Cloning large parts of competitors’ games is not at all unusual in this industry, and it typically passes without (public) comment. But PUBG studio Bluehole isn’t having any of it when it comes to Fortnite Battle Royale. The studio sent out a press release that directly calls out Fortnite developer Epic for “User Interface (UI), gameplay, and structural replication” and Epic allegedly citing PUBG directly in some of its promotional material.
“We’ve had an ongoing relationship with Epic Games throughout PUBG’s development as they are the creators of UE4, the engine we licensed for the game,” Bluehole vice president Chang Han Kim said in a press release. “After listening to the growing feedback from our community and reviewing the gameplay for ourselves, we are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known.”
Epic just recently took the lid off of Fortnite: Battle Royale, the new competitive mode for its early-access build/shoot/survive game. To Bluehole’s point, Epic wasn’t shy about drawing inspiration from Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds – both games let up to 100 players skydive into one big level, scavenge weapons, then shoot the hell out of each other until only one player (or squad) remains. And as Kim pointed out, both games run on Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. That dual relationship as client and competitor could be difficult.
There are differences as well: Fortnite has fast and flexible approach to construction, letting players harvest resources and build their own shelters / sniper nests / trap-filled corridors, and it doesn’t (yet) have any of the vehicles that shape a large part of PUBG’s action. The most important differences may also be the most irritating to Bluehole, though: Fortnite: Battle Royale will be free-to-play and it’s coming to consoles next week, while PUBG won’t arrive as a timed Xbox One exclusive until later this year. As I said before, cloning isn’t unusual in games, so I wonder if Bluehole’s frustration here is drawn from fears of losing out on the console crowd.
“The PUBG community has and continues to provide evidence of the many similarities as we contemplate further action,” Kim concluded in the press release.
“Further action” could mean “legal action”, which is about as grave as public-facing threats between companies ever get. On the other hand, it might just mean Bluehole would consider using other engines for PUBG; though that would be a difficult transition to make this far into development. I’ve asked Epic Games if it has any response to Bluehole’s statement and I’ll update this story if I hear anything back.
Update: An Epic representative let me know the company has “no comment at the moment”.