They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery but, in the world of video games, you don't want that imitation to cut too close to the bone of the source material. According to Bethesda, that's exactly what has happened with the latest mobile hit from Warner Bros. Interactive, Westworld. Bethesda has filed a lawsuit heading into the weekend claiming that the game is a blatant rip-off of their own mobile success, Fallout Shelter. It looks like we've got ourselves a standoff.
What really makes this lawsuit interesting is the fact that Bethesda isn't just claiming that the Warner Bros. game seems a bit too similar to Fallout Shelter for comfort. The added hook is that both games were developed in partnership with Behaviour Interactive, which is included in the lawsuit for copyright infringement and breach of contract, as well as the illegal implementation of trade secrets.
Several years back, Bethesda partnered with Behavior to create Fallout Shelter, a game where you build a large underground facility, manage resources and send members of your subterranean vault into the world to carry out missions. The game launched to much success in 2015 and, after getting rolling on the mobile platform, has branched out to consoles and, as of E3 2018, even the Nintendo Switch.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Westworld hit the mobile scene, which not only looks a heck of a lot like Fallout Shelter, but also boasts similar gameplay features such as building a large underground facility. Bethesda is alleging that the game design, animations and features are pretty much plucked straight from their own game, according to a report from Polygon.
In the lawsuit, Bethesda claims that Behavior is in breach of contract and, not only did they utilize access to the publisher's intellectual properties, but they also developed the game using "copyrighted code, trade secrets and other rights" in order to cut down on the time and cost of creating the Westworld game. In short, Bethesda claims that Behavior took a bunch of stuff they used to make one game and then used it to make another game that's very, very similar to the original.
Get ready kids, because Bethesda's suit gets a little more interesting. Despite all of the similarities between the two games noted above, an argument could be made that you can't copyright an idea. And yes, there are loads of games (especially on the mobile market) that are basically reskins of other games. Heck, even the PUBG crew is suing Team Fortnite for being too similar.
However, this is a rare instance of a seemingly photocopied game, with a cowboy hat slapped on its head for good measure, being developed for two different clients by the same company. And, an even more difficult comparison to shake is the fact that Westworld has, apparently, demonstrated a bug identical to one seen in Fallout Shelter before getting patched out. If you want to claim you didn't use copyrighted code, that's going to be a tricky similarity to explain.