Last week, following Epic’s announcement that PvE-centric Fortnite would be getting a PvP-centric battle royal mode its paying PvE players apparently didn’t want (but that’s OK because it’s free?), we all rolled our eyes at the transparent attempt to capitalize on the runaway success of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. Developer Bluehole, however, did more than that: In a press release, it all but accused Epic of ripping off the mode and suggested it’d be contemplating some sort of action against the company, causing a market run on virtual popcorn as everyone watched two massive video game companies prepare for a possible legal war over what seemed to many gamers to be a pretty old game trope.
But in a new PC Gamer interview, Bluehole has since clarified its position: It’s not about the games’ shared ideas but about Epic specifically.
“This is not about the battle royale game mode itself,” VP/EP Changhan Kim told PC Gamer. “There were other BR gamemodes earlier this year that were released, like last man standing or GTA 5’s battle royale game mode, and we never raised an issue. […] Battle royale is just about last man standing, it’s a simple game mode, and we’re not claiming any kind of ownership over the game mode or genre itself. It’s not for us to even comment.”
His implication is that Epic’s stewardship of Unreal Engine has created a unique problem, as PUBG licenses that engine and needs to work directly with Epic, now a direct competitor in the LMS space, to seek improvements to the engine specifically for PUBG, which could be “leaked, or other things could happen.”
“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. 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. […] We just want to emphasize this 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. 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. But our name was used to officially promote their game without our knowledge. There was no discussion. It was just a bit surprising and disappointing to see our business partner using our name officially to promote the game mode that is pretty similar to us and there was misunderstanding in the community that we’re officially involved in the project.”