Vlambeer, a small start-up based in the Netherlands, made a free online game in 2010 called Radical Fishing. The game involved catching fish with a hook, reeling them in and tossing them in the air, and then shooting them with a gun. Radical Fishing became popular, so Vlambeer planned a sequel, Ridiculous Fishing, for Apple’s iPhones and iPads.
But then a new game appeared in Apple’s store: Ninja Fishing, made by a company called Gamenauts. This game involved catching fish with a hook, reeling them in and tossing them in the air, but then slashing them with a katana sword. Ninja Fishing became a top app in Apple’s App Store.
NimbleBit, another game start-up, had a similar situation. Its Tiny Tower, in which players added floors to a building and made the little residents happy with good jobs and lots of recreation, became the Apple App Store’s game of the year. Along came Zynga, the big game developer, with a game called Dream Heights, in which players added floors to a tower and made the little residents happy with good jobs and lots of recreation.
Cloning the soul of a game — its gameplay mechanics, design, characters and storyline — is now commonplace in digital marketplaces like Apple’s iOS App Store and Google’s Android Market.
And while the app stores have offered an unparalleled opportunity for independent software makers to reach customers and make money with an innovative game, they are learning it is just as easy for another game studio to compete with a very similar