As the publishers behind the two dominant battle royale games Fortnite and PUBG, you’d expect some bad blood between Epic Games and PUBG Corp especially given their turbulent history, but according to an interview with PUBG Corp studio director Brian Corrigan, the relationship is anything but that.
Speaking to PCGamesN, Corrigan said;
When [PUBG] first came out – years ago now, I guess – the idea was to just sell a copy of the game, and it’s going to be great, and that’s that. A lot of the season stuff has been our internal thinking evolving over time. People have this idea that there’s some animosity or something with Epic, but they’re one of our best partners, we talk to them all the time!
Despite stressing the friendly nature of their current rapport, things haven’t always been this peachy. The release of Fortnite in Sep. 2017 was a direct threat to PUBG, which up to that point had been largely left to its own devices to reap the benefits of a nascent battle royale genre.
PUBG Sued Epic Games
To mitigate the rapid growth of this new competitor, PUBG Corp opted to file a copyright lawsuit against Epic Games in Jan. 2018 at the Seoul Central District Court. The suit aimed to establish whether Fortnite was replicating the gameplay experience, having borrowed heavily from PUBG’s core format.
Chang Han Kim, VP at PUBG Corp parent company Bluehole at the time and current PUBG Corp CEO, explained;
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.
Further complicating matters between the two was the fact that PUBG’s licensed engine is none other than Epic’s Unreal Engine 4. Bluehole and Epic Games collaborated heavily on optimizing the engine during development, prompting PUBG Corp to question whether Epic had effectively poached ideas at the source.
After causing quite the commotion when first announced, the lawsuit faded into obscurity before PUBG Corp quietly dropped out of the legal battle in Jun. 2018. Both Epic Games and PUBG Corp refused to comment on the matter nor clarify if a settlement had brought an end to the dispute.
The Turbulent Early Days of the Battle Royale Genre
Given their fraught past, there’s a bizarre veneer to the newfound entente, but one that makes sense within the context of battle royale’s development as a genre.
Much of the feud originated in the genre’s infancy when developers engaged in a frantic rush to push out a game and secure a share of the growing market.
As the proto battle royale title, PUBG was very much an experiment that took time to find its own identity, especially in terms of features and gameplay. This made the threat from Fortnite all the more alarming, as Epic proffered up a more polished and sophisticated game right from day one.
Corrigan suggests PUBG is now in firm control of its identity and future, allowing it to have a friendly and collaborative relationship with Epic Games. As he aptly puts it;
Our formula is unique. That’s something we understand, and we have to always remember: this PUBG formula is unique, there really is nothing else out there like it.