When Epic Games announced it was adding a PvP-focused Battle Royale mode to its co-op creation/shooter title Fortnite, a lot of people were quick to point out that the mode bears a striking resemblance to Bluehole’s breakout hit game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Now, Bluehole itself has commented on the strong similarities, and its reaction wasn't a positive one.
Speaking in a recently issued press release, Bluehole’s vice president Chang Han Kim (who also serves as executive producer for PUBG) made it clear that his studio feels what Epic is doing with Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode is more of a blatant rip-off of what the PUBG team has done rather than an homage inspired by their efforts:
“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. 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.”
Of course, Epic never really bothered to hide how much the Battle Royale mode mimics PUBG’s setup, in fact, the company even said in its original announcement of the new mode that it was directly inspired by previous ‘battle royale genre’ games like H1Z1 and PUBG. Han Kim addressed this point in the press release as well:
“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.”
Han Kim closed out the press release by saying that Bluehole is “contemplating further action,” suggesting that lawyers might get involved in the near future.
While Han Kim didn’t explicitly say so, another reason why Bluehole may be so negative towards Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode is that Epic also recently announced that Battle Royale will be entirely free to play when it launches next week. This is a move that will likely cause issues for PUBG (since it's a paid game). After all, why pay $30 for a gameplay experience when you can get virtually the same experience in another game for free?
In Epic’s defense, one could argue that Bluehole didn’t create the battle royale genre of games (as earlier games like H1Z1 prove), it just brought a lot more attention to the genre thanks to PUBG’s widespread success. It’s only natural that studios like Epic would want to capitalize on that success, but whether or not Epic is trying a little too hard to straight up copy PUBG’s format instead of finding a more original approach is something that the two studios will have to figure out on their own, either legally or otherwise.