In 2009, indie developer Stolen Goose released a Flash title called Scamperghost on MaxGames.com. It has players moving around a little blue guy who wants to eat coins while avoiding ghosts. He can spend his coins to slow down time, and he can kill the ghosts if he eats a power pill. Players rack up more points the longer they avoid the enemies.
Not long after Scamperghost debuted, King released Pac-Avoid on its Royalgames.com. It has players moving around a little blue guy who wants to eat coins while avoiding ghosts. He can spend his coins to slow down time, and he can kill the ghosts if he eats a power pill. Players rack up more points the longer they avoid the enemies.
Don’t worry. Your brain didn’t just skip. The descriptions of both games are identical because they are basically the same game.
One of the developers responsible for Scamperghost came forward today to explain that King apparently copied their title, and the developer responsible for the clone has told GamesBeat that the maker of Candy Crush Saga did it on purpose.
“We were in talks with Lars Jörnow at King.com to license our Scamperghost game,” Matthew Cox, the game’s designer, wrote on his blog. “Before the deal was closed — and certainly before any contracts were signed — MaxGames.com made a better offer, so we thanked King for considering our game and politely ended our negotiations.”
King felt burned by this, according to Matt Porter of Epic Shadow Entertainment, which is the now-defunct Flash developer King hired to make an exact clone of Scamperghost.
“Lars from King had us do a contract job for him when me and my old game-development partner were literally living in a basement by ourselves,” Porter told GamesBeat. “Lars paid us $3,000 to essentially clone Scamperghost and try to beat it to release.”
Porter says that Jörnow felt screwed out of the potential deal that he wanted to make with Stolen Goose. We’ve reached out to King to ask it to comment on these claims, but it has not returned our requests.
In an email that he sent to Cox following the release of the clone, Porter explained that he felt justified copying Scamperghost at first because Jörnow made it seem like Stolen Goose backed out of a signed contract.
Cox claims that he never signed a contract with King and simply went with MaxGames because it offered better terms. Porter no longer believes that Stolen Goose breached a contract, although he thinks neither the Scamperghost developers nor King are blameless.
“I believe that Stolen Goose probably did something that wasn’t perfectly ethical, but I don’t think that is validation for what King had us do — which was clone the game,” said Porter.
Epic Shadow came to that realization during development, it felt embarrassed about making a copycat product.
“That was why we specifically left our branding out of the game,” said Porter.
These types of tactics aren’t unheard of within the Flash-based web-gaming market, but, if these accusations are true, they would make a company like King look hypocritical. The company is attempting to protect its unregistered trademarks for “Candy” and “Saga” by trying to block smaller studios’ from using those words in their products’ names. King claims it wants to keep copycats out of the iOS and Google Play marketplaces, but, according to Cox and Porter, the social-gaming publisher isn’t above copying others.
“Scamperghost isn’t the most original game in the world. It’s obviously inspired by Pac-Man but we at least took it in an original direction by making it a mouse avoider with no walls,” said Cox. “King.com, however, showed no respect for other people’s intellectual property when they made a direct, blatant clone of Scamperghost. Now they’ve trademarked “Candy” and are using their massive legal power against other small competing developers. A bit of a double-standard, eh?”
That’s not to mention that King is using “Pac” in a game name, which could potentially confuse consumers looking for one of Namco’s Pac-Man games. This is exactly King’s concern when it comes to other products that use “Candy” or “Saga.”