Attendees play computer games at the AOC Open e-Sports event in Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg)

Maker of World's Top Game Sues Over Frying Pans, Chicken Dinners

(Bloomberg) -- The creator of the world’s top-selling video game has sued a Chinese company for allegedly ripping off content, from military-style air-drops to the iconic frying pan and chicken-dinner victory slogan the survival shooter’s become known for.

PUBG Corp., an affiliate of South Korean studio Bluehole Inc., accused Netease Inc. of basing two mobile games -- Rules of Survival and Knives Out -- on the ideas behind Brendan Greene’s PC smash hit PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. It wants both games removed from Apple’s App Store and Google Play and demands $150,000 “per infringed work,” according to a court filing.

Netease-rival Tencent Holdings Ltd. is Bluehole’s distribution partner in China. The game features 100 players racing to kill each other till there’s one survivor: a so-called Battle Royale concept that’s taken the gaming industry by storm since PUBG’s release a year ago. But the studio says Netease went too far, detailing a plethora of alleged copyright infringements in a 154-page filing with a U.S. district court.

Rules of Survival victors are feted by an enthusiastic chicken, which PUBG claims evokes the “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” message that greets sole survivors in Battlegrounds. In both Knives Out and Battlegrounds, an air-dropped supply box spews red smoke. A frying pan, both weapon and butt-armor in Battlegrounds, operates similarly in Rules of Survival, PUBG said, calling the cooking utensil a “beloved” emblem.

Netease “intended to create consumer confusion” that its mobile games were created by PUBG, according to the filing. Rules of Survival and Knives Out both have their own independent intellectual property, said Sharon Hu, a spokeswoman for Netease, adding that the company will send out a more detailed response soon.

Bluehole has sold more than 32 million copies of its game, earning more than 250 billion won ($235 million) last year in operating profit. Netease’s Rules of Survival, released late last year, is in the top 100 in about 60 countries, while Knives Out is the fourth-highest grossing game in Japan as of Friday.

The case is PUBG Corporation and PUBG Santa Monica, Inc. vs. NetEase, Inc. and NetEase Information Technology Corporation, 18-cv-02010-DMR, 4/2/18

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