Check out this article Spry Fox Attacks the Clones (Greg Lastowka, Gamasutra) which discusses a ruling on the Triple Town/Yeti Town copyright infringement case (for those of you who don’t know, Triple Town is a match-3 Facebook game with a unique mechanic; Yeti Town mimics Triple Town pretty much exactly but for mobile).
In other mediums, we see that people do derivative pieces. In a very real sense, it is because tropes are repeated (over and over and over) that we can recognize and consequently, relish them. Odysseus. Romeo and Juliet. Bejeweled Blitz.
Indeed, Bejeweled Blitz has spawned hundreds of similar products. So has Doom. In fact, now we frequently talk about the match-3 game or the first-persion shooter: whole genres are inspired by great games.
Still, this must be over the line. As Gamezebo says:
“Unfortunately for Yeti Town, the only substantial difference between it and Facebook’s Triple Town is the platform it’s on. Otherwise it’s the exact same game, only this time with snow.”
I wish that we didn’t have to turn to the courts to resolve this issue. When you turn to the courts to determine where that line is, you end up with wonky answers: “you must change 20% of the game.” And, how, esteemed sir, precisely, am I supposed to do that?
Wouldn’t it be great if we could count on the games press and users to call out, and consequently shut out blatant copies like Yeti Town? And yes, to be fair, the major game review sites (and probably many minor ones) all have. Still, as Kyle Kulyk recently pointed out, many game review sites solicit money from developers in exchange for reviewing their games. Not exactly unbiased press here.
Triple Town is truly one of the best and most interesting games to appear in years. If you haven’t played it – go play it NOW. (What, you say serious gamers don’t play Facebook games? Then REALLY GO PLAY NOW.) It’s a great game and they keep making it better. I want Triple Town to rise like cream to the financial top. Unfortunately, here comes Yeti Town grabbing for the cream Triple Town has earned. Hence we get court. And, hopefully, in the long run, a more nuanced, detailed and useful body of laws concerning digital games and copyright.