They say that bad luck comes in threes, and that definitely seems to be the trend in last week's news cycle. First Zynga ripped off Tiny Tower [Free], then Glu fired up their copy machines, and then some similar although unrelated drama hit the land of Triple Town [Free]. Gamasutra is all over this recent story, but I'll provide a quick rundown-

Spry Fox's Triple Town hit the App Store a couple weeks ago and it was clear that we loved it in our review. It's even sort of an interesting take on the free to play model, as you can download and play the game for free and play for a limited number of turns. You can buy more turns with in-game coins which you can earn (and buy with real money) or just download the unlimited turns unlock for (currently) $3.99. If you don't play much, or get bored easily, you might not ever need to buy anything… But once you get to the point where you need unlimited turns, chances are you've gotten way more than four bucks of entertainment out of the game anyway. I like that.

Anyway, according to the Spry Fox blog, they've filed a copyright infringement suit in federal court against 6Waves LOLAPPS due to Yeti Town [Free] which actually beat Triple Town to release by nearly a month. It's the same sad story we hear way too often on the App Store in that Yeti Town relentlessly copies absolutely every aspect of Triple Town.

Per Spry Fox:

Yeti Town, as launched by 6waves, was a nearly perfect copy of Triple Town. We’re not just talking about the game’s basic mechanics here. We’re talking about tons of little details, from the language in the tutorial, to many of our UI elements, to the quantities and prices of every single item in the store (how exactly did 6waves “independently” decide to price 200 turns for 950 coins, or 4 wildcards for 1500 coins each? That’s quite a coincidence!)

This exact copying is also one of the things that really amused me about all of these Tiny Tower clones which all featured 5 categories of skills, 5 people per apartment, 3 people to a floor, 3 products per floor, 5 elevator upgrades, and other exact copies of core game mechanics. Unfortunately, you can't copyright a game idea, which is why companies like Gameloft are able to do what they do. Yeti Town is different through, as allegedly Spry Fox was in intense negotiations with 6Waves to publish Triple Town on the App Store which abruptly ended when Yeti Town was released.

As part of this, 6Waves had closed beta access months before Triple Town went public and had been "pumping [Spry Fox] for private information" which included design ideas, Facebook launches, as well as revenue and retention figures. This sort of elevates the Yeti Town clone to an entirely different level of shadiness, at least in my eyes.

If you want to read the full text of the lawsuit, you can here. Now, let's all go back to making our own original games, eh?

[via Gamasutra]

  • Anonymous

    I'm not generally a big supporter of the concept of IP, but hypocrisy does rile me up, and you've got to love the corporate BS coming from Yeti Town's publisher with this quote:

    "We respect others IP and did nothing to violate any contracts our team had in place. The copyright infringement claims are unjustified."

    Parsed: Yes, they understand there are IP protection laws on the books, but they didn't violate any contracts that were in place, they just took insider information gleaned from negotiations to publish TT on iOS and used it to fashion a nearly 1:1 clone of the game, which is not technically copyright violation since only the text and art can be copyrighted and they believe they changed it enough to escape getting busted for that bit.

    I suspect Spry Fox would be better off hiring lawyers to throw take down notices at Apple instead of chasing a suit that probably doesn't hold much weight under the law no matter how obvious it is what 6waves did. The law is a weird beast.

    • Eli Hodapp

      This whole world would be a better place if everyone just followed my "Don't be a jerk" motto.

    • Spry Fox

      Unfortunately Apple is pretty hands-off when it comes to take down notices... It's very, very rare they ever get involved 🙁 The law may or may not serve justice, but at the very least others would think twice before doing business w/ 6waves/LOLAPPS.

      • Anonymous

        True, I was just suggesting that Apple is more likely to get involved than they are in winning the suit based on the scenario presented. While they have a medium strength circumstantial case 6waves used information provided by Spry Fox in the course of them negotiating a publishing deal, proving violation of copyrighted material is going to be an uphill battle. In particular, since the game was originally released in Fall 2010 as a Kindle game, and the logic code underlying the game is easy to replicate, it will be trivial for 6waves to reasonably claim the clone was in production before any publishing negotiations took place.

  • Ahiru Nakamura

    sad... I'm loving Triple Town...
    again, making something similar is one thing.
    to clone is another completely different.
    that being said, I'm hungry and might eat pizza later on yet again...

  • John

    Oh come on clones exist in every product available including pizza. Let them fight it out in court and waste their money when the judge hands down a verdict of "who cares?" LOL

  • Thom Denick

    This is a great example of how an unregulated market doesn't work.  Consumers have zero incentive to care about not buying a copied game, they just care if the game is fun.  So from a commercial perspective, big dumb companies like the publisher of Yeti Town are de-incentivized by market forces to produce original art.  It's a much safer bet to copy a game *exactly* rather than doing something original or creative.  This in turn damages the producers of "quality" games by cutting massively into their sales.  (Particularly in a case where the games gets to a market first as in the case of Yeti town.)  

    • Joe Heitzman

      Sorry bro but this has nothing to do with an unregulated market.  The courts will decide whether or not it constitutes fraud and they will be dealt with.  It's not good for business to partake in these practices so hopefully people will just become educated and not buy or play their games. 

  • Anonymous

    Boo hoo, someone copied my game. Welcome to the app store 🙂

  • Eli Hodapp

    You can sure tell who did and didn't read the article based on some of these comments. Here's a tip for those of you who only read comments: This is a bit different from your typical cloning scenario because 6Waves had early access to everything as part of their publishing agreement, then just took that and beat Triple Town to market with their carbon copy.

  • scott slomiany

    I'd really like to hear Apple's opinion on this (and Tiny Tower).  When Atari complained about "inspired by" clones of their games by small fry developers, Apple made them disappear. Now that the bigger studios are "being inspired" by tiny developers (with games that even more similar than the Atari clones), I would like to think that Apple will do the same thing. But that hasn't happened yet.

    And it's not like Apple hasn't gone off and stolen small time tech stuff from small studios (such as using the volume buttons for the camera shutter) and claimed it as their own.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah that is totally shady!  Looking at the Non disclosure agreement that they had signed and wow, it was like giving Six waves permisions to rip them of with paragraphs 4 and 5.  Who would have thought though?  This isn't the way to do business.

  • Nathan R

    Moral of the story: Don't make games with alliterated T's. Get your lawyers ready, Talking Tomcat...