PUBG and the State of Intellectual Property Protection in Video Games

Attribution @JasonDean
Attribution @JasonDean

 

Anyone who has heard of the game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, commonly referred to as “PUBG” for short, knows that the game’s developers really dislike any games that are similar to theirs, and will fight to maintain their “ownership” over the battle royale genre of video games.

Although PUBG is a relatively new game, being released earlier this year, in the wake of PUBG’s ever-growing popularity and success, other games have surfaced, making their own spin and variations of the battle royale game formula. Numerous clones have also surfaced surfaced too, which Brendan Greene, the creator behind PUBG, is not at all too happy with, and spoke out against the lack of copyright protection in the video games industry in an interview with BBC Radio 1’s Gaming Show. In the interview, Greene says that “I want other developers to put their own spin on the genre… not just lift things from our game, . . . . For that to happen you need new and interesting spins on the game mode. If it’s just copycats down the line, then the genre doesn’t grow and people get bored.”

This statement can most likely be attributed to the popularization of battle royale modes which prompted games such as China’s Call of Duty Online, Crytek’s Warface, and Dying Light, which all implemented their own version of a battle royale mode. The mode is even making its way to Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which is a 13-year old game, in the form of a game modification. Then there are games that are a blatant rip-off, even taking a similar name to PUBG.

Greene goes further on to say that “[t]here’s no intellectual property protection in games. In movies and music there is IP protection and you can really look after your work. In gaming that doesn’t exist yet, and it’s something that should be looked into . . . .”

However, this statement isn’t necessarily accurate. While it’s true that you can’t copyright an idea, specific gameplay features, concepts of a game, or a genre of a video game (or a genre of anything else for that matter), there is a degree of IP protections in the video gaming industry. It is false to say that there is no intellectual property protection in games. PUBG is protected by copyright, for example, by protecting the name, imagery, logos, and assets of PUBG from being copied without permission. In context of the full interview, it seems that Greene feels that the concept of a game, movie, etc. should be subject to copyright protection.

The most notable of the other games that Bluehole Studio Inc., the parent company of PUBG, seemingly has the most issue with is the Fortnite game, which is a co-op sandbox survival game with a similar battle royale style that was developed by Epic Games and released this year. Epic Games is the same company that created the Unreal Engine technology that PUBG was designed on, and because of this, Greene believes that this gives Epic access to backend data that will become a conflict of interest. PUBG insists that Fortnite is replicating the experience that PUBG is known for, and many talks have surfaced about an inevitable lawsuit by PUBG against Epic as a result.

Majority of what Greene seems to be complaining about is just the nature of business. When you make something that becomes very popular, others are going to try and imitate it. There is not really anything that anyone can do to prevent that. Imitating, as long as it’s not substantially similar, is okay. Outright copying or stealing is not. What Greene seems to be calling for is contrary to the purpose behind US copyright laws, which “has always been to promote creativity in society . . . .” It is even contrary to the entire ideology behind intellectual property laws itself as granted by Article I, Section 8 of the US Constitution, which is “[t]o promote the progress of science and useful arts . . .” How would society benefit or progress if there was ever only allowed to be one version of any particular thing?

Tell us down in the comments what your thoughts are on the matter.

1 thought on “PUBG and the State of Intellectual Property Protection in Video Games”

  1. With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems
    of plagorism or copyright violation? My website has a lot of completely unique content I’ve either authored
    myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the internet without my agreement.
    Do you know any ways to help protect against
    content from being ripped off? I’d really appreciate it.

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