that could have easily been avoided if Universal hadn’t been so greedy.
So could the PUBG vs Fortnite lawsuit just be another dumb moment in gaming or does PUBG actually have a valid claim? Well, we’re here to find out! To get things started, let's take a look at the history of both PUBG and Fortnite to see how we got here in the first place.
A long time ago before any Battle Royale game existed there were plenty of survival game modes out there, but nothing quite like the genre as we know it today. Games such as Counter-Strike and Unreal Tournament both had free for all modes that allowed players to fight until the death, but games were oh so simple back then.
The popularity and idea of the Battle Royale game mode started to grow when the first Hunger Games movie was released in 2012. In the film, players fought to the death on an island while scavenging and finding loot along the way. For people old enough at the time, it was clear that the Hunger Games was actually inspired by another Japanese film that happened to be called Battle Royale.
In this film, a group of naughty school children are sent to an island and are told to kill each other. Whoever was the last person alive got crowned the winner and they got to walk home like nothing ever happened, (that’s until they made Battle Royale II!)
Now you know where the “Battle Royale” name and inspiration came from, how did the games end up being created? Well, it all started with mods, and an important person called Brendon Green.
The original PUBG game started off as a mod for several different games. Originally developed for ARMA 2, Brendon Green who went under the username Player Unknown developed the first mod in 2013. This mod allowed players to fight to the death while picking up randomly scattered items across the map. In essence, this was a very early version of PUBG.
With the release of ARMA 3, Brendon updated his mod while also becoming a consultant for H1Z1: King of the Kill. It was around this time that Brendon happened to get picked up by a South Korean games developer known as Bluehole Studios as a consultant for a new game they wanted to make. In the end, this game ended up being Player Unknown’s Battle Ground and incorporated all the features and details of the old mods into a stand-alone game. Released in early access on Steam in March 2017, the game quickly attracted a lot of attention.
Within a few months of being launched, PUBG had amassed millions of sales and currently has sold over 25 million copies making it incredibly successful. For many people, PUBG is the definitive game of the Battle Royale genre. It was by no means the first, but for many, it is (and still is) the best game that represents the genre.
Around the same time, PUBG started to become popular; another game was secretly growing in popularity. Unlike PUBG, Fortnite started off as a PvE co-op game titled Fortnite: Save the World. Released in July 2017, the original version of the game only had the one campaign mode where players had to battle it out together. However, in September 2017, the developers Epic Games decided to make a Battle Royale version of the game as quickly as possible. The game uses Epic Game’s priority gaming engine called the Unreal 4 engine. To make things even more interesting, it's exactly the same engine that PUBG runs on!
Using assets from the original PvE version of the game, the mode was made incredibly fast which allowed Fortnite to piggyback onto the success of PUBG. Using a different business model consisting of microtransactions, Fortnite managed to amass millions of users within a few short months.
Within the gaming community, there seems to be a clear divide between Fortnite and PUBG. Although both are Battle Royale games, they are both clearly aimed at different audiences and players. On paper, these games probably sound and look similar but what do they actually have in common?
The major similarities between the 2 games are fairly obvious. If you’ve played either or seen footage on YouTube, then you’ll know that they both have the same idea: collect items and kill each other. That's just about where the similarities stop. Not only do they both do it in different ways, but they both have different ideas in mind.
To fully explore the differences between the 2 games, we need to take a closer look at what makes each of them so unique.
When it comes to differences between the 2 games, there are A LOT. Just from initially looking at the graphics you’ll notice that PUBG goes for a more realistic appearance focusing on high-resolution textures and models. While Fortnite focuses on simple cartoon style graphics and has zero blood and gore.
Both of the games also have entirely different looting and weapons systems which make both of them unique to play. Another major difference is that Fortnite allows players to build structures in the game, adding yet another depth to the game.
As you can probably see, both games are very different and target 2 very different audiences. So what exactly is PUBG suing over?
In January 2018 PUBG filed a suit to “protect their copyright” in the Seoul Central District Court against Epic Games. Considering both games are entirely different, we’re not exactly sure what copyright they are trying to protect. If it's not the models and graphics they are trying to protect, then it’s most likely the game mode itself.
Remember, the developers behind PUBG hired Brendon Green as a consultant when producing the game as they believed it was his idea and he had the rights to it. And now Epic Games have just gone and made one without asking or consulting him. The shock!
But didn’t Brendon Green just take the idea from the Battle Royale film we mentioned earlier? Most likely, and nobody tried to sue him for doing so!
The fact is that there have been plenty of other games in the past that have been incredibly similar but have still managed to function without lawsuits. Maybe Bluehole studios are just worried about the competition and that Fortnite might actually reduce their players.
A good example of 2 games playing in harmony is League of Legends and DoTA 2. Originally DoTA was released as a mod for a game known as Warcraft 3. If you think about it, that sounds just like PUBG and how that was created. Then, several years later, Riot Games came along and made their own version of the MOBA game called League of Legends. This game has the same general concept yet different graphics, champions and items.
Again, this sounds a lot like Fortnite and their take on the Battle Royale genre. Since LoL’s release, the two games have functioned in harmony with Valve owning and developing DoTA 2 while Riot has developed League of Legends. Not one of them has tried to sue each other or stop anyone from creating their game. Instead, they both focused on their own game to make it as good as possible to win players over.
For game developers, this ruling will be incredibly important for the future of the gaming industry. If PUBG does win the lawsuit, then it will harm a lot of game developers and potentially stop a lot of future games from being released. If developers are too scared they are “copying an idea” then they won’t even bother to make a game.
Imagine if a new genre comes out, but everyone is too scared to make their own version for fear of being sued. That means there will only be one version of the genre which everyone will be forced to play. Not only does it hurt developers, but it also hurts the gaming industry in general and puts people off creating new games.
This lawsuit could set a dangerous precedent in the future which could have knock-on effects for decades. There are already several other Battle Royale games in development if this lawsuit goes through then will face copyright claims as well?
To many gamers, this entire lawsuit thing seems like such joke. Instead of trying to improve their existing game and make it better, PUBG is instead focused on suing everyone and trying to scrape back some money. Maybe if PUBG spent more time on their games than they did creating lawsuits, maybe we’d all be in a better place?
What do you think about the lawsuit? Did Fortnite copy PUBG? Who owns the right to the Battle Royale mode? How come LoL has never faced a lawsuit? Share your thoughts below.