A new mobile game based on HBO’s hit science-fiction drama Westworld hit smartphones last week, but it’s now encountering a more nefarious enemy than any android host suddenly stricken with self-awareness - Bethesda Softworks is suing Warner Bros. Entertainment and Behaviour Interactive, calling their new licensed game a “blatant ripoff” of Fallout Shelter.
Fallout Shelter is a free-to-play sim that first came out for iOS devices in 2015, offering players the chance to take the role of a Vault Overseer, constructing lodging and building a self-sufficient environment for struggling survivors escaping the radiated wasteland. While the game was free to download, its featured microtransactions and randomized loot elements made it an enormous financial success, eventually leading to its recent deployment on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the new Westworld mobile game took the initiative of hiring Behaviour Interactive, a Canadian studio who had originally partnered with Bethesda to work on Fallout Shelter. Behaviour has historically focused on licensed video game properties, and the visual style and basic systems of Westworld apparently proved too significantly comparable to Fallout Shelter, prompting Bethesda to take swift legal action, as reported by Variety. Update: In a statement to IGN, Warner Bros. outright refutes Bethesda's claims:
"As one of the world’s leading creators of intellectual property, including the ground-breaking television series Westworld, Warner Bros. has a deep respect for intellectual property rights. As such, the assertions by Bethesda Softworks that Warner’s Westworld mobile game improperly used source code from Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter are as surprising as they are unsubstantiated. Warner Bros. has been assured by the game developer, Behaviour Interactive, that Bethesda’s allegations are untrue and that none of Bethesda’s code was used in the Westworld game. Moreover, contrary to Bethesda’s baseless accusation, Warner Bros. at no time “induced” Behaviour to use the Fallout Shelter code in Westworld."
Bethesda filed their legal suit on June 21, and are accusing Behaviour of committing breach of contract, copyright infringement, unfair competition, and misappropriating trade secrets. The suit also names Warner Bros., alleging that they persuaded Behaviour to breach their contract with Bethesda, as well as indicating a variety of statutory and punitive damages for an undisclosed financial amount.
In speaking with Variety, Bethesda outright called the new game “a blatant rip-off,” and mentions that there were certain previously eradicated Fallout Shelter bugs that remain present in Westworld, clearly describing an example of reused code. Beyond this telling piece of remnant evidence, the Maryland video game publisher states that Westworld copies “...Fallout Shelter’s game design, art, animations, gameplay features, and other elements.”
As previously mentioned, the recent release of Fallout Shelter for modern consoles, first announced at E3 2018, makes this new development particularly ill-timed. As Bethesda seeks to explore the financial viability of their three-year-old game on a new series of platforms, it’s sensible that the company would approach any perceived theft or plagiarism in another game with vigorous attention.
Bethesda’s newest entry in the Fallout series, Fallout 76, is scheduled to release November 14. As for Westworld, it remains available for download on the App Store and Google Play at the time of this writing.