Overwatch, since its release in 2016, has become one of the most influential games of the decade. Overwatch's class-based first-person gameplay has been imitated across any number of game releases, across multiple genres. Some games are more respectful about this influence than others. And some yet broach a line where legality comes into issue. In these cases, Blizzard is more than comfortable suing. Such is the case in Guangzhou, China, where Blizzard has just won a lawsuit against publisher 4399 Network.
Blizzard, or more specifically its NetEase affiliate in China, took 4399 Network to court over similarities between two of the publisher's games, Heroes of Warfare and Gunplay Battlefront. Blizzard argued that both games contained material directly copied from Overwatch, including maps of near-identical arrangement, and copied character design and gameplay. By copying Overwatch, Blizzard alleged in its infringement lawsuit that its copyrights were violated.
China's Pudong New Area People's Court ruled in Blizzard's favor Wednesday, awarding Blizzard nearly $570,000 in damages. The lawsuit against Heroes of Warfare and Gunplay Battlefront first began in 2017, with Blizzard demanding both monetary compensation and the removal of both games from iOS and Android storefronts. Gunplay Battlefront was taken offline in July 2017, before the lawsuit had begun. It's unclear what the status of Heroes of Warfare is or will be going forward.
4399 Network, despite Blizzard's lawsuit, has shown no indication of slowing it's less than ideal practices of imitating popular western games for release in China. The publisher's official website lists dozens of games, many of which are very clearly inspired or more by western releases. Blizzard just happens to be one of the few publishers with the means to pursue a lawsuit in China, a privilege that relatively few companies can afford. Nevertheless, the lawsuit ending in Blizzard's favor may hopefully lead to stronger protections for game properties in China in the future.
Despite Blizzard's seeming victory in this specific lawsuit, the company has an uphill battle defending its properties copyright in China. Overwatch clones, as well as clones of its other games, remain widespread and popular. One of the game's most egregious clones, Hero Mission, was widely publicized as a direct copy of Overwatch in 2017. Yet it still remains widely available and popular in 2019. Perhaps Blizzard was simply waiting for this lawsuit to wrap up before moving to another.
Overwatch is available now on Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, and Xbox One.