Krafton has sued Google (and with it, YouTube) and Apple after claiming that a PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG onwards) clone was not removed.
Free Fire, originally called Free Fire: Battlegrounds (hmm…), and Free Fire Max from Garena are the games in question, which PUBG-owner Krafton is also dragging Garena to court over, and the suit says that Garena started selling Free Fire in Singapore in 2017. Shortly after the launch of PUBG. Krafton filed a complaint about it and reached an agreement with Garena, but no licensing or distribution deal was involved. Nevertheless, a mobile version appeared on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. In 2018, the Max version was released.
The lawsuit alleges that both Free Fire copied PUBG features (“unique game-opening ‘air drop’ feature, the game structure and play, the combination and selection of weapons, armour, and unique objects, locations, and the overall choice of colour schemes, materials, and textures”), and thus Garena earned hundreds of millions of dollars in sales through apps and microtransactions, according to Krafton. The company then points the finger at Apple and Google for having a profit margin on microtransactions, and the two tech companies have not stopped selling Free Fire at Krafton’s behest. And YouTube is in the company’s crosshairs behind PUBG because Free Fire and Free Fire Max gameplay can be found on it, and the video-sharing company has not responded to the takedown request. Biubiubiu is also involved… it’s a Chinese film that is “an unauthorized adaptation of Battlegrounds, depicting a live-action dramatized version of Battlegrounds gameplay.”
Daniel Ahmad, a senior analyst at Niko Partners, drew attention to the possible copyright infringement on Twitter back in July: the official poster is similar. PUBG on PC and Peacekeeper Elite on mobile is booming in China, so he doesn’t see the movie’s creation as a big surprise. The film, by the way, was released on Youku, a Chinese video-sharing site, on August 6, and, understandably, the language is Mandarin.
Before requesting the removal of Biubiubiu, Krafton also filed a copyright claim for the YouTube video Run Amuck. Although YouTube has taken action against it, the work is still available for viewing on the site. Krafton said, “Unlike concerning Biubiubiu, the Run Amuck videos were posted by individual users who no doubt lack the deep pockets necessary to indemnify YouTube from liability for copyright infringement fully.”
It also mentioned a Ubisoft lawsuit from May 2020. “Apple and Google refused to comply with a videogame developer’s demand that they remove an infringing game from their respective stores. Only after the developer filed suit against the infringing developer and Apple and Google, the infringing developer removed the app itself. Significantly, neither Apple nor Google ever took any action on its own.”
Garena itself isn’t that well known, but its parent company Sea Ltd. had a revenue of more than two billion dollars in 2020 in digital entertainment alone… so Krafton is looking at a big payout.