Zynga’s response to indie game maker: every great company copies

CEO Mark Pincus (sort of) replies to developer NimbleBit, which last week accused Zynga of blatantly ripping off its hit iPhone game.

4
CB_tinytowersvsdreamheights

NimbleBit is accusing Zynga of ripping off its game, Tiny Tower (left), with its upcoming title, Dream Heights (right).

Does Zynga, a company with a US$7.3 billion market cap, have any original ideas? It’s a question that’s been asked many times before of the game maker whose games often closely resemble titles already on the market. In 2010, a high profile story by SF Weekly anonymously quoted an ex-senior employee who recalled CEO Mark Pincus once saying, “I don’t fucking want innovation…. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.”

Last week, Zynga was publicly accused by indie developer NimbleBit of ripping off the latter’s game, Tiny Tower (Apple’s 2011 iPhone game of the year), with its latest title, Dream Heights. NimbleBit’s open letter, which is a big image with side-by-side screenshots and commentary, quickly went viral on websites like Twitter and Reddit. To say the least, the two games look very similar.

But Zynga now has a defence, which went online today. The company released a previously confidential memo to VentureBeat, which was originally sent to employees following the bad press Zynga was getting thanks to NimbleBit.  

“Google didn’t create the first search engine,” Pincus writes in the memo. “Apple didn’t create the first mp3 player or tablet. And, Facebook didn’t create the first social network. But these companies have evolved products and categories in revolutionary ways….

“As I’ve said, our strategy since the beginning has been to develop the best game…for every category of play,” he continues. “We are rarely first since most categories in games go back decades, but we aim to be the best.”

Despite Pincus’s optimism, the company has faced numerous lawsuits in the past, and not all have ended in Zynga’s favour. For example, Mob Wars creator David Maestri sued Zynga for its nearly identical—and similarly titled—Mafia Wars game. The case was settled out of court, allegedly resulting in a payment to Maestri of an estimated $7 to $9 million.

NimbleBit, however, which is made up of only three employees, has armed itself with sarcasm rather than lawyers.

What do you think? Almost every new video game borrows heavily from games past, but does Dream Heights borrow a little too much? (Click here for NimbleBit’s comparison.)

4 comments on “Zynga’s response to indie game maker: every great company copies

  1. I don’t genuinely care how or when i get the Letters in the Mail. Every time it arrives, it feels like a letter should be. It’s suddenly there in my mail box one day. A good, tangible surprise. I am for you doing whatever you want when you send it. Mix it up for the people who help get it sent out. Include crumbs from your lunch. Coffee stains. Whatever. Keep the tedious nature of getting letters out to a minimum by doing whatever you feel like that day. The arrival with the letter and the words in the author inside are what matters. Personally, what I like finest about The Rumpus is that I under no circumstances know what I’ll go through that day. Or if there isn’t one that day, maybe it’s because Stephen couldn’t come across anything to say or there was far too much likely on.

    http://www.6QR4w9rtjF6QR4w9rtjF.com/6QR4w9rtjF6QR4w9rtjF

    Reply

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *