Maker of PUBG Mobile game, Krafton, has filed a lawsuit in a California court against multiple parties including Google, Apple and Garena Online Pvt Ltd — the makers of Garena Free Fire. Krafton alleged that Garena Online copied PUBG Mobile and started distributing Garena Free Fire in 2017 without signing any licensing agreement or seeking permission from PUBG’s publishers.
The lawsuit includes Google and Apple as the two allowed Garena Online to distribute millions of copies of Free Fire through their respective online app stores. Krafton claimed that Garena Online has made hundreds of millions of dollars from sales of Free Fire games globally including in the US. Apple and Google have also earned substantial revenue through the in-game sales in Garena Free Fire, said Krafton.
Both app stores charge a 15% commission from app publishers for in-app purchases and subscriptions and also force developers to use their billing system.
Krafton alleged that Google’s video streaming platform YouTube also hosts countless posts of Free Fire, which have been viewed millions of times.
According to Karfton, Garena Online copied PUBG again in 2021 in another game called Garena Free Fore Max. The two games allegedly copied several elements from PUBG such as the copyrighted unique airdrop scene, game structure and play, selection of weapons and objects, locations, colour schemes and texture.
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PUBG Mobile was the highest-grossing mobile game in terms of worldwide revenue in December 2021, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower. Garena Free Fire was ranked 8th in overall revenue, however, it was the second-highest growing game on Google Plays Store during the month, while PUBG Mobile was ranked 8th on Play Store.
Garena Free Fire was one of the top beneficiaries of the ban on PUBG Mobile in India in September 2020. According to Sensor Tower, downloads of Free Fire grew by 147% after the ban on PUBG Mobile in India.
PUBG Mobile was banned due to links to Chinese gaming company Tencent, which at that time was the game’s primary distributor in India. Krafton, which is a South Korean company, had to cut off ties with Tencent and take distribution of the game in India. Though the ban on PUBG Mobile was never lifted, Krafton was allowed to launch other games such as Battlegrounds India and PUBG New State.