PUBG has a solid case to sue Fortnite over Copyright infringement

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PUBG devs are suing the creators of Fortnite as the former claims that Fortnite copied many UI and core gameplay elements from PUBG. The news certainly comes as a shock as both games are two of the biggest out there in terms of popularity and players.

Both PUBG and Fortnite are highly popular Battle Royale games and it’s no secret that both games are similar to each other. PUBG was the one that came out and became popular before Fortnite as the latter came out a bit later and got its popularity when PUBG was already an established juggernaut. This is why many consider PUBG as the game that ‘introduced’ Battle Royale to the mainstream which inspired other Battle Royale games we see today.

Even though Fortnite came later, it saw a meteoric rise to popularity due to which it’s the biggest and most-played Battle Royale game out there now. PUBG is no longer the most popular Battle Royale game anymore as it’s not free to play like Fortnite, however, It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Fortnite isn’t entirely an original game.

Apart from other reasons, there is another reason why Fortnite became so popular, it’s because the game was created and released at a time Battle Royale was red hot thanks to PUBG, had Epic Games not capitalized on this opportunity, perhaps Fortnite would never have reached the heights its reached today.

Therefore, Fortnite does owe some of its success to PUBG, but just how much is the question because according to the claims made by PUBG Corp in the lawsuit, Fortnite benefitted more than just from the hype of Battle Royale created by PUBG. It’s interesting that PUBG Corp has done this though because there’s a lot more than Battle Royale that links these games.

Tencent is a company affiliated with both PUBG and Fortnite in a way. The Chinese company has a 40% share in Epic, the parent company of Fortnite. The same company also has a share in Bluehole studio, the parent company of PUBG Corp. Then there’s also the fact that PUBG is built on the Unreal Engine which is licensed by Epic Games which make’s the lawsuit even more of a bold move on PUBG’s part. The game studio had always “warned” Fortnite but never took actual legal action.

It was always assumed that reasons like the ones mentioned above played a key role in stopping the company from taking action. The game studio has a history of taking action against other games, only a month ago it was involved in a case with NetEase. Now that Fortnite has joined the list, the real question is:

Why did PUBG Sue Fortnite?

It was reported on Friday by The Korea Times that the Korean court will hear the case where PUBG Corp, a subsidiary of South Korean game developer Bluehole has sued Epic Games Korea, whose parent company Epic Games is the creator of Fortnite. Although the lawsuit was filed back in January, it’s only become known to everyone just now.

PUBG has accused Fortnite of copyright infringements as they claim that Fortnite used core gameplay elements and a similar UI structure to PUBG. There may be some truth into this as Fortnite does have similar elements to PUBG. Furthermore, since PUBG uses the Unreal Engine licensed by Epic Games, it’s possible to create a PUBG-like game if developers had internal information and communication with the crew at Epic that handles the Unreal Engine. However, that’s just a big assumption, whether people at Epic can or can’t do that is anyone’s guess.

As mentioned above, Fortnite has many similar things to PUBG. Apart from the obvious Battle Royale mode, Fortnite also takes the concept of 100 players parachuting into a map like PUBG, only replacing the plane with a “Battle Bus”. It also took the concept of starting from scratch like in PUBG, finding weapons as you play the game, giving players an equal chance of winning. Many people refer to Fortnite as the “children’s version of PUBG” or the “Free version of PUBG”. One of the reasons why Fortnite is so popular is because it’s very kid-friendly and it’s free, those who didn’t want to spend on a $30 Battle Royale game like PUBG could simply play a watered down version for free, that was what many people did when Fortnite came out.

What is likely to happen?

Fortnite isn’t exactly a unique game, that has been established. It now depends on how PUBG proves to the court as to how Fortnite copied from them. This is because it’s very rare for the accusing company to win a lawsuit when there are conceptual similarities in the game.

Fortnite can easily be classified as a game that is similar in nature to PUBG without actually having copied specific things from the game. Copyright infringement becomes an issue only if the accuser has actually found something that was directly taken from them which is being used by someone else. Saying that Fortnite is also a Battle Royale game isn’t enough because PUBG wasn’t the first ever Battle Royale game either.

The Battle Royale mode isn’t new, it’s been out for several years. The mode was brought to the mainstream by PUBG, however, if PUBG can prove exact elements of the game that Fortnite copied, only then will they be successful. If Fortnite is indeed guilty, it’s likely that there will be compensation that would be paid to PUBG (similar to the Apple vs Samsung case). The cash would likely be dependent on how successful Fortnite has been, and given the success of Fortnite, it’s going to be a lot of money.

Only if PUBG’s case is very strong, only then perhaps Fortnite might have to stop operating in Korea, but that’s highly unlikely because PUBG Corp is relatively small as compared to Epic Games, they simply don’t have the same budget as the ones they’re going after. In the end, money does play a role.

The lawsuit could backfire for PUBG as well. Not only will it give PUBG Corp a bad reputation if Fortnite is found innocent because PUBG has gone after other Battle Royale games too making it look like the company’s trying to make a quick buck now that their game’s no longer as popular as it used to be. Of course, suing Fortnite can bring in a lot of cash, but it can backfire tremendously as well.

Since PUBG is built on the Unreal Engine which has been licensed by Epic games, the latter could revoke PUBG’s license to the engine which would completely detail PUBG off its tracks. However, that’s also an extreme case which likely won’t happen but it’s totally possible.

Whatever happens remains to be seen, it all depends on how the court proceedings go. It’s best not to get hopes up of getting updates regarding the lawsuit anytime soon given it was filed in January and the public is only getting to hear about it now. When there are developments, it’ll be a matter of time before to make it to the public as these things can’t be contained for long.

 

 

One answer

  1. Chris L
    May 31, 2018 at 10:11 pm

    Unless something has changed, my understanding is that you can’t copyright game concepts or gameplay. Games have a long history of clones, some more blatant than others. My understanding is that *copyright* claims would have to be against something like game assets (models, art, sound-effects, etc, not simply general GUI), or code.

    Bringing up the Apple vs Samsung case weakens your argument. That wasn’t a copyright claim. That was a trademark claim. The two are very different.

    The fact that the trial is in South Korea might change things, but America tends to be more strict with copyright than most other countries, so I’m not sure it would be any tougher for them there.

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