It looks like Bluehole weren’t kidding when they previously talked about other games copying them and their willingness to sue. The PUBG Corp subsidiary that they set up to continue to develop the hugely popular PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has filed suit against Chinese publisher NetEase over their two mobile games Rules of Survival and Knives Out.
After sending a complaint via Apple in January, PUBG Corp are now taking them to court and listing 25 specific characteristics, that range from “Yep that’s a Battle Royale game and you’ll get absolutely nowhere with that one”, through to “Sure, but you’ve just described an online video game” and the occasional bit of “Yeah, I kind of see where you’re coming from with this one.
So yes, they’re listing elements of the Battle Royale sub-genre like the shrinking safe zone, the way that players drop from a plane and parachute into the world, that you start with nothing and have to scavenge, but they’re also noting incredibly generic video game ideas such as a pre-match lobby, locational damage, modable weapons and armour systems, and more.
There’s nothing stopping NetEase from making largely derivative works, but PUBG Corp do potentially have a point with some of the more directly distinctive characteristics fo the game. For example, PUBG’s frying pan is distinctive in how it works and has come to represent the game, theres parts of the maps in Rules of Survival and Knives Out which look like they’ve been lifted almost directly from PUBG, and they’ve aped PUBG’s use of “winner winner chicken dinner” in advertising to lean heavily on PUBG’s status and potentially mislead consumers.
On the whole, where PUBG Corp were all bluster when complaining bitterly about Fortnite, Epic Games’ take on the Battle Royale looks, feels and plays in its own distinctive manner. That’s not quite the case here, and as such they’ve gone ahead with the suit to seek damages and block NetEase from running the games.