PUBG Pan Proceeding Prompts Powerplay
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is once again making headlines, though this time for a reason other than Chinese hackers and streamers getting caught using racial slurs. Recently PUBG Corp filed a lawsuit against several mobile game developers, accusing them of copyright infringement. While many of the elements cited as being copied are incredibly blatant in their nature, certain comments made by PUBG Corp in regards to the use of a specific weapon by one of the games has resulted in controversy.
The company claimed that the use of a frying pan as an equipable weapon by suspected PUBG clone Rules of Survival constitutes copyright infringement. The court document specifically states that prior to PUBG, “shooter games did not include the use of a frying pan”. In a shocking turn of events it has been revealed that many shooters originally thought to have included frying pans, such as Left 4 Dead 2 and Team Fortress 2, had in fact never had them at all. Valve software founder and CEO Gabe Newell recently issued a statement apologizing for the confusion saying, “What people had for so long confused as a frying pan was in actuality meant to be a Chinese-style Wok, but graphical limitations meant that many people incorrectly identified it.” Unfortunately for Valve this opened up a whole new can of worms as outraged Team Fortress 2 players, many of whom spent substantial amounts of money buying these items in the Steam Marketplace, began to demand financial compensation for their losses.
It is doubtful that those who originally made these claims could have foreseen the chaos that has now gripped the gaming industry. Many game companies, emboldened by PUBG Corp’s audacity, have taken to the legal arena in an effort to stake their claim on as many properties as possible. The opening shots were fired by Nintendo at developer Rockstar when they claimed the companies inclusion of horse-riding in their Red Dead series of games was a blatant imitation of the mechanic they introduced years ago in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was this allegation which caused the release date for Rockstar’s much anticipated Red Dead Redemption 2 to be pushed back as the developers scrambled to find a replacement mount for players to use. A compromise was made by simply re-texturing the horses with black and white stripes and branding them as North-American zebras. Rockstar has yet to confirm what, if any, steps will be taken to justify this change plot-wise.
Some companies have also expanded their domain to not only include specific assets but also exceeding vague concepts as well. For instance, Bethesda announced their intent to claim exclusive rights to being able to re-release games. Having already released The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim approximately six times in one form or another (with the recent inclusions of the Nintendo Switch and VR versions) the company believes that the term re-release has become irreversibly associated with Skyrim. Bethesda director and executive producer Todd Howard was careful to draw the distinction between terms like re-release and remaster/remake.
He claimed, “A remaster/make will tend to make major changes graphically or gameplay wise, a re-release will change just enough to allow it to run on a different platform while leaving virtually everything else completely the same. If you look at the upcoming Spyro Reignited Trilogy you can tell they put in a lot of work on making it look more modern. I mean it’s practically a new game! That’s just not what we’re about here at Bethesda.”
This statement was also made amidst rumors that the company is planning to consolidate all of its development teams into one entity with the sole purpose of releasing one Skyrim iteration per year for the next several decades.
The escalation of this copyright war shows no signs of stopping as more and more huge game companies get drawn into the mix. Currently, the biggest showdown is between Sega and Microsoft over the depiction of rings of their respective games. Sega claims that the Microsoft published Halo game series and its titular ring shaped structures are a “shameless and deliberate counterfeit” of the rings featured in the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise. Reps from Sega have recommended retconning the shape of the rings and have proposed several alternatives including but not limited to Trapezoid, Rhombus and Parallelogram. Perhaps the most disturbing facet of this whole affair is the eerie silence from the Electronic Arts camp. As a major player in the industry one would assume that they would have been quick to jump on opportunities such as getting exclusive rights for all sports games or copyrighting use of the word “gun”. Although reports have been coming in that crowds of lawyers have been seen massing outside of EA’s headquarters in Redwood City, California perhaps indicating that the worst is yet to come.