HBO took to Twitter to announce that its Westworld mobile tie-in game is shutting down, and is no longer available in the Play Store as of this writing. In-app purchases are also disabled. Players who already have the game, meanwhile, will only be able to use in-game currency until April 16, at which time the game will go offline. Presumably, it will no longer be playable at that time. As of this writing, there’s no word on whether fans who spent money on the game will get refunds.
Background: While HBO didn’t specifically mention the lawsuit with Bethesda over Fallout Shelter in the announcement Tweet, the timing makes it a very logical conclusion. For those not in the know, both parties recently came forward to announce that the suit was “amicably resolved”, which can mean a lot of things.
HBO, for its part, vehemently denied that it or Behaviour Interactive, the developer it contracted for the Westworld game, had done anything wrong. Bethesda, meanwhile, had previously contracted with Behaviour to develop Fallout Shelter, and alleged that the two games were not only too similar, but even that Behaviour had stolen code and other assets from the Fallout Shelter project and used them in Westworld.
One particularly compelling piece of evidence that Bethesda pointed to in its suit against the two companies was a glitch that caused field of view blurring under specific circumstances in early versions of Fallout Shelter. According to Bethesda, the presence of that same glitch in Westworld was not simply a case of Behaviour making the same mistake twice on two different games, but rather clear evidence that code used in Fallout Shelter had been recycled for Westworld.
There is also the fact that the two games are utterly similar at their core, despite the different gameplay details and the many new conventions introduced by Westworld. For example, a number of in-game backdrops are similar, the underground shelter and grid-of-rooms setting is very similar, and the core gameplay, being scrolling around said grid, adding to it, and managing the residents, is also strikingly similar. Bethesda also alleged that some parts of the former game’s visual style and some animations had made it into Westworld.
Impact: The Westworld game is done for, obviously. That is the biggest takeaway here. Looking deeper, a funny twist of fate has seen Bethesda, owner of the studio that created Doom from the Wolfenstein mold and kicked off the first-person shooter genre’s popularity, essentially squash a nascent genre of mobile gaming. While room-grid simulations may yet live, they’ll certainly be careful not to step on Fallout Shelter.
That’s not a bad thing, in and of itself; some very good games can come from trying to copy something without fully copying it, after all. Obviously, Bethesda doesn’t own the room-based simulation genre or the concept of building out an underground mini-city, so it’s not like the genre will die out because of this. HBO may launch another Westworld tie-in game that’s not quite like the one that’s being shut down, but that’s sort of unlikely. What is quite likely is that Behaviour Interactive’s next game, if there is one, will be nothing like Fallout Shelter; Bethesda will probably be watching the studio quite closely.