It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but do not tell that to Bluehole, developer of the popular last-man standing game PlayerUknown's Battlegrounds. After Epic Games announced it was building a similar "Battle Royale" mode for its game Fortnite with a reference to PUBG as inspiration, Bluehole issued a statement voicing concern and threatening legal action.
"We've had an ongoing relationship with Epic Games throughout PUBG’s development as they are the creators of Unreal Engine 4 (UE4), the engine we licensed for the game," Bluehole VP and executive producer Chang Han Kim stated 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."
"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. The PUBG community has and continues to provide evidence of the many similarities as we contemplate further action."
PUBG is enjoying immense popularity as an Early Access title on Steam. It is only natural that other developers will look to emulate the experience of a last-man standing gameplay. That is not the issue for Bluehole, or so it says. In an interview with PCGamer, Kim explains that he and his team are bothered by Epic Games being among the copycats.
"There are a lot of different issues but everyone else that released a battle royale game mode made their own thing, but it was Epic Games that made this game that is similar to us that has similar elements, and that's the concern, that it was Epic Games," Kim said.
"We use Unreal Engine to develop PUBG, and we pay a large amount of royalties based on the size of our success to Epic Games, and Epic Games always promoted their licensing models [saying] 'We want to support the success indie developers', and [Bluehole is] this indie developer that has been the most successful one using the Unreal Engine this year, and that's the problem that I see," Kim continued.
As far as Bluehole is concerned, it is an obvious conflict of interest. It also feels the move is in poor taste—Kim notes that Bluehole is the biggest indie success story for Epic Games, and there will be other indie developers that aspire to succeed using UE4.
"So we just wanted to raise an issue and let people know that it can be a problem," Kim added.
It is knot clear what Bluehole would like Epic Games to do at this point. On hindsight, Kim wishes the studio would have at least approached Bluehole about making Battle Royale and had a discussion with the studio. That shipped has sailed, obviously.
As for Epic Games, it has not commented on the situation at this time.