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Apple removes several iOS copycat games from one offending developer
Apple removes several iOS copycat games from one offending developer
February 3, 2012 | By Tom Curtis

February 3, 2012 | By Tom Curtis
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    14 comments
More: Smartphone/Tablet, Business/Marketing



Apple struck a blow against video game clones today by removing several offending apps from one rather prolific independent developer.

Among the removed games are apps such as Plant vs. Zombie, Angry Ninja Birds, and Temple Jump, each of which (as you might guess from their titles) had more than a little in common with with major titles such as Plants vs. Zombies, Angry Birds, and Temple Run, respectively.

The recently-removed Temple Jump in particular saw some notable success on the iTunes App Store, reaching the very top of the paid app chart, according to a report by technology blog TechCrunch.

All of the alleged app "clones" mentioned above come from independent developer Anton Sinelnikov. According to a Twitter post from iOS developer David Smith, Sinelnikov had 68 iOS apps available this morning -- as of this writing, only nine remain.

This controversy is just the latest in a string of alleged copycat scenarios in the mobile space. Over the past few days, social gaming giant Zynga has been accused of copying not one, but two existing iOS apps, and Spry Fox has sued publisher 6waves Lolapps for supposedly lifting ideas from the match-three puzzle game Triple Town.

Despite these numerous incidents, this is one of the rare occasions where a platform holder has stepped in to police the situation itself.

"We're really happy with how quickly Apple responded to the situation and removed [Temple Jump]," Imangi co-founder Natalia Luckyanova told Gamasutra. "The app was clearly a scam that traded entirely on the popularity of Temple Run and was packaged to confuse users."

Luckyanova added that the Temple Jump app succeeded in confusing its audience, as a number of consumers accidentally purchased the app, thinking it was a tie in to Imangi's popular title.

"This was really upsetting to us and damaging to our brand, because we work really hard to put out very high quality polished games and win the love of our fans, and we don't want them to think that we would put out crap to steal a dollar from them," she said.

As noted by TechCrunch, Apple's iTunes App Store has a few systems in place to police the numerous available apps, but beyond submitting reviews and reporting bugs or offensive content, iOS users have no direct way to flag titles that mimic existing apps.

Luckyanova, however, says platform holders can't be held responsible for stopping app scams, as such an undertaking would make the app review process far too complex.

"I don't think there's a perfect solution, because you need human judgement involved in the system. The platform holder can't realistically police copyright violations, or just misleading apps. As developers, we sign an agreement saying that we have obtained all the IP permissions necessary for our work, so that responsibility is on the developer," she said.

"I guess I don't have a solution, because I wouldn't want reviews to be even more strictly policed. The good thing is that most stores have a way to appeal the process if something does slip through the cracks."

Last week, Apple revealed that third-party app developers -- copycats and otherwise -- have earned a total of $4 billion dollars through the Mac and iOS app stores so far.


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Comments


Jack Nilssen
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The cynic in me whispers that this was only done because it was so prominent, and embarrassing them on the charts.



One has to ask how such blatant scam-based apps get into the storefront in the first place; shouldn't *that* be the first line of defense? Of course not, because for Apple it only matters that whatever's in place on their shelves is moving units and contributing to their bottom line.

E Zachary Knight
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The question is, how is Apple supposed to know what is infringing and what isn't? Youtube has the exact same problem. Music labels and movie studios want Youtube to prescreen uploads for infringing content, but there is no way to do it. To try would be to make the service completely useless for the people who want to use it.



If you want Apple to prescreen apps for copyright infringement, look forward to 2-3 year review processes and a submission fee into the 100s of thousands.

Bart Stewart
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I ran into another one just tonight -- and it's our old pal Zynga again.



Namely, Zynga's iOS game "Scramble With Friends" appears to be a direct lift of the venerable "Quordy". Not only does Scramble offer zero original or innovative features beyond the basics of Quordy (Facebook integration and defining "a game" as three matches are hardly novel gameplay concepts), it actually lacks Quordy's single-player capabilities.



If Apple was serious about preventing obvious cash-in clones, it would yank Scramble With Friends most instantly. But who thinks they'd actually pull a Zynga game?

Mike Lopez
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Bart, I am not trying to defend them but I do believe Z had an early app store Scramble game that they rebuilt as Scramble with Friends (presumably with the Words WF engine). I'm not sure which was out first but it could have been either.



Also, both games are essentially Boggle so can hardly claim to be original.



For the record I am definitely against blatant rip offs but think that it is essential for designers to be able to borrow and evolve mechanics from past games in the same way that great movies have borrowed from the past (Star Wars or Magnificent Seven, anyone?). Where would shooter games be if ID had patented the FPS after Doom or Wolfenstein?



The hard part is determining where to draw the line between inspiration and downright theft. Sure 100% same mechanics, interface and economy is obvious, but what about 40% or 50%, 30% or 60%? I think if you ask 100 developers where the line is you will get 100 different thresholds and therein lies the challenge.

Aiden Eades
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another difference is although they could be claimed to copycat a lot of those were vastly different.



Yes all RPGs looked like final fantasy, that's all they were capable of looking like, but an RPG isn't based on how it looks (well, didn't used to be) but the storyline. And that is what set apart RPGs back in the day, pong clones and space invader clones sure, that's all that they were capable of.



But CoD being a clone of MoH also gets me. Yes they're based on the same concept and gameplay stylings, but the storylines and how the game plays out are completely different



There's a difference between a game based on the concepts of others, and a game which is a blatent clone of another. If CoD had the same levels, the same characters (just named differently) and was called "Medallion of Honor" then i'd agree it's a clone, but it isn't.



That's the arguement here. Videogames have evolved by taking existing ideas, and polishing them to make something new. These appscams don't do that, they take the existing idea, and do nothing with it. Half of them even take away bits.

Kim Pallister
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Kind of poor reporting here, gama.



1) "In an attempt to prevent developers from stealing ideas on the iTunes App Store, Apple has silently"



If they didn't state what their intent was in removing them, then don't infer their intent. (could have just as well substituted "In an attempt cover their....", or "In response to complaints from crony friends...." - its all speculation).



2) Of the 'mechanisms', there's no mention of DMCA takedown notices, and I'd like to know how that played in, if at all.



3) Despite the prominence of the TripleTown/YetiTown debacle, Yeti still appears to be up.



4) Should mention some of the past cases here, like the Mumbo Jumbo example from a couple years back.

Alexander Pick
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If doing games with similar mechanics would already be theft, there would be just one 3D shooter, one real time strategy game etc. but this has nothing to do with reusing similarmechanics, it's plain plageatism and that is seen to much recently, even by big companies (you know who I refer to).

I think there is a big difference between using a known mechanic and doing knock of copies of games and market them with similar names.

Kenneth Blaney
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I'm very glad this got resolved without needing a campaign like with the Lugaru HD problem a few years back.



If you don't remember, "Lugaru HD" was made open source due to the Humble Indie Bundle's success. A developer took the source code, compiled it as is, and then uploaded it to Apple's service as "Lugaru" and priced it at a fifth the amount as the original on the same service. It took lots of complaining to get Apple to remove the blatant copycat.

Gil Salvado
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I wouldn't criticize Apple for intention, despite all second-toughts we still have to thankful. At least it's a sign of good will to protect their customers and clients. Or would you even dream about Facebook removing any obvious copycats at all?

Lauren Poling
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Search "Clockwork Shark Studios" and "David Tillotson" on the App Store. Same person.



- NinjaJump

- Line Man Run

- Angry Zombie Birds

- Graviti and also Graviti! (which comes up in search results for "VVVVVV")



I've reported them all, numerous times. They're still available for purchase. I guess the lesson to be learned here is: IP theft is okay up until the point that Apple can no longer turn a blind eye.

Alexander Cooney
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It really does remind you how the systemic nature of games makes them so vulnerable to identical reproduction by random people. Mobile games especially, where artistic immersion is impossible and the mechanics are really all that people care about.

Gregory Booth
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Apple did the right thing. Period.



They need to do more of it.



No one will suffer but the pirates. This will not result in a multi-year submission process or 6 digit submission fee! LMAO! This is nothing but propaganda from people who defend pirates.



The real question is how do we make it less desirable for pirates and copycats to engage in blatant copying of other developers work? How do we make them think twice before doing it? How do we make it not worth their time?



There is a huge difference between incremental/significant improvement or fair use of an idea or mechanic and outright plagarism.



It is amazing the lengths people will go to defend plagiarism, pirating, botting and hacking.

E Zachary Knight
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Gregory,



I see that my comment struck a nerve with you and caused you to completely misunderstand what I was saying.



My comment about the lengthy review process and high submission fees were in response to the desire for some people to want Apple to prescreen submitted apps for copyright infringement. That is impossible without the scenario I proposed.



To prescreen content for copyright infringement would require a team of lawyers and judges to look at the submitted app, compare it to all games and applications available, not just in the Apple App store, but also all over the internet. Review all licensing agreements the submitter holds, verify them for authenticity and for proper application of said license agreement. Such a process will never happen because the cost is too great.



I have no problem with Apple responding to complaints from other software developers and IP holders who properly send in DMCA notices on apps that infringe. That is the current process. It is the responsibility of the IP holder to police their own IP use. It is not and should never be the responsibility of a 3rd party.

Ashkan Saeedi Mazdeh
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Even with these acts there are smaller games which do copy cats and exactly clone but Apple would not notice them because they are not that famous.

I myself know a game which is an exact copy of activision's river ride. Even more stange is that it's devs are happy that they made success with it. it's not your success it's your idea piracy guys. open your eyes.


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