Epic Games recently released a new free-to-play mode of Fortnite called Battle Royale. The developers announced that the sandbox survival mode was inspired by PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, but the creators of that game didn’t take that as a compliment.
On the contrary, Bluehole, the team that developed PUBG, published a press release in which they accused Epic Games of copying their signature format. They even went one step further and claimed that they are considering taking further action against the studio.
All this contributed to things taking a turn in an otherwise excellent relationship between the two studios. Considering that Epic Games created Unreal Engine 4, the engine that was used to develop PUBG, Bluehole and Epic were on favorable terms up to this point.
Things Got Heated Up
“We listened to numerous comments from our community, and we had a look at the gameplay of the Fortnite’s new mode ourselves. That is why we would like to share our concerns that they might be copying the experience PUBG is known for,’ said Chang Han Kim, vice president of Bluehole.
The problem doesn’t add there as Kim states that they have more issues with the controversial mode.
“Epic Games used the name of our game when it announced Battle Royale and promoted it in the press. Nobody from their team consulted us to approve the utilization of the name. We don’t feel that was the right move on their side.”
Did Epic Games Reference PUBG?
If you take a look at the official PlayStation blog announcement, you will see that they did mention PlayerUnknown’s Battleground as the release that motivated the free Fortnite: Battle Royale mode. However, that is not an uncommon thing in the gaming world. On the other hand, it’s extremely unusual that one studio calls out the other for trying to use their formula. After all, we are used that many developer teams seek to use the genre that is currently popular and earn some money by creating similar games.
The irony is that you can’t consider Bluehole, the inventor of the whole Battle Royale concept. They found inspiration for it in the Japanese movie of the same name. That’s something they didn’t even try to hide because some of the costumes featured in the game are an homage to the film. In that movie, students are trapped on a shrinking island and forced to kill each other. So, although PUBG might be the best game in the genre so far, they certainly don’t have the right to claim that they invented the concept. If anything, they should consider an honor that Epic mentioned their game as an inspiration.
Bluehole Has No Case
From a legal point of view, the only way that PUBG developers could have a case is that Epic ripped off something that was unique to their release. It could be a code, asset or anything similar, but that doesn’t seem to be the issue here. It looks like the studio is mad because Epic used the same concept and was kind enough to reveal where they got their inspiration.
Even worse news for Bluehole is that there will be other games that will try to implement the battle royale concept in their releases. For stars, GTA Online already did something similar. All new genres started with one or two fantastic releases that led to everybody else copying the formula. You can perhaps find the most obvious example on the mobile market in the form of Clash of Clans.
The Question of Bad Publicity
PUBG is already among the most played and top-selling games on Steam, and it doesn’t need this kind of publicity. While the Epic Games declined to comment on the issue, vice president Kim from Bluehole felt the need to clarify everything.
‘It’s not about the mode itself because we are only looking forward to more competition and we believe everyone can create their mode using the battle royale concept. The problem is that it’s Epic.’
Why Are They So Afraid of Fortnite?
As we mentioned, Epic created the UE4 engine that is used in PUBG. The issue that worries Bluehole is that they could make improvements to the engine without sharing.
‘We work together to make UE4 better so that we can fit 100 people in a single session and improve the gameplay. However, now that the companies became competitors, we are worried that they will make enhancements or implement new features and use it only for their game’, explained Kim.
He further states that some players thought that they also were involved in creating Fortnite: Battle Royale.
‘They posted a video on Twitter and said they are fans of our game, which is why they created the new game mode. That’s alright, but that led to some people thinking we helped them in developing it. They thought “Excellent; we can play PUBG in Fortnite now.” And there was nothing we could do about it.’
What Will Happen Next?
The latest statements from Kim clear the air a little bit, but the two studios still have to resolve the issue. Perhaps they will do such a thing away from the public (which might be best for their reputations), but one thing is for sure – we will see more Battleground clones in the future. It might be better for Bluehole to focus on improving their own game rather than discussing others as that is a sure-fire way to keep the top of the ratings.