update: the full statement
BLUEHOLE INC. - CREATORS OF PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS - RESPONDS TO COMMUNITY CONCERN SURROUNDING FORTNITE’S BATTLE ROYALE MODE
Bluehole, Inc., developers of PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS (PUBG), the first standalone Battle Royale survival shooter game, responded today to growing concerns regarding the similarities between the battle royale mode in Epic Games’ newly revealed Fortnite and PUBG.
“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,” said Chang Han Kim, Vice President and Executive Producer for Bluehole, Inc. “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.”
The development team for PUBG has no relationship to Fortnite’s development as concerns around User Interface (UI), gameplay and structural replication in the battle royale mode exist.
“We have also noticed that Epic Games references PUBG in the promotion of Fortnite to their community and in communications with the press,” Chang Han Kim continues. “This was never discussed with us and we don’t feel that it’s right.”
With its release on March 23, 2017, PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS is a last man standing shooter that drops players on a realistic 8 x 8 km island where they start with nothing in an ever diminishing field of play. Gamers must fight to locate weapons, vehicles and supplies as they strive to be the lone survivor.
In a recent Reddit AMA (e.g. Ask Me Anything) session, Brendan Greene (aka PLAYERUKNOWN) was asked about other companies replicating the Battle Royale experience:
“Other companies will, of course, enter the marketplace, but I would just hope they put their own spin on the game mode and not just make a carbon copy!”
Chang Han Kim closed, “The PUBG community has and continues to provide evidence of the many similarities as we contemplate further action.”
"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," said Bluehole VP and executive producer Chang Han Kim. "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."
He added, "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."
// Mod Edit 2:
Bluehole said the PUBG community has been providing it with evidence of just how closely Fortnite has followed the formula for its own game, adding that it is considering further action on the matter.
So I thought some extra information on this situation might help from looking at this from either side's perspective.
1.) It's plausible that this game bothers Bluehole where other games did not as there was a rumor floating around that Tencent was trying to buy Bluehole, and now Epic, which has a ~40-49% ownership by Tencent, is making a similar game. I don't believe PUBG has had an official launch in China yet either, so due to Tencent, this could beat them to that market. Battle Royale games are very popular in China and Korean companies are very successful in China as well, so there's a significant business angle there.
2.) Epic and Bluehole did work together to modify Unreal Engine to help support games like this. It's possible to make an argument that Epic benefited in getting up a competing game due to this.
3.) It is worth noting that Bluehole was actually founded on both corporate theft (they stole Lineage 3's art assets, design documents, and technology, and lost at the South Korean supreme court) and clone games (Devilian is very much Diablo), so it's plausible they feel that the legal system is actually an effective way to deal with issues given they've lost to it before. Others might see this as hypocritical given nothing was found to be wrong with Devilian.
4.) It's also worth noting that PUBG is actually a rather late comer in this genre, even if the genre originator was working on it. H1Z1 was a game he contracted to work on (and we've never known if he made a deal to keep the rights to the game design after doing so) before joining with Bluehole. Similarly, The Culling has an exceptionally similar design with less players, and released around a year before PUBG did with no work from PlayerUnknown himself, which Bluehole has raised no objection to. It's worth noting this was also an Unreal Engine 4 game. Daybreak (formerly SOE) has said that PUBG wouldn't exist without H1Z1, but has not made outward legal threats toward Bluehole.
5.) Bluehole does object to Epic referencing PUBG in their discussions of Fortnite Battle Royale. Now, there are certainly lots of games that do this with terms like Metroidvania or Dark Souls games, but I'm not sure if a legal precedent has been established that this is actually okay to do.