I don’t think anyone really took Bluehole Vice President Chang Han Kim when he threatened that the company would look at pursuing legal action against Epic Games over the similarities between PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds’ take on Battle Royale and Fortnite: Battle Royale’s opportunistic jump into the genre. It looks like they’ve made a fool out of all us doubters though, as PUBG Corp have filed suit against Epic Games Korea with the Seoul Central District Court.
This actually occurred back in January, but has only now been discovered and reported upon by The Korea Times, and is possibly a response to Epic Games Korea penning a partnership with Neowiz Games to bring Fortnite to their gamer oriented PC rooms.
You do have to wonder what legal grounds PUBG Corp are seeking to block Fortnite on, as a PUBG Corp, which an official explained by saying, “We filed the suit to protect our copyright in January.” This may refer to perceived similarities in the game’s user interface and they could even be trying to push that the game mode has too many direct similarities, though would struggle to argue this in court when there is an awful lot of prior material relating to Battle Royale, from previous games to films and beyond. There’s definitely far less to go on in comparison to their suits against copycat mobile games.
However, as noted by PCGamer, it could simply be the fact that Epic Games’ Battle Royale mode announcement and directly cited PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds as an inspiration. The mode’s announcement blog post says “We love Battle Royale games like PUBG and thought Fortnite would make a great foundation for our own version,” and at the time of Chang Han Kim’s first threat of legal action, he said, “We have also noticed that Epic Games references PUBG in the promotion of Fortnite to their community and in communications with the press. This was never discussed with us and we don’t feel that it’s right.”
How that will hold up under scrutiny when it’s simply being mentioned as an inspiration will depend on local laws and how favourably the South Korean courts want to treat their own.
The thing is that Epic Games can almost certainly retaliate by scrutinising the details of their licensing agreement with Bluehole for Unreal Engine 4, on which PUBG is built. The last time a licensor tried to sue Epic Games, it put Too Human developer Silicon Knights out of business when Epic countersued and won in court. Unless Bluehole have toed the line with their use of the engine, they could find themselves in a very tricky position.