Riot Games is suing NetEase, the Chinese technology company, for allegedly infringing the copyright of their popular Valorant esports title. Riot Games has claimed that NetEase’s mobile title Hyper Front has similar maps, weapons, characters, and charms to Valortant.
Like Valorant, Hyper Front is a free-to-play FPS title with teams of five going up against one another on a fundamental level. This is a common format that is also followed by other FPS games like Overwatch. Riot has claimed that the development of Hyper Front commenced right after Valorant’s Project A was revealed to the world; the timing of it all is undoubtedly fascinating.
Hyper Front was released this year, and many players noticed some of the similarities that the game shared with Valorant. NetEase has to be wary as it has picked up a bit of a reputation for copying games in the recent past. It has previously also been accused of developing games that are clones of PUBG and Fortnite.
Riot Has A Strong Case Against NetEase
Even though Hyper Front has got some modifications on the Valorant model, Riot has claimed that this does not exempt NetEase from copyright infringement. Riot Games lawyer Dan Nabel alluded to the same in a statement to Polygon. Nabel suggested that the creative choices between the two titles were similar and that minor changes like color, character abilities, and slight modifications don’t change that, before alluding to the saying, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.”
Riot has already filed lawsuits in the United Kingdom, Germany, Brazil, and Singapore in order to stop NetEase from distributing Hyper Front. Riot believes that the global nature of the games market makes these multi-national lawsuits necessary.
Riot’s lawsuit includes screenshots of the game’s maps, characters, weapons, and other facets. Another thing to remember is that Riot has been planning to release a mobile version of Valorant for 2024. This could be another reason why they’ve so strongly condemned the distribution of Hyper Front. NetEase had reportedly made some changes to Hyper Front following Riot’s initial complaints, but Riot is not satisfied with the changes.
Riot Hasn’t Been Shy Of Suing Before
NetEase will, no doubt, be aware of Riot’s legal history. In the past, Riot has sued the likes of Shanghai Moonton, who develop the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang game. Riot claimed that the company was copying their popular League of Legends title in that instance.
The US judges dismissed their case at the time, declaring that the dispute should be resolved in China instead. The reason cited by the judges was that Riot is part of the Tencent group in China, and that Tencent had already filed another case against Shanghai Moonton; they believed that it would be unfair for Shanghai Moonton to fight both Riot and Tencent on two separate fronts.
Of course, Tencent will not get much sympathy from fans. They were on the receiving end of similar allegations when their games Ace Force and Let’s Hunt Monsters were accused of copying Overwatch and Pokemon Go.
Riot will, of course, try to deflect from this. More recently, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) released an animated video as part of their build-up to a cricket series involving Pakistan and England that resembles the animation used in the Valorant games. This has got a lot of people on social media who are familiar with cricket and Valorant news talking. Riot Games hasn’t responded yet, but the animation video is highly similar to the trailer video for Valorant agent Chamber. For now, Riot has its hands full with NetEase.
NetEase is no pushover, of course. It is no longer just a developer in the Asian market, having expanded into Asia and Europe and become quite significant in its own right by acquiring Quantic Dream – most famous for developing the Detroit: Become Human game. But that is perhaps why Riot has made the aggressive push of suing them in multiple locations.