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PUBG’s developer is suing Apple, Google, and the developer of lucrative PUBG lookalike Free Fire

PUBG-maker Krafton filed a big lawsuit Monday: it’s suing the developer of two mobile games that it accuses of copying PUBG: Battlegrounds, the hit PC battle royale shooter, and it’s suing Apple and Google for distributing those games on their app stores. Krafton even accuses Google of hosting YouTube videos with gameplay of the two games in question, as well as “numerous posts containing a feature-length Chinese film that is nothing more than a blatantly infringing live-action dramatization of Battlegrounds.”

The games Krafton takes issue with are called Free Fire and Free Fire Max, offered by developer Garena. On both the App Store and Google Play, they show up as Garena Free Fire and Garena Free Fire Max. Both are available for free with in-app purchases.

According to Krafton:

Free Fire and Free Fire Max extensively copy numerous aspects of Battlegrounds, both individually and in combination, including Battlegrounds’ copyrighted unique game opening “air drop” feature, the game structure and play, the combination and selection of weapons, armor, and unique objects, locations, and the overall choice of color schemes, materials, and textures.

Krafton alleges Garena has earned “hundreds of millions of dollars” from sales from the apps and that Apple and Google have “similarly earned a substantial amount of revenue from their distribution of Free Fire.

In the lawsuit, Krafton compiled comparisons like this to make its case against Garena.
Image: Krafton

Krafton claims that on December 21st, it took a few actions: it asked Garena to “immediately stop its exploitation of Free Fire and Free Fire Max,” which Garena apparently refused; it asked Apple and Google to stop distributing the games, which are both still available on both app stores; and it asked YouTube to remove videos featuring Free Fire and Free Fire Max gameplay “that include elements that blatantly infringe Battlegrounds and, separately, the infringing feature-length film,” which Krafton says YouTube hasn’t done.

In case you’re wondering about that film:

Krafton also notes that Garena sold a game in Singapore in 2017 that “copied” PUBG: Battlegrounds. While claims regarding that were settled, there was no license agreement established, according to the lawsuit.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of Free Fire before this lawsuit, but I’ve since learned that it’s quite lucrative. Free Fire earned $1.1 billion in player spending in 2021, according to data that analytics firm Sensor Tower shared with The Verge, an amount that was up 48 percent from 2020. While the total dollar amount is quite a bit less than the astonishing $2.9 billion that PUBG Mobile earned in player spending last year, PUBG Mobile’s figures were up only seven percent year-over-year, reports Sensor Tower. That could suggest PUBG Mobile’s growth is slowing down just as Free Fire’s is skyrocketing.

We also checked with another analytics firm, Appfigures, and while the data was different, it still suggested that Free Fire is catching up. PUBG Mobile, PUBG Mobile Lite, and the China- and India-specific versions of PUBG Mobile earned a combined $639 million in revenue last year, according to Appfigures, while Free Fire earned $414 million.

Apple and Google didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment. Jason Golz, a spokesperson for Garena parent company Sea, tells The Verge that “Krafton’s claims are groundless.”

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