How to deal with Evil Pirate companies that clone your game

Sometimes you encounter bit shitty situation where:

Well, there’s few different ways to handle this:

  • You can wee on their tent, and make superior PR move that gets picked everywhere around the net. (Recommended)
  • You can whine how there’s evil corporations and that your stuff shouldn’t be copied.
  • You can concentrate on building success that doesn’t depend on stuff that can be cloned. Match-3 games can be cloned. Tower sim can be cloned. RPGs with deep storyline is harder to clone.
  • You can make shitty game that doesn’t sell anything. These are rarely cloned too.
  • You can ignore em. (Pretty good plan)
  • You can think what’s important, why you are making games. Profit? Passion?
  • You can make gross zombie games. Big studios rarely clone those. (Hah!)

Now, regarding the “game mechanics can be cloned”. I think this is pretty good thing. Sure, ripping off somebody’s game mechanics and then cloning pretty much the whole game with different graphics is bit shitty move… but that’s how it needs to be.

Businesswise, it’s pretty profitable to be second in the market. Clone hit games, and make some changes. But that’s something hundred zillion other corporations are doing. Zynga isn’t only one cloning their way to success. If cloning was the way to go, then how come there aren’t as successful other cloners?

And this also makes one really ponder why you are making games? Are you making games that you can profit? Or are you making games mechanics & games… that are spread all over the world? Doesn’t it make one happy that by creating something cool that everybody wants to clone… something cool that others can benefit from? Isn’t that a pretty darn sweet thing?

Or, is it so that you were doing this stuff for profit? In that case, jump to one of those clone factories and see how happy things are there.

Or do you just “want fair fight”? Well, time to wake up. This is a really open market world where best offering (not necessarily best product) wins the profits. If you do game that can be cloned by a big studio, then you knew what you were against when you first started. Or did you really think that after you make your smash hit, nobody would be interested in getting the money too?

“But this kills innovation”
Tough luck. And yes, for some genres at least. At one point Match-3 games were selling like pancakes. They were hot stuff (not sure how they do nowadays). Now, is the innovation in match-3 games killed? I suppose. There’s every now and then one new different match-3 game but I feel the market is pretty saturated.

So, if you do some popular gaming thing that can be cloned, of course you can except that there won’t be innovation.

We can cry and bite our legs off, but that doesn’t change anything. If we are worried about cloning, then we should do stuff that’s hard to clone.

We know that there’s cloners waiting for the next hit game. That’s perfectly fine. I mean, creating a clone isn’t going to guarantee success. It’s risky. Not all cloners are profitable. It takes heaps of effort too, and is not “easy way” to go.

There’s people doing games for passion, and not getting money. That’s perfectly fine too. Whining about “but rules should favor me as [insert random reason here]” is not going to cut it. If you don’t like the rules, you can go play somewhere else.

So… who’s evil?
I think it’s quite natural to think that Zynga is “evil” or “doing wrong” when they clone a game. They are a company who want to make profit. They have business strategy that is targeted to maximizing profit. They might steal an idea or two, but so does everybody else. They might clone stuff they can clone, but so is everybody else. Zynga is just doing things better than many other corporations.

I’m not saying Zynga is less evil than me (slightly richer though). They simply seem to have different values from me. I try steal every game idea I can, but I try add something unique, something of my own in the creation. I want to do something I like doing, and something I like to experience. If somebody was to clone that stuff and make profits, that’s pretty cool. Next time they need ideas, they know where to find me.

I feel that the chaps at nimblebit chose the right way to deal with Zynga’s copy & “we wanna buy you” offer. They turned this into a PR thing which favors them. Zynga can clone the game, but they cannot clone the fact that nimblebit has the “small good guys against big evil corporation” edge that can make an interesting story. Nimblebit managed to create a cool story out of the situation, and I’m pretty sure they benefit from this.

That’s the name of the game.

P.S. And if Zynga is successful, do you really think that other big players won’t notice it and challenge them? This zoo is filled with predators who are ready to attack each other as well.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. The truth is cloning works because there is always someone who didn’t hear about the original (Lack of marketing power) or because new people enter the world of gaming everyday, new people are born and what is old to some is still new to others.

  2. The RPG with match-3 battles was Puzzle Quest. Loved that game, it was innovative in it’s own way, even if it was based on match-3.

  3. Exactly. I wanted to point out how illogical the sentence was, without sounding accusative.

    I usually stay away from rules-of-thumbs as I believe it depends on the situation at hand. As you said in examples of FPS games, some are creative, some aren’t.

  4. The invention of the first-person shooter genre is a fake innovation since it gets cloned so much.

    that’s not true
    in my opinion the clonning of the first person shooter (for example) was neccessary
    because all fps games which are created nowadays are using wolf 3d (i think this was the first person shooter game) idea of gaming

    and i’m talking about stealing the idea

  5. Hmm, that sentence was confusing at best… removed from the blog post. 8)

  6. Yeh… Minecraft took ideas from Dwarf Fortress & Infiniminer and added their own spice in the mix. I think there’s something like “SimTower” or something like that in Japan which is similar to nimblebit’s Tiny Tower. (No idea if nimble has borrowed any mechanics from that game though)

    There’s plenty of copying going on… some I feel is really fine. I don’t have much respect for “clone factories”, but cannot blame ’em – they just do their thing.

  7. There’s plenty to innovate in FPS. Look at what Half-life for example did… they brought stories in that genre. The basic mechanics were same, but story/main character/physics/whatnot was something totally new.

    But there’s also tons of FPS that are somewhat like “same game mechanics in different setting with different weapons”. To me… that’s not very innovative (doesn’t mean it couldn’t be fun though).

    Not sure if that sentence of mine makes… much sense… but like check out Match-3. Those are pretty similar games one after another. It wasn’t until this one RPG game (forgot name) where you played RPG, but fights were using match-3 style.

    Old (not so innovative) mechanics in new context made things different.

  8. “True innovation is born in areas that cannot be cloned.”

    Ah I get it now. The invention of the first-person shooter genre is a fake innovation since it gets cloned so much.

  9. Gameloft is famous for ripping off games for mobile devices (and some consoles). Like Order And Chaos Online is WoW. And the Gangster series (or Gangstar…?) is exactly GTA.

    Somehow, I love em.

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