Area F2 launched on mobile not long ago, and then quickly shot up in popularity thanks to a little attention drawn to it by Ubisoft, of all things. Ubisoft saw Area F2 and quickly decided to throw the legislation, suing both Apple and Google for hosting Area F2 on the App Store and Google Play Store respectively.
This is big news. Ubisoft sees Area F2 as a blatant clone of Rainbow Six: Siege in all but name, and with Siege's recent success in esports and a hardcore, dedicated community, Ubisoft definitely does not want anyone muscling in on their territory.
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The fact that Ubisoft has actually thrown down the legal gauntlet is another shocker - and neither the App Store or Google Play Store is yet to relent, as you can still download the game from both storefronts (this has very quickly become no longer the case, so if you still want to play you might need to hunt down an illicit apk, if that will even work...). So what's the deal, and what's the Pocket Gamer verdict?
The mobile gaming space is no stranger to "clones" of other popular titles, but the lawsuits don't come out very often, especially not from the larger games publishers. So, is this lawsuit justified, and is Area F2 a blatant irredeemable rip off of Rainbow Six: Siege?
Okay, so let's look at the facts. Area F2 is a close-quarters shooter where one team takes up space in a building and attempts to defend it, while another team attempts to invade that building and blow it up - or, more likely, one of the teams will die before the objective gets touched.
In Area F2 as a defender, you'll be barricading entrances, placing traps, and preparing for an enemy invasion. As an infiltrator you'll be rappelling up and down walls, bursting through windows, and even shooting enemies through the walls and floors directly.
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You must learn the map in detail, and use it to your advantage at all times in order to make it through. Smart players will even be able to predict enemy movements and shoot them through walls without ever seeing them.
So, what does Rainbow Six: Siege do that's similar? Well, the short version is… pretty much everything.
Let's be clear, I want a Rainbow Six: Siege-like game on mobile. I think mobile should be home to pretty much every game genre, and the close-quarters shooting of Siege has been relatively unrepresented before now.
In the embedded video you can see a comparison between Rainbow Six: Siege and Area F2 and, well… it is pretty blatant if we're to be perfectly honest. It is hard to imagine a world where both of these games exist, and the developers of the one that launched multiple years later took zero inspiration from the first. Impossible to imagine, in fact.
So, let's not deny the facts. Area F2, if nothing else, is heavily inspired and influenced by Rainbow Six: Siege. Now the question is whether or not the lawsuit will stick.
The right to sue?
Now, let's be perfectly clear: I am most certainly not a legal expert, and any opinions found within this article should not be considered legal advice in any content. Are you hearing this, Area F2 devs? You can't use this article as a defense, and I don't want Ubisoft's lawyers at my door.
Ubisoft asserts that Area F2 is a "near carbon-copy" of Rainbow Six: Siege, and… well, yeah, we also find that point pretty hard to argue with. Every step of the gameplay has been influenced by Rainbow Six: Siege in some way.
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"Ubisoft’s competitors are constantly looking for ways to piggyback on R6S’s popularity and to capture the attention, and money, of R6S players," says Ubisoft. Now we can't argue the fact that the game's premise is more popular thanks to the existence of Rainbow Six: Siege, but the argument that it's attracting the money of R6S players is a bit flawed.
If those players already enjoy R6S, then why would they be attracted to a mobile-exclusive, stripped-down clone of the game? If you have already played the premium version, why would a sub-par imitation be in your mind? It's not like Ubisoft have their own mobile version of R6S that could be losing business to this "imitator."
Ubisoft's complaints of similarities absolutely hold water, but as far as anyone can see, there haven't been any trademarks or copyrights breached by the Area F2 dev team. Yes, the concept is similar, the visuals are similar, and the gameplay is similar - but since when have similarities meant copyright infringement?
If we look at the history of these kinds of legal disputes, we see that Capcom tried to prevent other developers from making fighting games featuring karate gi-donning combatants which are similar to Ryu. And that fell through because Capcom did not own the likeness of all people that fight wearing karate gis. Likewise, I'm not sure Ubisoft owns the concept of soldiers shooting each other in a confined space.
We have no idea where this lawsuit will go in the near future, but you should absolutely make sure to download Area F2 while you still can, before it becomes an illicit piece of software unavailable anywhere - you know, just in case…
UPDATE: We now totally know where this lawsuit will go, as Area F2 has been pulled from digital stores and is returning to development... That was fast!