When Famville developer Zynga couldn’t acquire NimbleBit, the three-person developer behind the recent iOS hit game Tiny Tower, they simply stole what they couldn’t have.
Zynga released Dream Heights, a blatant ripoff with changed graphics and not a single new idea in sight. All games are derivative in some form or another, we wouldn’t have Call of Duty if it hadn’t been for Quake, and so forth, but there is a limit to when you can claim “inspired by”.
Especially when you’ve taken great pains to sue other people “inspired by” your games. Last year, a number of Zynga’s games were cloned by Brazilian developer Votsu. Zynga responded with the sue-cannons, saying “Vostu has brazenly appropriated the copyright-protected aspects of Zynga’s games…with scant effort to mask their strategy, and then offered games virtually identical to Zynga’s games to prospective players in the United States and elsewhere.”
Zynga’s legal action granted them a preliminary injunction against Votsu, and then the judge ruled in Zynga’s favour, ordering Votsu to remove its four games within 48 hours or face a fine. Votsu is still in the appeal process.
NimbleBit recently responded to Zynga’s outright jerk move by releasing an open letter highlighting the similarities between the two games, and ample “praise” for Zynga’s innovation.