To Clone Or Not To Clone?

Jake from Grey Alien Games arouse a subject on their blog, regarding the differences on cloners vs. idealists on casual game design. To clone or not to clone, that’s the question! I think it worths to make a post on this subject.

I think the Cloners vs. Idealists subject for casual game market can be evaluated from another perspective: cloning is less risky. Of course you will have a smaller piece of the pie, since there are so many clones like your game, and the game will sell well for just a couple of months. But cloning IS less risky also, after all you are selling something that is already proven successful. For no other reason EA releases the same games every year.

The Risks

Innovation is way more risky, and much more costly – it will take more time to get to a both innovative and salable gameplay. Maybe years: consider Bookworm Adventures and The Sims. Producers will have to throw away many prototypes, and can’t be sure when exactly will have that design that will nail when implemented on a final form.

Since casual games focus on gameplay experimentations can really postpone milestones and delivery dates, and that means more months maintaining infrastructure and salaries – the final cost may skyrocket from first predictions. Even more risky, the public might not like it at all! Consumers do like more of the same, and tend towards concepts they already know and are familiar with.

The benefits

However, the final game, for its uniqueness, can outsell any ultra-polished clone and have a trully extended lifespan. Consider Peggle, Chuzzle and Diner Dash – titles that have been selling (and will sell) for many years. Hell, Bejeweled is five years old and still sells so much!

Even better, it might create new consumers who aren’t used to play much games, but for some reason got atracted by a new concept. Juan Gril exposes here how innovation on gameplay can create genres/markets by turning non-game-consumers into new players.

The Important Decision

Deciding on cloning or innovating could end on a clear economical choice:

- Will I take the safer path and sell a fair number of units for one or two months, but with a somewhat already built fan base?

- Or will I invest time and money on a more innovative and potentially more profitable project, but risking on ending up with something not fun enough (poor sales) or that will demand more money and time than predicted?