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Are Riot Games likely to sue Hyper Front for copyright infringement over Valorant?

Can Riot Games sue NetEase for their take on a tactical FPS? (Image via Hyper Front/Youtube)
Can Riot Games sue NetEase for their take on a tactical FPS? (Image via Hyper Front/Youtube)

Hyper Front is a free-to-play 5v5 Hero-based FPS game released for the mobile gaming audience on January 20, 2022. Following its release, the game was compared to Riot Games' tactical FPS title, Valorant, over striking similarities in gameplay and visuals.

NetEase Games initially announced Hyper Front as "Project M", similar to the "Project A" codename that Valorant held before its release. Earlier in August 2021, NetEase initiated beta testing for Project M and managed to spread its name due to the resemblance it posed with Riot's tactical shooter.

💥Put the trigger! More than better! #HyperFront is now Soft Launch! 🎈Download Access: play.google.com/store/apps/det…🎈Region: Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand🎈Language: English & Thai🎈Start Time: January 20, 10:00 a.m.(UTC+8)😊Mia is waiting for you! https://t.co/H64SI0OMuR

NetEase has a history of blatantly copying features from renowned multiplayer titles. In the past, popular games like PUBG, Fortnite and several others have been victims of NetEase's actions. However, with Valorant Mobile still in the works, can Riot stop the Chinese company from undermining their age-long efforts?


Can Riot Games sue Hyper Front over copyright infringement claims?

Riot Games have confirmed Valorant Mobile being in the works as of June 2021. Later in October, Riot searched for a Senior Game Developer for a mobile game, thereby hinting towards progress in Valorant Mobile's development.

No specifics, however, have been disclosed by Riot Games regarding the game's release, as Valorant enthusiasts await the mobile variant.

After a mid-2021 beta release, Hyper Front is finally ready for its official launch. At present, the game is available only in 4 countries, namely - Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines. While details on NetEase's future expansions are unknown, they may depend on the success of the game in South-East Asia.

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Like Valorant, Hyper Front pits two teams of 5 in a team-based tactical battle involving precise gunplay and skillful ability usage. Being a first-person shooter, this is not of a unique nature. However, several aspects of Hyper Front are remarkably similar to Valorant, and can be the basis for a copyright infringement lawsuit.

From the official trailer for Hyper Front and the available gameplay footage, the extent of plagiarism is not evident. However, several characters and their abilities in NetEase's shooter appear similar to that of Valorant Agents.

Reyna's Leer, Brimstone's Sky Smokes, Sage's Resurrection and Sova's Hunter's Fury are some of the abilities that have been cloned to suit Hyper Front.

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NetEase Gaming has a history of adapting features from several distinguished gaming titles. Their FPS/TPS sandbox survival game called Creative Destruction heavily resembled Epic Games' Fortnite, whereas Knives Out and Rules of Survival are two separate NetEase games that were allegedly copied from Player Unknown's BattleGrounds (PUBG).

NetEase's dispute with PUBG arose in 2018 when the latter filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the former for attempting to poach PUBG's audience right before the release of the game's mobile variant.

Knives Out and Rules of Survival, when compared to PUBG, are exceedingly similar in terms of audio, visuals and gameplay. With NetEase filing a counter-suit, and both parties later agreeing to an unknown settlement, the issue was blotted out.

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If Riot Games aims to capitalize on the mobile gaming market with Valorant Mobile, the most suitable option for them would be to file for copyright infringement.

This is not the first instance Riot has been a victim of a violation of this scale. Previously, Riot had a legal dispute with Moonton over the release of Mobile Legends.

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang was one of the first MOBA games that catered to the mobile gaming community, resulting in the tremendous reception it received in South-East Asian countries. However, a few months after its release, Riot filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Moonton.

Although Riot's initial suit was dismissed, their parent company, Tencent, sued Moonton's CEO on behalf of Riot Games in order to claim reparations for the violation of a Non-Compete Agreement. Tencent emerged victorious after the trials, claiming $2.9 million as a result.

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Despite Riot's attempts to curtail the development of Mobile Legends (which it said was similar to League of Legends), the game continued to grow into an actively played MOBA title on mobile platforms.

Riot Games failed to compete with Mobile Legends with a subsequent release, as League of Legends: Wild Rift was introduced much later, in October 2021, over 4 years since the release of Mobile Legends.

With Valorant Mobile being in the works, Riot Games have the opportunity to explore the mobile FPS market all over the world. However, with the release of Hyper Front, Riot is compelled to either take legal action or concede a majority of their potential market shares to a lookalike.

Valorant fans all over the world await Riot's next steps as Hyper Front prepares to take the reins in the mobile gaming community.

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Edited by R. Elahi
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