PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite, the two most popular battle royale shooters on the planet, have been locked in a battle for concurrent player supremacy for nearly a year. Now the two may have to duke it out in court. That’s because PUBG Corp., a subsidiary of Bluehole, has filed a lawsuit in South Korea against Fortnite developer Epic Games over alleged copyright infringement.
The lawsuit arrives as PUBG has seen its number of concurrent players on Steam cut in half, going from more than 3 million users in December of last year to around 1.5 million users currently. Meanwhile, the last update from Epic Games had Fortnite peaking at over 3.4 million concurrent players, which the game hit in February. If going by that singular statistic, then Fortnite is the more popular battle royale shooter.
What’s interesting is that Fortnite didn’t start out that way. When it launched last July, Fortnite’s sole game mode was ‘Save the World’, which tasked players with building walls and defending them. Two months later, however, Epic Games added the game’s free-to-play Battle Royale mode, and that has never sat well with Bluehole/PUBG Corp. The frustration from Bluehole stemmed from Epic Games “replicating the experience [in Fortnite] for which PUBG is known.”
“We just want to emphasize this is only a problem because Epic Games is the company that makes the engine we use and we pay a large amount of royalties to them,” Bluehole VP and executive producer Chang Han Kim said last September. “And we had this business relationship and we had trust that we would be getting continued support, and we were looking forward to working more closely with them to get technical support, maybe develop new features.”
So this has been a point of contention since the beginning of Fortnite’s expansion in to battle royale territory. The lawsuit alleges that Epic Games is copying some of PUBG’s core elements, including in-game items, and user interface (UI). Whether a court believes the lawsuit has merit remains to be seen.