July 25, 2021

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PUBG, Fortnite Battle Royale and the question of how new genres form

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When Epic added a battle royale mode to Fortnite in September last year, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds publisher Bluehole was pretty upset.

“We are concerned that Fortnite may be replicating the experience for which PUBG is known,” said Chang Han Kim, then its executive producer and now CEO of PUBG Corporation, which today runs the breakout shooter. The press release listed concerns over similarities in user interface, gameplay and ‘structural replication’ between the two games, and made a vague threat about potential legal action, which hasn’t apparently gone anywhere.

Fortnite now has 45 million players, which is probably greater than the number which plays PUBG, and Battle Royale mode is what they play. That has to hurt. But it’s not to say PUBG has much of a leg to stand on. “Look, I don’t claim ownership,” Brendan ‘PlayerUnknown’ Greene told Rock Paper Shotgun last summer. “So, it’s a last-man standing deathmatch. That’s been around since people could pick up clubs and hit each other. I would never claim ownership over that … I love to see what the genre has created. It’s various versions on something that I guess I popularised, you know? The idea itself is not mine.”

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