There’s a Hit PUBG Film in China. The Game Studio Didn’t Make It
(Bloomberg) -- A film about PUBG, the online battle royale sensation, is making waves in China. But the game’s developers had nothing to do with it.
“The Valorous Marksman” premiered on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s Netflix-style video service Youku on Aug. 6 to solid reviews from fans -- many of whom commented on its remarkable resemblance to their favorite duel-to-the-death online game.
The movie follows the journey of a young game streamer who forms an e-sports team with buddies. The protagonists start out by parachuting from a plane onto a dusty battlefield littered with abandoned buildings. A yellow and black heads-up display fills the screen in many scenes, detailing their ammunition and inventory. Those were just a few of the tropes familiar to PUBG: Battlegrounds players around the world. One of the characters even dons a helmet not unlike the iconic face-covering on PUBG’s game cover art.
Viewers weren’t the only ones to notice. Krafton Inc., the South Korean studio behind PUBG, said in a statement the movie has nothing to do with its signature title or the company and that it’s considering taking legal action. Representatives for Alibaba and Huawen Picture -- the film’s producers -- didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Critics have noted how Chinese companies borrow ideas and designs from popular Western properties, taking advantage of lax intellectual property enforcement to replicate content for a local audience. That’s driven in part by the lack of access in tightly controlled China to overseas media, which often have to run a gauntlet of red tape and regulations to even reach domestic consumers.
In 2019, Tencent Holdings Ltd. drew fire for its “Let’s Hunt Monsters,” an augmented reality game that looked and played similarly to Niantic Inc.’s Pokemon Go. NetEase Inc., Tencent’s closest rival, caused a stir online after unveiling a trailer for “Project M”, a first-person shooter that observers said resembled Tencent-backed Riot Games’ “Valorant.”
It’s unusual however for a Chinese company to turn gaming property into film -- a route that many deep-pocketed Hollywood studios have attempted with mixed results. “Valorous Marksman,” dubbed “Biubiubiu” in some marketing materials to reference gunshots, was generally well-received. Viewers gave it 7.3 out of 10 on Douban, a popular Chinese reviews aggregation website akin to Rotten Tomatoes.
Some viewers posted they immediately felt inspired to play a game of PUBG. The film’s producers stuck a disclaimer in the credits that their work didn’t draw on existing video games: “Any resemblance is purely coincidental.”
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