Ubisoft is making a stand against intellectual property theft with their Rainbow Six Lawsuit against Google and Apple. The R6 developer decided to take the two major corporations to court over a knockoff of it’s flagship FPS series currently available on their platforms. It’s a major swing upwards over suing Area F2’s developer. Let’s take a look at Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six lawsuit and what it could mean for game devs dealing with copycats in the future.
What is Area F2?
Area F2 is a mobile game for iOS and Android released by Qookka Games, an offshoot of Chinese conglomerate Alibaba’s Ejoy.com. The free to play game was announced in late 2019 before going into beta in March of this year. SQUAD reviewed it as it began its launch out of beta before being globally launched in May.
The game is a multiplayer “hero shooter” that bills itself as the “first CQB FPS on mobile.” The gameplay is eerily similar to Rainbow Six in all facets. Any fan of Rainbow Six Siege will take one look at Area F2 and know exactly what it is. While the game itself isn’t bad, it’s a not-so-subtle ripoff of Ubisoft’s valuable shooter series. Here’s just a small example of why the Rainbow Six devs saw fit to file a lawsuit.
Area F2’s Boulder agent is identical to R6’s Montagne, down to the expandable shield, secondary pistol options and utility grenades. Even the armor and speed rating of Boulder is identical to his R6 brother. Other characters like Flash (Blitz), Magnet (Thatcher) and Hammer (Sledge) all feature loadouts and gadgets that are nearly identical to their R6 counterparts.
However, the more pressing issue that could have jump started Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six lawsuit is some of the art assets used. Several weapons and skins used in Area F2 are carbon copies of those found in Siege. Weapon sights, victory screens, operator icons and other assets were all stolen for the mobile game. Map textures look eerily similar to those found in Rainbow Six maps.
It’s difficult to dispute that the game has lifted Ubisoft’s intellectual property. With monetization and micro transactions galore in Area F2, it’s no surprise the French developer decided to take a stand. However, the targets of their lawsuit aren’t Qookka Games or Ejoy.com. Area F2 currently has over 5 million downloads on the Google Pay store and is number 4 on Apple’s free games chart. With no signs of the app’s success slowing, Ubisoft decided to go after Apple and Google directly in court.
Why is Ubisoft suing Apple and Google for Area F2?
In my opinion, Ubisoft would have better luck getting blood from a stone than trying to sue a Chinese game studio over intellectual property theft. It’s simply not feasible for them to take Qookka, Alibaba or Ejoy to a Chinese court and win. That’s why the company decided to go after the two companies who host the game on their app stores. The R6 devs reportedly asked both Apple and Google to remove the app and were ignored, according to a Bloomberg report on the lawsuit.
“R6S is among the most popular competitive multiplayer games in the world, and is among Ubisoft’s most valuable intellectual properties,” Ubisoft said in the filing according to Bloomberg. “Virtually every aspect of AF2 is copied from R6S, from the operator selection screen to the final scoring screen, and everything in between.”
Both app stores declined to remove Area F2 from their respective app stores despite Ubisoft’s requests. With Rainbow Six being one of Ubisoft’s most successful current-gen franchises, it makes sense for the company to try and protect itself. A victory against two of the world’s most powerful companies could be a major blow against app store thieves.
What could Ubisoft’s Rainbow Six lawsuit mean for mobile gaming?
If Ubisoft is successful in its lawsuit against Apple and Google, the two will most likely be forced to remove Area F2 from their app stores. Being able to twist the arm of app store’s to prevent IP theft on their platforms could make it easier for other game devs to take a stand against copycats. Knockoffs are nothing new to app stores, but having a precedent set could help other game studios when their property is being taken advantage of.
Trying to get Google and Apple to police every single app that comes on their store is a monumental ask. It’s likely not possible for the two to vigilantly keep track of every infraction on their platform. Then there’s the fact that since Area F2 is selling micro transactions, both app stores are seeing small profits from Area F2’s success. It’s in the two companies’ interests to not remove games that are filling the coffers, even when informed of copyright infringement.
Ubisoft’s goal isn’t to prevent another Rainbow Six clone from making it to the app store, it’s ensuring that it can be quickly removed once it’s proven to infringe on their copyright. Going up against two behemoths in the tech world will be no easy task. A victory could mean more peace of mind for game developers, less incentive for IP thieves, and a way of fighting back against copycats when Google and Apple throw their hands up to devs. However, false takedowns have plagued the internet as a way to effectively shut down competition. The courts will need to find a happy middle ground where devs feel they can take down thieves, but can’t use the law as a bludgeon to stifle similar games with no direct IP theft.