Last week Zynga decide to test the waters in the Canadian App Store with their latest game, Dream Heights.
It is a game where players build their own skyscrapers, “Open cozy apartments for your citizens. Discover dozens of amazing stores.” If the concept sounds familiar, it should, because the game is a complete and total ripoff of NimbleBit’s Tiny Tower.
This is not the first time that Zynga’s lack of creativity has come to light. The obvious choice is Words With Friends vs. Scrabble, but earlier this year the developers of the Pokerist.com app wrote to let us know that Zynga completely copied their UI when they redesigned their Poker by Zynga game.
I think NimbleBit’s David Marsh put it best when he tweeted, “Pretty sad when a company of 2,789 people can’t even come up with their own game ideas. What a large scale failure of imagination!”
Several years back Apple removed a wonderful Zuma-like game called StoneLoops! of Jurassica, because developer MumboJumbo claimed that the game infringed on their game Luxor’s copyright, “confusing customers, stealing Luxor’s look & feel”. StoneLoops (despite being a better game) hasn’t been seen since.
While in that case, MumboJumbo’s true motivation may have been fueled more by money (and the fact that their app wasn’t selling as well) than actual protection of intellectual property, however the precedence still stands. NimbleBit should be able to get the same satisfaction and get Zynga’s (obvious) Xerox job removed from the store. I’m not sure what legal action the 3-person NimbleBit team has taken (or will take) against the much larger Zynga. So far NimbleBit has taken the high road, with David Marsh writing in a later tweet “I don’t wish Zynga any ill will, I just think it’s depressing for all the devs at Zynga that don’t have creative freedom”.
The folks at NimbleBit came up with this excellent open letter (of sorts) to Zynga, clearly illustrating the extent to which Zynga has copied their game.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for competition and even derivative works, but outright theft of an indie dev’s original and creative idea by a big corporation is just plain wrong. I hope this can be resolved quickly in the NimbleBit team’s favor.