Jason Bailey, CEO of East Side Games, did a talk at the January 2012 Full Indie meetup, backing up Zynga’s business model of taking someone elses idea and making it better, to make millions out of it. Jason was the co-founder of Super Rewards which pioneered monetization on the Facebook platform, paving the way for the virtual goods based games that dominate the platform today.
However, his attitude – however honest it may be – reveals the ruthless, dog-eat-dog culture and lack of consideration for the hard work of indie developers, who often come up with these innovative ideas.
In June 2011, Zynga filed a lawsuit against Brazilian competitor Vostu. It alleged that Vostu stole ideas for its games, characters and icons from Zynga. Vostu’s defense denied the allegations, saying that Zynga didn’t own the intellectual property it thinks Vostu stole, and that Zynga had ripped off numerous other competitors first.
“Zynga has a simple business formula: Steal someone else’s game. Change its name. Make millions. Repeat.”
A former Zynga employee says it was the most “evil place he’s run into” and that he recalls founder Mark Pincus saying, “I don’t want f*cking innovation. You’re not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.”
It looks like another example of the double standard that applies when it’s the big guy ripping off the poor, helpless indie.
More recently, Tiny Tower indie developer NimbleBit has blasted Zynga’s for the argument that its games aren’t clones, but “improved” iterations of games before them.
NimbleBit’s Ian Marsh posted an open letter, calling out the similarities between Tiny Tower and Dream Heights. “Good luck with your game,” the letter reads, “we are looking forward to inspiring you with our future games!”
Ian later told PocketGamer in an interview “I think nearly every game is inspired by other games to varying degrees, and [that’s] completely acceptable. Mixing elements from different games and adding some of your own original ideas has led to many successful games and entire new genres.”
“I think designs venture into “cloning” territory when they borrow all “inspiration” from a single source and take pains to implement even the smallest details of gameplay exactly the same.”
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