Anyone who knows anything about the popular multiplayer online battle royal game “PUBG”, which is short for PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, should know that its developers really dislike games that they feel are too similar to PUBG. A simple search online would show numerous stories of PUBG creator Brendan Greene expressing his unhappiness about all of the games that have been published that follow the same or similar formula to the battle royale style of PUBG. This criticism has been most notable with another majorly popular multiplayer online battle royal game called “Fortnite,” whose battle royale mode has led to a heated war between fans of PUBG and fans of Fortnite over which one is the better of the two.
It seems that the PUBG team has finally had enough of the imitators. PUBG Corp., the subsidiary company of Bluehole Studio Inc., a South Korean game development company, has recently filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the developer of two mobile alleged PUBG clones, in their desire to not just lock down PUBG’s assets, but also to prohibit other developers from creating games that follow this same formula.
The two copycat games are Knives Out and Rules of Survival, both of which are developed by NetEase, a Chinese internet technology company. The lawsuit, which was filed in a US District Court in California, alleges copyright and trademark violations, as well as unfair competition and trade dress infringement claims. PUBG wants the assets from their game removed from NetEase’s two games. NetEase gained a whopping $24 million in February alone thanks to a monumental success in Japan.
The two games do have some similarities to PUBG. PUBG’s complaint also explains how smaller elements within the game, like weapons, clothing, and even the buildings in NetEase’s games were lifted directly from the PUBG game. In a portion of the complaint, PUBG states that “[o]n information and belief, Defendants copied PUBG’s expressive depictions of the pre-play area where other depictions could have been used for the purpose of evoking the same gameplay experience depicted in BATTLEGROUNDS. . . .” Similar to PUBG, both of NetEase’s games feature 100-person online battles on an island that players have to parachute onto. The battles then focus around a continuously shrinking “safe zone,” sets of military-grade weapons and armor, and a variety of cross-terrain vehicles. NetEase’s games have even copied PUBG’s notable trademark victory phrase “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner,” which appears at the end of every PUBG match to whichever player is victorious in the round.
As both Knives Out and Rules of Survival are both mobile games, and PUBG recently released a mobile game, it would make sense that PUBG would take this action in order to make sure that other developers aren’t trying to siphon PUBG’s fanbase to their own games. This is a definitely a valid concern, especially towards NetEase, who used the phrase “PUBG on phone” in some of its marketing for Knives Out and Rules of Survival, which is just one of the 25 violations that PUBG points out in its filed complaint that NetEase has committed against them.
PUBG Corp is asking for an unspecified amount of damages against NetEase, as well as an injunction against the two games. Now that PUBG has entered into the mobile arena, this lawsuit may very well be intended to send a message of warning to any other game developers out there; a message that says that they are watching and will take action.