The Korean company behind PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is taking Fortnite developer Epic Games to court. The Bluehole subsidiary PUBG filed a lawsuit in January claiming that Epic's free-to-play battle royale title is infringing on its copyright. While the Fortnite developer is based in America, their Seoul-based Epic Games Korea branch has been named in the injunction.
Both Bluehole and Epic Games had worked together in the past, but that relationship was damaged once the latter launched Fortnite's battle royale mode back in September of last year. Shortly after the mode launched, Bluehole Vice President Chang Han Kim released a statement saying that the company was "concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known." In the months since release, Epic Games' third-person shooter has surpassed PUBG in both player count and revenue, which has presumedly hurt relationships between the two companies further. Additionally, Epic Games has teamed up with Neowiz Games, not Bluehole, to bring Fortnite to the Korea market in the second quarter of 2018.
The Korea Times reported PUBG filed an injunction with the Seoul Central District Court against Epic Games Korea for alleged copyright infringement on Friday. Details are currently scarce on the PUBG-Fortnite lawsuit, but past statements from Bluehole allude to the alleged copyright violation. "We have also noticed that Epic Games references PUBG in the promotion of Fortnite to their community and in communications with the press," wrote Chang Han Kim back in September of 2017. "This was never discussed with us and we don't feel that it's right."
It's quite likely that these promotional tactics are one of the issues that Bluehole has against Fortnite as several other battle royale games in the vein of PlayerUnknown's Battleground have been released without any legal ramifications. Considering how ownership over a genre is such a murky idea, and the fact that PUBG, while innovating and popularizing the battle royale sub-genre, is not the first game with such a survival mode, it's likely that the lawsuit will be settled over the small details. Bluehole has also complained about user interface similarities and that their weapons were copied.
This lawsuit will likely have some important ramifications in the gaming scene beyond Korea. It will be interesting to see how the Korean court differentiates a game being clearly inspired by another and one that infringes upon copyright. Until then, both games will continue to be money-making machines for their respective companies.