PUBG Corp to sue Epic Games over Fortnite similarities

Whoever wins, we lose.

A courtroom battle royale is brewing as Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds developers PUBG Corp have filed a copyright suit against Fortnite Battle Royale studio Epic Games, The Korea Times reports. PUBG Corp claim that Fortnite Battle Royale violates their copyright. While the finer points of the Korean case have not yet been made public record, this could be the ‘further action’ contemplated by PUBG Corp’s parent company Bluehole last September.

The first warning signs of this upcoming legal battle came last year, with Bluehole vice president Chang Han Kim saying “After listening to the growing feedback from our community and reviewing the gameplay for ourselves, we are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known”, specifically that “concerns around User Interface (UI), gameplay and structural replication in the battle royale mode exist”. While we assumed (and hoped) at the time that Bluehole were merely posturing, this suit suggests otherwise.

While PUBG and Fortnite are both incomprehensibly huge successes, the two battle royale shooter giants seem to be vying for territory more actively in Korea at present. The announcement of the legal case coincides with plans for Epic to expand Fortnite’s reach into the Korean market via a deal with publisher Neowiz Games. Epic hope to make Fortnite a regular fixture across the nation’s highly popular cyber cafe-like ‘PC Rooms’, and it’s not hard to see why a direct competitor might want to disrupt such a move.

There could be lawyers hiding anywhere. Eyes peeled.

There are several worst-case scenarios that could come of this lawsuit that could harm more than just PUBG Corp and Epic. The most catastrophic would be establishing legal precedent over the copyrighting of mechanical concepts in a game. While that may not sound too terrible at first, remember when FPSs were just referred to as Doom Clones? Imagine if Id had the legal power to shut that all down and the effect it would have had on the industry, even if it was just in one territory.

While I doubt the contract between Epic and PUBG Corp would allow for something quite as drastic, I’m also reminded of how Silicon Knights’ disastrous attempt to sue Epic back in 2007 backfired so badly that Silicon Knights retroactively lost their Unreal Engine license and were forced to recall and/or destroy every unsold copy of their games. While I don’t expect anything quite so dramatic in this case, no matter how the case is judged, it’s a reminder of the stakes at play here.

No date has been announced for court proceedings yet, but we’ll be keeping a close eye on this story as it develops.

76 Comments

  1. Bull0 says:

    Beginning of the end for plunkbat, probably. There’s no good comes of a move like this, you just end up looking a bit desperate.

    • mitrovarr says:

      Oh man, this is such a bad idea on so many levels. It’s going to infuriate fans of both plunkbat and Fortnite. Epic might retaliate via their engine. It has next to no chance of succeeding. It’s a hugely self-destructive move.

      • Artist says:

        But maybe this draws attention from plunkbats loot crate mess that dropped their recent reviews to happy 35%?
        All smokes an mirrors, maybe.

        • mitrovarr says:

          I hope they wouldn’t try to distract from one thing that infuriates their community with another. From what I’ve seen of the plunkbat community, many are of the sort that just love frivolous lawsuits.

          • rrp says:

            Works well as a publicity stunt aswell. When you’ve nothing to talk about other than the ‘testing map’ you’ve been plugging for months. Why not mention a lawsuit? Gets every talking about PUBG and Fortnite again, and takes even less work than changing the timing variable of the blue zone.

    • communist_batman says:

      Completely agree. This is honestly a really common problem with East Asian developers. They would rather sue another company for “doing them wrong” in some way than ensuring their game is the best version.

    • truth69 says:

      That is the purpose of this post

  2. Avus says:

    Should Gran Turismo dev Polyphony sue Turn 10 for making a similar game called Forza Motorsport?? This is beyond stupid. PUBG is not even an “inventor” of Battle Royale. Japanese film maker should also sue PUBG for making a game that replicate the experience of the Battle Royale movie (2000)

    • Evan_ says:

      Don’t forget Minecraft: Battle Royale either – the Plunkbat guys only adapted an existing mod as a standalone game.

      • Shadow says:

        Plunkbat was born as a DayZ mod, right? Then I suppose the DayZ guys have some money to claim since it could well be argued Plunkbat is but a refinement of DayZ’s concept.

        This kind of litigious pedantry really looks desperate and no good can come from it. Perhaps Plunkbat Corp should focus their limited resources on improving their product rather than going after others who are beating them at their own game.

    • Lupa says:

      My thoughts exactly, PUBG was NOT the creature of the Battle Royal experience. And honestly, last I saw theirs a total different art style, and doesn’t fornite have like, building and fortification? =\
      Stupid move indeed.

  3. Syt says:

    Yes, Plunkbat is well known for its frantic gameplay, cartoon looks and crafting of foretresses. Wait …

  4. TotallyUseless says:

    I can’t believe this… really, suing a game because it looks like your game? Wow.

    So what’s next Riot suing Valve over DotA2’s likeness to LoL? Or Activision suing EA for Battlefield against CoD?

    Oh well, any kind of publicity is always good publicity. Guess that’s how PUBG Corp operates. But man seriously, PUBG Corp should at least grow some professionalism and decency.

    • Artist says:

      Well, I would love to see COD vs MOH in the legal arena! Could be a blast! And just imagine all the possible funny memes that would come out of it…

    • Hoot says:

      Given that LoL is a Dota 1 clone I doubt that would even be possible, mate. It’s not as if IceFrog copyrighted the format, or even could, given that the original was a mod map for Warcraft 3.

      • SaltTitan says:

        They went to court over branding though. Blizzard never tried to stop Valve from making DotA2, they just didn’t want it to be called DotA2 because DotA was a name associated with a Blizzard product. That’s a pretty standard “protecting our reputation and branding” sort of move.

        PUBG looks to be suing over game mechanics under the premise that the games are so similar as to be indistinguishable. Which flies in the face of 30 years of game development with dozens of titles using the same basic mechanics to different effect. Not to mention a century of films that frequently use similar beats, themes, and shots.

    • MajorLag says:

      You must be new to the world of corporations. Bathesda sued Mojang because they were making a game called “Scrolls”, which Bathesda felt consumers would confuse as an Elder Scrolls game.

      • SaltTitan says:

        Like the Blizzard v Valve point above though that was branding, not mechanics. They didn’t want Mojang to stop making their card game, they just wanted it to be called something else. PUBG seems to want Epic to stop making Fortnight all together.

  5. Gillador says:

    Sue all the games! I remember playing hide ‘n seek when i was young. I had fun then. Ever since i see all these developers trying to recreate this fun i had, i’ll sue em silly!

  6. DatonKallandor says:

    I too love to sue people for having a car that looks suspiciously like the car I stole from someone else.

    Yes it’s a car analogy, suck it.

    • mitrovarr says:

      Actually, it’s more like the car looks completely different, but drives sort of the same, and has a few of the controls in the same place.

  7. Taintslapper says:

    Does this really come as a huge surprise coming from the company of the guy who threw a temper tantrum over having his game referred to as “plunkbat” instead if “pubg”?
    I played fortnite for a couple months and don’t really have much desire to go back, but this latest temper tantrum certainly extinguishes any desire to ever try plunkbat.

  8. Amstrad says:

    Always a good idea to be suing the company you’re licensing your engine from.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Yeah, hence the mention of Silicon Knights’ spectacular implosion. This really cannot end well for anyone.

      • DeadlyAvenger says:

        Yup, seems ridiculous to shoot themselves in the foot like this. Do they think that their game has been surpassed and they’re making one last attempt to line their back pockets now they’ve ‘lost’ the battle royale…uh…battle?!

        • jezcentral says:

          The new licensing for UE4 allows for changing its code, though, which is where Silicon Knights got burned. One of the benefits of using UE4 is you get access to the source code, in various forms, including feature-specific branches (for stuff like level-streaming and auto-LODing that are particularly useful for PUBG), with the ability to change it as much as you like. The only potential downsides for Bluehole will be wasting money on lawyers if they lose. Will they antagonise Epic Games? Only on a personal level. Tencent will make sure of that.

  9. FelipeCC says:

    A brawl is surely brewing!
    READY???
    There goes………
    WALLOP!!

  10. Ham Solo says:

    Buckle up, PUBG corp… Valve will be awaiting the result of this law suit and if you win, you will have to pay for that iconic(tm) crow bar (Half-Life) and frying pan (Left 4 Dead).

  11. pack.wolf says:

    Ahahaha :)
    Ahahahahahaha :D
    Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha XD

    Sorry.
    I’ll go away now.

    Seriously though, I hope they get shot down hard. Patent, trademark, and copyright law is already ridiculous and a real danger to progress and innovation. Any judge creating more precedent for future stupid legal action is not qualified for their job.

  12. Viral Frog says:

    I had an idea for a movie that was essentially The Purge, but I came up with the idea a good 7~ years before The Purge was released. I think I’ll file a lawsuit over the similarities. Why not? I’ll have just as much ground to stand on in this suit as PUBG Corp. does in their suit against Epic.

  13. truth69 says:

    Is the sue already made or what? LMAO

  14. caff says:

    Give it up now, Plunkbatcorp. Just focus on making your game better, rather than embroiling yourself in a battle your lawyers are telling you is worth fighting.

  15. Splyce says:

    I can’t wait to see what Plunkbat looks like when it’s coded in Unity.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    What a spectacularly moronic move. Even ignoring the engine ownership, the stupidity of suing over gameplay mechanics, the origin of the mechanics not being PUBG to start with, and the myriad other flaws:

    There is no faster way to lose goodwill from the internet than getting all litigious. This literally backfires 100% of the time. PUBG looks like the madman aggressor here, and all sympathy will go to Fortnite.

    What a terrible idea. It’s like they’ve never seen the internet before.

  17. bojangin says:

    I’m mostly upset about this because of what happened to that game in 2007-2008 with epic pulling the license. I really enjoy pubg and would like to see it stay around for a while longer. I really dislike fortnite at the same time for various reasons and I’m also not happy with epic because of Paragon either. I can see epic pulling the license if a legal battle keeps on for too long.

    • tekknik says:

      depending on whether this falls under their patent claim termination clause they may already have invalidated their license for unreal engine the minute they filed suit

      • jezcentral says:

        Nothing will happen there. Tencent own large stakes in both companies. They could hire a hitman to take out Tim Sweeney and PUBG still wouldn’t lose their license.

  18. Zorgulon says:

    So that’s what Brendan (Plunk Bat) Greene wishes to spend the $millions he’s made off his superstar hit game! Court costs!

  19. MachinedHead says:

    Im not surprised.. Look at who were talking about here. All this does is support the fact that the makers of pubg are greedy above all else.

  20. Zaxwerks says:

    I wonder what PUBG are going to do when notorious copycat studio Hi-Rez release their Battle Royale mode for Paladins “imaginatively titled” Paladins Battlefield?

  21. Nolenthar says:

    I am genuinely surprised the large consensus here, in a community that is generally more mature and able to express complex opinions made of arguments and counter arguments, not a single person seems to have realised that this lawsuit is not based solely on “stealing a concept” but more on the fact that the concept was grossly copied by a preferred partner on top of being advertised as a similar game
    I am no lawyer, and I couldn’t care less about Plunkbat, or any battle royale for that matter (may multiplayer games burn in hell so more developers focus on making solo games as far as I’m concerned), but it seems obvious that Fortnite copied a lot from Plunkbat (in the early version) and built from there, and all this built on the back of an epic fail of a game, while providing (and getting royalties for) the game engine on which Plunkbat was built.

    With the performance problems Plunkbat is known for, I can kind of relate to possible fears by Plunkcorp that Epic might not help them as best as they could if their money revenue came only from royalties.
    Possibly, they can get a lot richer from Fortnite than from Plunk royalties.

    Just a thought though.

    • mitrovarr says:

      Well, the issue is that the stuff Fortnite copies is all stuff you’re allowed to copy – gameplay mechanics and the like. And if you weren’t allowed to copy them, there would be no PUBG, because they copy and iterate on other games’ concepts too.

      • Nolenthar says:

        You may well be right, but is there any point where copying game mechanics become “cloning” an experience or is that always alright? What constitutes something “OK” to copy and something “not OK” ?
        Truth is, Plunkbat is THE game that put the battle royale genre under a big light. It existed before as you say but it was not so popular. This obviously means the game would be “imitated” and what constitutes concept (players entering the arena) and what constitutes idea (a plane dropping them). And is there any point where it would be considered illegal to copy one of them ?
        I sure don’t know. I’m kinda curious though of the move. I don’t see the lawsuit succeeding in anything. Even if they win it, I hardly see Epic having to stop their battle royale mod, so best case scenario this would be a settlement, money in other terms. The only course of thought where it makes sense is that Plunkcorp somehow thinks the golden era is done for and that so many high quality battle royale title will enter the game that Plunkbat is done for.
        That would be my conclusion, but I’m very curious of which way it’s going to go.

        • mitrovarr says:

          I mean, I do think that a game can be a copy of a game without stealing actual assets. But I don’t think Fortnite is anywhere near that line. It’s a really different game! It has a different perspective (first vs third person), a completely different art style, a different feel, different mechanics (building mechanics instead of vehicles), is available on some platforms that PUBG isn’t on, and so on. Fortnite might have copied certain aspects, but certainly not the entire game.

          It’s a little bit like calling Overwatch a clone of TF2 – obviously one game inspired the other, and maybe some elements were lifted (including whole game modes like payload maps), but there’s more than enough difference to make the claim ludicrous.

        • Generico says:

          You may well be right, but is there any point where copying game mechanics become “cloning” an experience or is that always alright? What constitutes something “OK” to copy and something “not OK”

          At least under US copyright law there is no IP protection for gameplay or visuals beyond that of registered trademark symbols and the source code itself. So basically, anyone can clone any gameplay experience they want so long as they don’t copy trademarked logos or plagiarize source code. I don’t know what korean law says about it, but if PUBG corp wins this, the best case scenario is that the Korean gaming market gets gutted because nobody will want to expose themselves to such lawsuits.

          It is an indefensibly stupid lawsuit. Practically every game is a clone of another game. That may as well be what the word “genre” means. Tons of games have become hits, only to be dethroned by a very similar game that does it better. PUBG Corp is just desperate.

    • fish99 says:

      What elements has Fortnite used from PUBG that weren’t already in other BR games such as H1Z1 or Arma 2/3 BR?

      I’m sure people will bring up Bredan Greene (PlayerUnknown) working on H1Z1 and Arma 2/3 being his mods, but he was a paid employee at Daybreak/SOE, so nothing in H1Z1 belongs to him, and PUBG Corp don’t own Arma 2/3 BR, Brendan does.

      I don’t see them having a case.

    • Hedgeclipper says:

      How could a company that specailises in licencing game engines forget they had a clause in their licence with Plunkcorp preventing themselves from making games? Madness!

    • Gillador says:

      I understand what you’re trying to say, but i don’t think there is really that much to say for the case of Plunkbat. For example, was it Epic that advertised Fortnite like a similar game to Plunkbat, or was it ‘the press’ that did that?

      Also, the lawsuit seems to be (among other things) about ‘recreating an experience’, whatever that means… But that raises the question what is/was so special about plunkbat that this experience is solely provided by them. Essentially it is just a free-for-all deathmatch, as we’ve seen in hundreds of games. The ‘BIG’ thing is a large number of players and a battlefield that shrinks, but is that really so super-innovative? Every generation of games tries to increase the number of players on the server, and a logical change in gamestructure is to make chokepoints (e.g. Overwatch), capture points (e.g. Battlefield 1/2/2142/etc), or a map that shrinks (e.g. Mario Party 5: Fish upon a Star).

      So in that respect, they really have added nothing new to the world of games. Just a new mix of what was already out there, based upon a year 2000 movie.

      • cniinc says:

        It’s absurd to me that anyone would claim that PUBG added ‘nothing new’ – It was the top seller for Steam literally until a week ago, and will be on the top 10 for quite some time. If there was literally nothing innovative or interesting in there, it would not be the killer seller it is. It would be like saying that there can be no more innovations in food because carbs, protein, and fats have been used in some combination before.

        • SaltTitan says:

          For one thing selling a lot does not inherently mean that a game is doing anything new. Overwatch, for example, doesn’t have any individual mechanics that haven’t been seen in other games before but it sells a ton. Same goes for basically any Assassins Creed, Far Cry, Call of Duty, or Halo game after the first couple.

          Second, the person you’re responding to didn’t say they didn’t innovate. They said that nothing they did is hugely unique, which is true. They took a lot of existing ideas and put them together in an interesting way but there aren’t any new ideas in there. The whole setup is taken straight from Battle Royale and the Hunger Games, the shooting and inventory management is lifted almost whole from ARMA, and other games (including some that the creator has worked on, but also others like The Culling) have done this theme with various twists before.

          I think it’s telling here that they’re only suing Epic, the only other team that has put out a big hit so far. Presumably they decided it wasn’t worth trying to get money out of Hi Rez, Activision, or the remains of Boss Key because they either didn’t have enough of it (Boss Key and maybe Hi Rez) or have too much (Activision). Instead they went after a medium-to-large studio that’s putting out the one game that happens to be kicking their ass.

    • sion12 says:

      There is nothing unique about PUBG, Battle royale mode existed long before as dayz mod and even H1Z1, You simply cant copyright a game mode/concept. else every soul like game would be sued. and being a “preferred partner” doesn’t change that.

      btw Epic didnt advertise it as a game like pubg. they posted on a blog that “At Epic, we’re huge fans of the Battle Royale genre and games like PUBG and H1Z1, and we thought that Fortnite was the perfect world to build one in”. that’s it. bluehole should take that as a compliment instead of getting their panty twisted about it.

    • Rince says:

      So, the PUBG guys are mad that other guys are copying whatever they copied from someone else?
      It’s like Krusty from the Simpsons.
      “If this is anyone but Steve Allen, you’re stealing my bit!”

  22. Premium User Badge

    Mikemcn says:

    All that matters is if they’re doing this for justifiable,legal reasons or for Denis Dyack Reasons… there has to be something in the Unreal Engine contract that they can point to as something epic violated, or they wouldn’t be doing this… unless they’re Too humaning.

  23. morganjah says:

    I can’t wait to see the courtroom. There is no way that PlunkBat is going to be able to stick anything on Epic, with all of Epic’s attorneys jumping around the court room like meth-addled rabbits while building a fortress on the witness stand.

  24. SaintAn says:

    Sounds like suicide by Epic.

    And boooo, not a single Plunkbat was used in the article!

  25. racccoon says:

    Come’on Japanese Movie maker of Battle Royale its your turn to shine! its your idea..

  26. April March says:

    🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

  27. PiiSmith says:

    What is Brian Greene’s stance on this? Does he share this stance with PUBG Corp?

    • Neurotic says:

      Brendan Greene (for that is he) seems to be of the attitude that competition is healthy, and that he’s just glad more people are playing games (and PUBG-like games). Bear in mind he’s the creative director at PUBGC, rather than the big business brain there.

  28. Pizzzahut says:

    Even if you know the slightest bit about law, you know Epic are in big trouble here. This is an open and close case. Epic will lose millions here.

  29. Neurotic says:

    At this point, Fortnite has become something of a cultural phenomenon (you know when you’re reading ’13 tips for better Fortniting’ guides in The Guardian that it’s transcended the vidjagames ghetto), which probably rankles Bluehole more than any kind of design or conceptual similarities.

  30. Caiman says:

    You can sue someone for making a game about a bunch of players running around and shooting each other?

    • 4Valhal says:

      I can sue you for making this comment about a bunch of people sueing someone for making a game about a bunch of players running around and shooting each other. :P

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