The adage of "success breeds imitation" seems to be the rule in the mobile and social games world. While trying to duplicate the formula for a game is one thing, outright copying it is a whole other matter. That's what developer Spry Fox claims happened to its popular Triple Town game for Android, Facebook, and iOS. It's filed a copyright infringement suit in federal court against LOLApps seeking a permanent injunction of games similar to Triple Town and specifically against the game Yeti Town. In addition the suit seeks damages of no less than $100,000 and the profits wrongfully gotten by Yeti Town in the amount of no less than $500,000.
The allegations in the case point to a darker side of the business than a simple case of plagiarism. Spry Fox chief creative officer Daniel Cook describes the situation in a blog post that revealed the suit. He details a number of specific elements of Yeti Town that duplicate Triple Town which seem damning enough in themselves before delivering the disconcerting twist to the story.
It turns out that LOLApps publisher 6waves was in negotiation to publish Triple Town before Yeti Town came to be. As part of that process, and under NDA, 6waves received extensive access to Triple Town during its development, well in advance of the public. This continued up until an unexpected Facebook message from the 6waves business development executive handing the negotiations which broke off the talks and explained, "We've just published a game on iOS that you're not going to like given its similar match-3 style."
Should these allegations prove true, it shows a potentially ugly side to the booming mobile and social game business. Developers have to show their games to prospective publishers in hopes of making a deal, but in a space where there are already so many look-alike games, the threat of having a new idea stolen looms large.
For those interested in a deeper look, check out the full court filling available in .pdf form.