The American video game publisher, best known for Fallout and Skyrim, sued Warner Bros. and Montreal’s Behaviour Interactive in a U.S. District Court in Maryland yesterday. Bethesda alleges that the Westworld mobile game rips off Fallout Shelter.
Bethesda also alleges that the game has the same bugs. Specifically, in the court filings Bethesda points out a bug that points the camera in the wrong spot when starting the game. The bug gives players an out-of-focus view to the far right of where the camera should be targeted. Additionally, Bethesda claims it fixed this bug before Fallout Shelter was released, but the appearance of the bug in Westworld illustrates the game utilizes Fallout Shelter’s game code.
Along with the bugs, Bethesda notes that gameplay, geometry features, controls, designs and more are copied in Westworld.
Although duplicitous, reusing code isn’t necessarily a problem. The primary issue here is that Behaviour Interactive was under an exclusive contract with Bethesda. Because of the contract, all intellectual property, code, artwork, design, game play features and more belong to Bethesda. Any re-use of the code by Behaviour Interactive or Warner Bros. is therefore a violation of the contract.
The similarities between the games
Since Westworld’s release yesterday, a number of articles have compared the game to Bethesda’s 2015 hit. Bethesda outlines a number of such articles in its filings.
Granted the games are quite similar. In Fallout Shelter players take on the role of ‘overseer.’ Their job is to ensure the smooth operation of an underground ‘vault’ where a group of people are sheltering from a nuclear wasteland. Players do so by matching characters in the vault with specific skills to appropriate jobs.
Similarly, Westworld has players control a theme park where guests arrive and request specific fantasies by fulfilled. In the case of Westworld, the fantasies are often western themed. The player must create ‘hosts’ — people-like androids programmed to fulfill those fantasies. Then players match hosts to guests.
In both games, players must perform the various matching tasks in order to generate resources. Those resources allows players to expand the underground components of the respective bases.
Unfortunately for Warner Bros. and Behaviour Interactive, there appears to be more than just a case of similar gameplay mechanics. A simple examination for the game’s codebase could verify what Bethesda claims. And if the claim is true, then Warner Bros. and Behaviour Interactive could be in trouble.
You can view the full filing here.