It's no secret at all that casual gaming giant Zynga has a dreadful
reputation for copying
the games of others, and then crushing them in the marketplace. What's even more ridiculous is that Zynga also
has a habit of using IP laws to go after competitors
. There's been a lot of news this week over the story that Zynga's new tower sim game Dream Heights appears to copy another game
, Tiny Tower
from Nimblebit, a small, 3-person development shop. As with any "big company copies little company" story, this story blew up fast and is getting a ton of attention. But what struck me most about it was how Nimblebit handled itself. Rather than threaten or sue or flip out... it put out a (slightly sarcastic, yes) "Dear Zynga" image
that congratulated the company, wishing them luck, and saying that they were "looking forward to inspiring you with our future games."
It's a perfect response in so many ways. First, rather than resorting to a costly and pointless legal process, it makes the point pretty damn clearly -- juxtaposing screenshots from the two games. Second, by taking a cheeky approach to it, it makes Nimblebit look even better, and Zynga more obnoxious. I would imagine that this controversy ends up helping Nimblebit quite a bit.
It also demonstrates, yet again, that there are
social costs to straight up copying. Even if it's legal (and it might be -- and it should be mentioned that there have been other sim tower games as well... ) there's a social stigma against such blatant copying. And it seems that by going public Nimblebit ends up accomplishing a lot more. It gets a lot more attention to its own game without wasting money on a costly and long legal process... plus it shames Zynga, but still leaves the actual competition open to the market place.