Bethesda Softworks, the developer and publisher of Fallout and Skyrim, sued Warner Bros. in a US District Court in Maryland Friday, alleging that a new mobile game based on the HBO show Westworld rips off Fallout Shelter, Bethesda’s wildly successful mobile game from 2015.
Warner Bros. only released the Westworld game Thursday, but the controversy has been brewing for a while. Ever since Westworld was announced back in April, the similarities between it and Fallout Shelter have been noted in dozens of articles about the new game.
The comment from the press apparently didn’t escape Bethesda’s attention; as part of the court filing, Bethesda included over a dozen copies of such articles. Behavior Interactive, the development studio that worked with Bethesda to make Fallout Shelter, also worked with Warner Bros. to make the Westworld mobile game. Behavior Interactive is named as a co-defendant in Bethesda’s lawsuit.
The specifics of the lawsuit are not yet public, only a summons notifying Warner Bros. and Behavior Interactive of the lawsuit and copies of articles noting the similarities between the games have been published on public records websites so far. [Disclosure: Warner Bros. is the parent company of HBO; VICE has two shows on the network.]
The filing alleges a violation of US Copyright law, specifically involving a breach of contract, copyright infringement, and trade secret misappropriation, among others. According to TMZ, Bethesda believes that Behavior reused code from Fallout Shelter to make Westworld, and noted that both games have several of the same bugs. That information isn’t included in the court files that have been made public so far.
“Behaviour illegally used the same copyrighted source code from Fallout Shelter to develop Westworld, and copied Fallout Shelter’s game design, art, animations, gameplay features, and other elements. As a result of Behaviour and Warner Bros’ unlawful conduct, Westworld is a blatant ripoff of Fallout Shelter with largely superficial, cosmetic changes,” Bethesda told me in an emailed statement. “Bethesda will vigorously protect its legal rights in the valuable intellectual properties it owns, and take legal action whenever those rights are being infringed.”
In Fallout Shelter, players manage, build, and expand a long-term nuclear vault. Underground rooms can be outfitted for specific functions like power generation or a laboratory for research, as individual vault-dwellers level-up to perform specific jobs. Here’s what that looks like:
In Westworld, players work as new park employees to expand and manage guest entertainment areas and the world’s robotic hosts. Again, the facility expands underground and features specific departments shown in the HBO TV series. Individual hosts level-up to better cater to guests’ specific needs. Westworld uses a similar cartoony style:
This isn’t the first time Bethesda has sued other parts of the video game industry. Last year, Bethesda sued id co-founder and one of the creators of Doom, John Carmack, for reusing Bethesda-owned code after he left to join the VR company, Oculus.
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