Pocket Gamer has brought attention to another case of a mobile game being plagiarized, this time going so far as to take the name and art assets.
A company calling itself Androfications has listed the iOS game Tiny Wings on the Android Market, without the permission or acceptance of the game’s actual developer, Andreas Illiger. Unlike other cases of games that were either plagiarized or at least heavily inspired by other games, Androfications has gone as far as to copy the whole game, including art assets, the bird character (who adorns the game’s logo) and the world setup, in addition to taking the name. Though Gaming Bus is unable to verify the quality of the game (we have no Android owners), Pocket Gamer notes that the product is decidedly inferior to the iOS version.
On his site’s contact page, Mr. Illiger notes that an Android version of Tiny Wings isn’t in planning. There is also no known instance of the source code for Tiny Wings being available. We have reached out to Mr. Illiger for comment, and will update with any further information we receive from him.
The game is currently listed in the Android Market in alpha form at $.99, and on Appbrain at $1.99 in beta form. The game’s description on the Android Market is little more than an error prone rewrite of the original game’s description. In both cases, the description urges gamers to buy into the pre-final builds before the game’s price raises to its final high of $6.99. Androfications justified this by stating that Google doesn’t allow a product to switch from being free to being paid, so they would not be able to list alphas and betas as being free. Tiny Wings is available on the Apple App Store for $.99.
The company’s listed website on the Android Market leads to a parked “coming soon” page, and a WHOIS of the domain shows the owner to be Dharmendra Sawlani of the United Arab Emirates, who registers through GoDaddy. There is little information available about the company, Smile Computers LLC, other than it’s based out of Dubai. Gaming Bus have contacted the company via the only available email address we have for comment.
Reviews for the new version of Angry Birds have been poor. As of this writing, scores on the Android Market site are averaging below 2.0 based on 105 ratings, and on Appbrain, ratings are close to 1.0. Furthermore, as news of the story spread, so did bad reviews. At 4PM EST, Appbrain had 35 ratings for the game, and at midnight, the number was 119. Almost all of them were 1.0 scores, with an increasing number of reviews on both sites stating that the game was a fake. Despite negative reviews, the app has achieved over 1,000 downloads in little more than a day according to Appbrain. There is no word yet if Google is going to pull the game from the Market.
Tiny Wings has been a highly popular download on the App Store, routinely going back and forth with Rovio’s Angry Birds as the #1 paid application on the service. As of this writing, Tiny Wings is the #2 paid app, behind Angry Birds.
Plagiarism is seen as a growing problem in mobile game development. Back in January, Capcom was accused of borrowing heavily from Twisted Pixel’s ‘Splosion Man for their mobile game MaXplosion. Capcom said at the time that they were saddened by the row, and stated that they were unaware of ‘Splosion Man at the time of the game’s development, despite Twisted Pixel saying they pitched to it to Capcom originally. Mobile publisher Gameloft has had to weather multiple accusations of plagiarism in regards to their lineup of games, most of which show a heavy influence from larger console titles. In April, Kotaku reported on a iPhone game called Achillies’ Defense, which was an illicit port of a flash-based game called Clash of the Olympians. A feature by Nadia Oxford of Game Theory made the comparison of the current mobile market’s similarities to the virtually unregulated Atari 2600 era, which helped bring about the Video Game Crash of 1983.
UPDATE ON 5/26/11 @ 0407 EST: We have received a message from Smile Computers LLC, the company being listed as that behind Androfications. If anything, this shows what kind of crackerjack organization we’re dealing with.
Technical details of temporary failure:
Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain. We recommend contacting the other email provider for further information about the cause of this error. The error that the other server returned was: 452 452
Mailbox size limit exceeded (state 14).
Analysis: I really don’t know what to say that will express my disgust appropriately. Are there words that strong? Should I make a new one up? How about Hackenfuckenkrause? Hell, add some accents to that, say it’s German, and it works.
The good news about this is the users are pissed. Negative reviews are starting to come in, and the game has a universally bad rating anywhere I’ve checked. Casual gamers are going to see that and go “woah”.
But the bad news outweighs the good. The game still has thousands of downloads. Due to the somewhat decentralized nature of the Android – something I’ve gotten a whiff of for the first time – it’s very hard to tell just how many times this game has been downloaded, but it’s enough for the work that was done. Even if this game is downloaded a few times, Dharmendra Sawlani is crucified in blogs, and Google pulls it, the damage is done. This douchebag has made a profit on virtually no work on his part, and by effectively stealing a game. He’s in Dubai, where there’s virtually no chance of legal redress. Meanwhile, unwitting customers are going to be turned off to Angry Birds as a game because of the poor product that they purchased. Most people who buy games on their phones don’t even know who the actual developer is, nor do they care. In short, Mr. Illiger is screwed.
Mobile development is showing more and more pitfalls. Tiny companies can have their entire businesses turned upside down by people either “borrowing” from their games, or outright stealing from them, and that threat comes from companies both large and small. Plus, there’s issues like the recent threatened legal action by patent troll Lodsys over licensed patents. Take note that Lodsys didn’t go after Apple; they went after people who could not defend themselves due to lack of funding. Apple’s just started defending them, but the threat of legal action by companies who see it as a form of revenue is still very real. It’s become a shark tank; for every success like Tiny Wings and Angry Birds, there are thousands of failures, and an undue amount of those failures is due to little more than either dumb luck or odious tactics by competitors or other vultures. We’ll never know how many competent developers it’s going to knock out of the industry, but any number above zero is too many.