PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds slams Fortnite's 'carbon copy' Battle Royale mode [updated]

In PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds (affectionately known as PUBG), solo players or teams of up to four friends must parachute into a large map, filled with procedurally placed weapons and armor, and hunt up to 100 other players until there's only one player, or one team left. The playable area of the map gets perpetually smaller, and strategic use of weapons, vehicles, and stealth all come into play, making PUBG as tense to play as it is to watch on streaming sites.

PUBG is built on the Unreal Engine, owned by Epic Games, who also own Fortnite, an upcoming free-to-play base defense game, revolving around zombie-like husk creatures. Or at least, it used to revolve around that.

Epic Games recently announced Fortnite's "Battle Royale" mode, which is almost identical to PUBG. No gamers are strangers to titles being cloned, particularly on mobile, but for a large studio like Epic Games to so brazenly lift core gameplay in addition to specific elements so soon after PUBG's rise to prominence is a little irregular (but not exactly unexpected).

I wouldn't have called it controversial, really, until today, when PUBG developer Bluehole Inc. issued a press release specifically calling out Epic Games, inferring that Fortnite's Battle Royale mode is a "carbon copy."

In the press release, Bluehole, Inc Vice President and Executive Producer Chang Han Kim criticized Epic Games not only for copying PUBG, but for doing so without even consulting with the studio.

"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.""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."

While Bluehole Inc. didn't say specifically that Fortnite's Battle Royale mode is a carbon copy, the press release did mention that Brendan Greene, the game's creator, said in a recent interview that he hoped future similar games would put their own spin on the format, and avoid becoming a "carbon copy."

While it is hilariously opportunistic for Fortnite to so obviously copy PUBG, it's still a little odd in my experience for a game developer to issue a press release like this, particularly with threats of "further action."

PUBG's dynamic gameplay has propelled it to the top of Steam's most-played games.

PUBG's dynamic gameplay has propelled it to the top of Steam's most-played games.

Both Fortnite and PUBG are currently in an early access development phase. The primary difference between the two games right now is, Fortnite's Battle Royale mode will be free-to-play with base-building elements (with an early access price of $39.99), while PUBG is funded by cosmetic DLC and an affordable $29.99 price tag. PUBG also sports a more "realistic" aesthetic, as opposed to Fortnite's more cartoony style.

Several high-profile developers have at least talked about copying PUBG, with Ubisoft stating the format could be a candidate for DLC within some of their existing games. Grand Theft Auto Online has already lifted elements for their Motor Wars mode too. I suspect we'll see even more clones throughout 2018, but hey, maybe Bluehole Inc. should embrace the competition and innovate to keep PUBG ahead of the pack.

Updated September 23, 2017: Speaking with PCGamer, Bluehole, Inc Vice President and Executive Producer Chang Han Kim has clarified the situation outlined in the press release, diving deeper into the concerns and planned actions. Kim explained that Bluehole claims no ownership of the battle royale genre and its gripes don't so much lie with the game mode – rather Epic Games itself. With royalties being paid to Epic already for Unreal Engine licensing and marketing that likens Fornite's mode to PUBG, they have concerns regarding the route the studio has taken. Bluehole has supposedly already reached out to Epic Korea, in an attempt to kickstart discussions with the U.S. team. We recommend reading the full interview for an insight from Bluehole's perspective.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown was formerly a Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.