In a lawsuit filed by Kraften, makers of PlayUnknown’s Battlegrounds and top-selling mobile game PUBG Mobile, it is alleged that Garena Onlines Free Fire games “cloned” various aspects of Krafton’s game releases. According to the complaint, this includes the opening sequence, game structure, locations, how weapons are selected, types of objects and armament, color schemes, textures and materials.
YouTube, owned by Google, is also named for its role in hosting videos that include the infringing material. Garena refers to Krafton’s claims as “groundless.”
The legal filing claims that Garena sold a game in Singapore that copied parts of Krafton’s Battlegrounds game, shortly after it was launched in 2017. Google and Apple sold the game’s mobile version, originally Free Fire: Battleground but now known as Free Fire. A settlement was reached in Singapore for the infringing game, but allegedly, there was never a licensing agreement between the organizations.
On September 28, 2021, Garena released Free Fire MAX, a mobile game distributed by Google and Apple. According to Krafton, it offers the same user experience as Free Fire and once again infringes on many aspects of the Battlegrounds game. The game developer notes that this infringing game has raked in “hundreds of millions of dollars” through worldwide sales, which also benefits Google and Apple, since they earn commissions from games that are distributed by their app stores.
YouTube hosts videos of users playing Free Fire and Free Fire MAX, so they’re named in the lawsuit as well. Some of the videos have more than a million views. Additionally, there is a live-action, feature-length film that infringes the Battlegrounds game.
As this issue has not been resolved, Krafton hopes that by turning the matter over to the courts, the lawsuit can be settled in their favor. Both Google and Apple continue to distribute the game and YouTube continues to host the videos.
Krafton is worried that their newly released game, PUBG: New State, will also be copied if the complaint isn’t settled. Game clones are a frequent problem on app stores. Recently, Apple had to remove clones of its highly popular Wordle online game.
Mobile gaming is big business. In 2021, PUBG Mobile earned the company $2.9 billion, and Garena Free Fire had earnings of $1.2 billion.