The Korea Herald


[Exclusive] PUBG developer wins lawsuit against Chinese copycat in US

By Kan Hyeong-woo

Published : Nov. 30, 2023 - 17:25

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An in-game screenshot from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Krafton) An in-game screenshot from PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (Krafton)

South Korean game developer Krafton has won a copyright lawsuit against Chinese game maker NetEase to put an end to a five-year legal battle as a US court sided with Krafton.

According to a ruling by the Superior Court of the State of California for the County of San Mateo, the court said that NetEase’s mobile games “Knives Out,” “Rules of Survival” and “Survivor Royale” were similar to Krafton’s battle royal shooter PlayerUnknown’s “Battlegrounds,” also known as PUBG.

“NetEase’s games were similar to PUBG including in gameplay such as players beginning by parachuting from the plane), overall look and feel, and the extensive use of buildings throughout the game,” said the court.

“Because of their similarity, NetEase’s games caused confusion in the marketplace with some gamers in Japan thinking that Knives Out was the mobile version of PUBG.”

The court added that because NetEase obtained a first-mover advantage over mobile users based on games copied from PUBG, it was difficult for Krafton to gain players with PUBG’s mobile version.

Krafton first filed a lawsuit against NetEase in May 2018, claiming that the Chinese game maker infringed its intellectual property. The two game developers reached a settlement as they agreed to a confidential contract in March 2019. A year later, Krafton sought another court decision as it asserted that NetEase breached the terms of their agreement. The second trial began May 1 this year at the US District Court for the Northern District of California.

The court concluded that Krafton has prevailed in proving that NetEase breached the terms of their contracting, noting that NetEase failed to the requisite changes and continued to use compromised elements in advertisements and promotions.

According to a Krafton official on Thursday, the Korean and Chinese game companies recently agreed not to pursue another lawsuit and accepted the court’s amended final statement of decision.

“Under the strategy of ‘Scale-Up the Creative,’ Krafton has put its utmost efforts to expand (intellectual property) in various areas such as battle royale and (role-playing games),” said the official.

“Actively utilizing new technology and innovative content, we are focusing on creating our own aspects to redefine user gaming experiences. Krafton will continue to work to discover ‘Original Creative’ and plan to provide fun for worldwide users through this.”

PUBG, an immensely popular game, set seven new Guinness World Record titles in less than a year when it was released in March 2017. The records include the most actively played video game on Steam, the fastest time for a Steam Early Access video game to gross $100 million in revenue, the fastest time for a Steam Early Access video game to sell 1 million units and the first video game to reach 2 million concurrent players on Steam.

As the game became a huge hit, similar games popped up and caused troubles for Krafton. In January 2022, Krafton sued Singaporean game maker Garena over Garena’s Free Fire and Free Fire Max, two mobile battle royale shooters, alleging that the games copied PUBG. It also filed a lawsuit against Google and Apple for distributing those games on their app stores. The case is ongoing.