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Tiny Game Developer NimbleBit Slams Zynga For Absolutely Shameless Ripoff

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News Posted: Thu, Jan 26 2012 5:35 PM
Last year, the trio of developers at NimbleBit released their iOS game, Tiny Tower. The game puts players in charge of a building and the diminutive residents, dubbed "bitizens" who reside there. The game was a smash hit on both iOS and Android, was downloaded more than nine million times, and earned Apple's Game of the Year 2011.

Enter Zynga. The company has been heavily criticized for copying virtually... well, everything. It settled with the creators of Mob Wars for $7-9 million, released a near-identical copy of Playfish's Restaurant City, and spawned FarmVille -- itself a ripoff of the title Farm Town Now, Zynga has set its sights on NimbleBit's Tiny Tower with a game called Dream Heights.



NB sent the developer a faux "congratulations" via Twitter; the full version of which can be seen here. We've included a few of the representative screen shots to demonstrate the similarities. Tiny Tower is on the left in both cases.



There's no arguing that the Zynga version looks better, but that's not particularly surprising given the drastic disparity in resources between the two companies. It is, perhaps, a backhanded compliment to the game's actual developers, that Zynga
doesn't seem to have been able to improve on the gameplay. According to those who've spent time with both titles, they play nearly identically. Apparently having an extra 2,786 employees doesn't grant the sort of competitive advantage one might imagine.

Given Zynga's history, the company's behavior is scarcely a surprise, but this is precisely the sort of copying that destroys indie developers and leaves us gamers suffering for a lack of quality titles in the long term. Some have pointed out that Tiny
Tower
bears some similarities to Sim Tower, released in 1994, but the comparison is invalid for two reasons. First, there's a difference between being inspired by a similar title and copying someone else's work wholesale. Second—as a person who played Sim Tower when it was new—we elder gamers must face the painful fact that a person born in 1994 turns 17 this year. Other notable games released in 1994 include Tie Fighter, System Shock, Doom II, Warcraft, Kings Quest VII, Marathon, Wing Commander III, and Master of Magic.. Young gamers, meaning those under the age of 25, probably haven't played any of these, and they were all far, far more important than Sim Tower.


Even by 1991, the entire "Sim" gaming line had gotten a bit long in the tooth. Screenshot from Space Quest IV, provided for nostalgic purposes

If you're interested in this sort of game, give Tiny Tower a try. It's not a game I sampled for our report on the state of tablet gaming late last year, but it's indicative of the kind of thought and energy that developers are putting into the new form factor.
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Best tweet ever by the folks at NimbleBit. I like their humorous approach.

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RTietjens replied on Thu, Jan 26 2012 7:01 PM

Yet another example of why I boycott Zynga - not to mention that they are spammers, and engage in phishing activity on Facebook, along with likejacking.

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OSunday replied on Thu, Jan 26 2012 7:53 PM

I literally just downloaded and started playing Restaurant Story because it reminded me of the game Restaurant City I enjoyed on facebook, I figured playfish had been bought out by Zynga and adapted its game for a mobile paltform...

I never knew how much shameless theft Zynga committed, and I'm uninstalling the game as we speak and joining the boycott with RTietjens

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Zynga is terrible. They pretty much make a living off of copying other people's work and calling it their own. Hopefully this business model isn't sustainable in the long run.

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sackyhack replied on Fri, Jan 27 2012 1:23 AM

I love Tiny Tower. But to be fair, it's not exactly original either. Sim Tower did it first.

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digitaldd replied on Fri, Jan 27 2012 9:41 AM

Kinda reminds me of Little Computer People

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do you guys play this O_O reminds me mario bros :)

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Manduh replied on Fri, Jan 27 2012 1:06 PM

Zynga has been doing this for a long time! Why hasn't anybody sued them?

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AKwyn replied on Fri, Jan 27 2012 4:01 PM

Manduh:

Zynga has been doing this for a long time! Why hasn't anybody sued them?

Because they're just so darn popular!

All sarcasm aside, I was never wild about Zynga's games in the first place and I have no problem boycotting them because of their nasty deceptive business practices. I mean I am tired of them diluting the market by ripping off their games and them placing their games everywhere, even 7/11 stores. Just goes to show how low marketing could go when it comes to a company like Zynga.

 

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Joel H replied on Sat, Jan 28 2012 2:06 AM

Manduh,

They've been sued by the developers of Mob Wars, the game Mafia Wars was...based on. ;)

They paid the original developers between $7-9 million.

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Manduh replied on Sat, Jan 28 2012 10:55 AM

Oh ok. Since they keep doing it, they must like to hand out money. More companies should be going after them, that's for sure. 

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realneil replied on Sat, Jan 28 2012 11:18 AM

Manduh:
Oh ok. Since they keep doing it, they must like to hand out money. More companies should be going after them, that's for sure.

Odds are that they're making a lot more money off of each game than they're handing back to the companies that they're ripping off. Otherwise they wouldn't be doing it.

 

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tankodd replied on Wed, Jul 4 2012 1:19 AM

not really interested in zynga games.None of browser game online could match a browser game these days, especially when you play a multiplayer game like wartune, but listen to me, I have too new game for you Stormfall: Age of War, which has been proven a great game with anime style. Finally Battle Shard is a trading card game with great potential.

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