When Epic Games announced that its fort-building survival title Fortnite was getting an all-new Battle Royale mode, comparisons to Bluehole’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) were immediately made. And in the same quick fashion, tensions also flared. Bluehole vice president Chang Han Kim commented that the developer was worried that Fornite might be replicating PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds gameplay, criticizing the way Epic Games had marketed the new Fornite mode.
Now, in an interview with PCGamer, Kim and his translator Sammie Kang have stepped forward to further explain the comments many people viewed as unfair. Kim offered the clarification that the Fornite/PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds situation “is not about the Battle Royale mode itself,” and that Bluehole “never raised an issue” with other modes of similar kind. According to Kim, it’s entirely “about Epic Games,” which wasn’t really clear in the original press release.
Kim continued, explaining why the company was the concern. From Kim’s vantage point, and that of Bluehole as a whole, Epic Games released a game mode “that is similar to [Bluehole] that has similar elements,” and that’s a problem considering the two companies’ professional relationship. “We use Unreal Engine to develop PUBG, and we pay a large amount of royalties based on the size of our success to Epic Games,” explained Kim. “Epic Games always promoted their licensing models [saying], ‘We want to support the success of indie developers,’ and [Bluehole is] this indie developer that has been the most successful one using the Unreal Engine this year, and that’s the problem that I see.”
What many gaming fans disagreed with in the original statement was the implication that Bluehole had some type of ownership over battle royale or last man standing game modes. Kim made it clear that the developer isn’t in any way claiming that. “It’s not for us to even comment,” he said. Kim then reiterated that the focus of Bluehole’s apparent frustration is Epic Games, who specifically mentioned PUBG in its marketing materials for the new gameplay mode:
“Before we actually looked deeper into how similar [Fortnite‘s Battle Royale] is, we wanted to raise an issue because this is from Epic Games. We could be the biggest indie success story that they have and there will be other indie developers that aspire to succeed like us using Unreal Engine, and they would be concerned, right? So we just wanted to raise an issue and let people know that it can be a problem.”
Kim added that Bluehole simply wished that Epic Games would have approached them first, given the close working dynamic they had together with support for 100-player sessions in PUBG. According to Kim, Bluehole felt that going to Epic Games for support allowed the Epic Games to then understand how to “develop new features or improve something in the engine to support that battle royale gameplay, and then use it for their own game mode” rather than continue a working relationship with Bluehole and PUBG.
Moving forward, Kim hopes to start an official conversation between Bluehole and Epic Games. He again stated that this entire situation is only a problem because Epic Games makes the engine Bluehole uses, and that the developer pays “a large amount of royalties” to Epic Games. “We had this business relationship and we had trust that we would be getting continued support, and we were looking forward to working more closely with them to get technical support, maybe develop new features,” stated Kim. “Our name was used to officially promote their game without our knowledge. There was no discussion. It was just a bit surprising and disappointing to see our business partner using our name officially to promote the game mode that is pretty similar to us and there was misunderstanding in the community that we’re officially involved in the project.”
At the time of writing, Epic Games hasn’t responded to Bluehole’s original statement or these newly released comments. With PUBG recently crossing 10 million sales and Fortnite quickly rising to prominence, what remains abundantly clear is that many will continue offering their own thoughts on the situation, as it doesn’t seem it can be easily swept under the rug.
PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is out now for PC, and will release later in 2017 for Xbox One.