It’s long been believed that cosmetics and cosmetic economies in games is an acceptable way to make money as the cosmetics don’t affect gameplay. However, PUBG Corp doesn’t seem to agree.
In its lawsuit against Rules of Survival developer NetEase, PUBG Corp claims that PUBG cosmetics do affect gameplay. Not only that, PUBG Corp claims that in-game cosmetics and a cosmetics economy are integral and critical gameplay elements.
This is a stunning about-face from a prominent developer regarding cosmetics in-game which could potentially have wide-ranging impacts.
PUBG Corp filed a lawsuit against NetEase (Rules of Survival, Knives Out) earlier this week which accuses the latter developer of copying PUBG’s assets and gameplay for its own gain.
PUBG Corp’s lawsuit seeks to remove NetEase’s games from sale due to the copying of assets and includes the following claims;
In addition to armor, the user can pick up additional clothing, such as jackets, pants, hats, goggles, glasses, gloves, masks, shoes and shirts. The pieces of clothing do not affect gameplay (emphasis added) but is an artistic expression that provides the player with a visually diverse gameplay experience as well as allowing each player to express him/herself.
However, clothing does affect gameplay in terms of camouflage (emphasis added). Clothing can be used to assist the player to blend in with the environment, making the player less visually detectable.
The player must visually detect an opposing player without any aid other than equipment found in gameplay, such as an optical scope. Thus, the colors and stylings of the clothing found in BATTLEGROUNDS adds to the rich tapestry of the gameplay experience while permitting artistic expression.
In essence, PUBG Corp is claiming that while cosmetics don’t have an effect on gameplay, cosmetics can affect camouflage which in turn does affect gameplay.
The cosmetic economy
The lawsuit makes mention of the Ghillie Suit and how it changes gameplay and camouflage as an example of assets stolen by NetEase. While the Ghillie Suit is freely available in matches of PUBG, the ability for cosmetics to create an advantage is seemingly something PUBG Corp freely admits to and agrees with.
There are foreseeable circumstances in which cosmetics could be added to the game which give players an unfair camouflage advantage and charge an exorbitant price for it.
The idea that cosmetics affects gameplay also goes directly against what PUBG Corporation CEO Changhan Kim said in a Q&A last year. When asked if the developer planned “on adding a new crate with a special item as you did for the Gamescom Invitational,” Kim’s reply was;
As you may already know, we will never add anything that affects the gameplay.
However, there is a relatively strong demand for cosmetic items. Since the official launch is our top priority, we plan on adding new items after that.
Cosmetics at large
PUBG isn’t the only game that features a cosmetics economy, but it is the first to admit publicly that cosmetics do have the ability to change gameplay. Another game that has a similar economy is Overwatch. New skins and cosmetics are added to Overwatch all the time and are earned in-game and can be purchased with real-world currency.
Up until this point, skins in Overwatch have been celebrated for their uniqueness and quality, however they’ve not been scrutinised for how they may change gameplay. With PUBG Corp’s admission that the PUBG cosmetics do affect gameplay, players might start to reconsider their purchases.
Games that include a cosmetics economy seem to be incredibly lucrative. This may come from fact that players see cosmetic additions as fun and not something which can give others an advantage.
What this lawsuit does to gamer sentiment and the cosmetics economy on a wider scale remains to be seen. We’ll keep you updated on the lawsuit and its outcome.