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Bethesda lawsuit says Westworld game is ‘blatant rip-off’ of Fallout Shelter

Alleges developer misused Bethesda's intellectual property to develop new game for Warner Bros.

Bethesda Softworks has sued Warner Bros. Entertainment and Behavior Interactive over their latest mobile release, Westworld.

As reported by Polygon, Bethesda has filed a lawsuit in Maryland U.S. District Court which alleges the mobile game Westworld, based on HBO's hit TV series of the same title, is a "blatant rip-off" of its own game, Fallout Shelter, to the extent that it was built using the exact same code.

The lawsuit alleges Behaviour Interactive used code from Fallout Shelter to develop a Westworld game for Warner Bros.

According to the court filings, Bethesda entered into a contract with Behaviour Interactive in 2014 to start development of Fallout Shelter, a mobile simulation game based in Bethesda's Fallout franchise. Under the agreement, all of Behaviour's work on the game would be the owned property of Bethesda, but Behaviour would retain "access to source code, game assets, and other intellectual property" related to the development of the game.

Fallout Shelter was released for iOS and Android in 2015 and quickly amassed millions of downloads. Later, versions of the game were also released on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

The suit goes on to allege that well after the release of Fallout Shelter, Warner Bros. decided to collaborate with Behaviour to develop a mobile game of its own based on Westworld. Bethesda's suit alleges Behaviour turned around and used the exact code and assets used to develop Fallout Shelter to create the Westworld game — and they appear to have some rather concrete evidence to back that claim.

From the lawsuit, Bethesda describes a specific bug that was found in a pre-release demo version of Fallout Shelter. The bug was fixed before the public release of Fallout Shelter — but the exact same bug appeared in a demo version of Westworld.

"While this error was ultimately fixed in subsequent builds of FALLOUT SHELTER, the appearance of the bug in the Westworld game demo makes clear that the FALLOUT SHELTER source code was used by Behaviour in developing the Westworld game."

While it may seem weird to see Bethesda taking another company to court for ripping off Fallout Shelter, a game which itself could be considered a total knock-off of the popular mobile franchise Tiny Tower, the issue here is the specific misuse of intellectual property by Behaviour to develop a game with Warner Bros. and in particular the potential breach of contract between Behavior and Bethesda.

The games are undeniably similar and the question then becomes how much Warner Bros. knew about the existing contract between Behaviour and Bethesda. Bethesda alleges that "Warner Bros. expected and relied on Behaviour's ability to reuse and/or leverage Bethesda's computer code, game designs, and other intellectual property" to lay out the groundwork to further develop the Westworld mobile game. We'll have to see whether this goes to trial or is settled out of court.

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