Creator of fake Battlefield 1942 Steam game apologizes, says it was a 'bad joke'

Update, 5/29/2019, 1:30 pm PDT: After writing this story, the creator of the fake Battlefield 1942 Steam game apologized and explained it was all a "bad joke" to get publicity. They've since changed the name of the game from Tank Battlegrounds to Metal War, removed Battlefield 1942's trailer and screenshots, and changed the game description to an apology.

"First of all, I never want to sell 'battlefield 1942' in Steam," the apology reads. "I made this stupid thing is want to get more attention. As you know, the unknown game developer is hard to lets their game to get more attention. I believed that such a funny behavior can get more attention, then I was buried by anger. All I want to say is: SORRY."

The developer says Valve has contacted them and requested they remove the app from Steam, so Metal War (or Tank Battlegrounds) should be disappearing soon.

Original story: It doesn't take a genius to realize that the Steam page for Tank Battlegrounds, a "first-person shooting game set in World War II," is actually just Battlefield 1942. The trailer is the exact same as Battlefield 1942's trailer but clumsily cut short so you don't see the logo, the screenshots are the same, and even the game's description mistakenly refers to itself as Battlefield 1942 instead of Tank Battlegrounds. It's clear that someone is trying to use Battlefield 1942 to sell a fraudulent game. But why this kind of thing is even on Steam in the first place?

First discovered earlier today by some sleuths over on the Steam subreddit, Tank Battlegrounds popped up on the Steam store three days ago and is due for release on May 30. It's supposedly developed by a Chinese studio that goes by "自由合伙人", which loosely translates to Free Partner. Tank Battlegrounds is Free Partner's only game, and one of the developers, who posted a few threads in Tank Battleground's Steam Forums, has no Steam activity despite being a year old.

What's funny is how blatantly Tank Battlegrounds rips off Battlefield 1942. "In order to win, Battlefield 1942 pays more attention to teamwork," reads Tank Battlegrounds' description—making it look like the developer merely copied and pasted a description of Battlefield 1942 but forgot to edit out the name.

It's not even clear if Tank Battlegrounds is actually a game. A reverse image search of all the screenshots implies that they were at least taken by the developer and not pulled from somewhere online. But either Tank Battlegrounds is a perfect imitation or this developer is planning to actually try and sell Battlefield 1942 (maybe with a modded title screen?).

The Steam page for Tank Battlegrounds.

But that Tank Battlegrounds is able to have a Steam page in the first place is troubling. Last year, Valve sparked controversy when it decided to take a hands-off approach to the Steam store, allowing anything (including pornographic content) unless it was illegal or "trolling." By advertising using Battlefield 1942's screenshots and trailers, Tank Battlegrounds is obviously illegal, but it's not clear how it was able to get on Steam or what theoretical buyers will be purchasing and downloading come May 30 when it releases.

I've reached out to Valve to ask if there is any human oversight given to new games before they are given a Steam page but it did not respond in time to publish this story. I will update if I hear back.

Though this is the first time I've seen such a shameless knock-off on Steam, there's a growing problem with how companies like Valve are protecting legitimate game developers from knock-offs, clones, and stolen intellectual property. Just last week, the developers of mobile game Clicker Heroes were delisted from the Apple store after a Chinese company copied their game, filed a trademark for it, and filed a DMCA against Clicker Heroes.

Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.