King isn’t admitting that it did anything wrong, but it has told GamesBeat that it will remove an alleged clone from its Royalgames.com website — although the Flash title is still available at this time.
Social-gaming publisher King plans to remove the Pac-Avoid to avoid the appearance that it was potentially infringing on another developer’s intellectual property. Yesterday, GamesBeat reported that the maker of mobile hits like Candy Crush Saga allegedly hired a small studio to explicitly copy a Flash game called Scamperghost.
While King has informed GamesBeat that it will remove the game in question, it also denied that it did anything wrong.
“King does not clone other peoples’ games,” a spokesperson for the company told GamesBeat. “King believes that [intellectual property] — both our own IP and that of others — is important and should be properly protected. Like any prudent company, we take all appropriate steps to protect our IP in a sensible and fair way. At the same time, we are respectful of the rights and IP of other developers.
“Before we launch any game, we do a thorough search of other games in the marketplace, as well as a review of trademark filings, to ensure that we are not infringing anyone else’s IP. However, for the avoidance of doubt, in this case, this game — which was coded by a third-party developer five years ago — has been taken down.”
Pac-Avoid is a mouse-controlled game where players must avoid ghosts while eating coins. It’s essentially the same as MaxGames.com’s Scamperghost.
Check out both games in a side-by-side comparison below:
Matthew Cox, one of the developers responsible for Scamperghost, explained in a blog yesterday that his company, Stolen Goose, was in talks with King to release the arcadey title under King in 2009. Before making any deals, MaxGames made a better offer, and Stolen Goose went with that website.
After that, King felt burned and allegedly hired a contractor studio to make a game exactly like Scamperghost. The publisher declined to comment on those accusations.
Pac-Avoid developer Matthew Porter told GamesBeat that King’s Lars Jörnow specifically wanted a 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.”
Cox says he doesn’t care that King is taking down Pac-Avoid because that isn’t the point.
“They are welcome to make Scamperghost clones all day if they want,” he told GamesBeat. “I only resurfaced the “Scamperghost vs. Pac-Avoid” article because it shows a dark side of King’s history where they did the exact thing they are now attacking other developers for — they copied our game, and they infringed Namco’s Pac-Man trademark by naming their clone Pac-Avoid.”
King has made headlines this week for its efforts to protect its brands by copyrighting the words “Candy” and “Saga.” The company also filed an opposition to a smaller studio’s attempt to copyright “The Banner Saga” because it uses one of the words that King associates with its games.
The Candy Crush company is also trying to get Apple to remove a game called All Candy Casino Slots removed from the iOS App Store for using the word “Candy” in its title and app icon.
“How is [cloing Scamperghost] any different than Candy Slots,” asked Cox. “Actually, Candy slots isn’t even the same kind of game as Candy Crush Saga, so what King did is worse. I understand King isn’t in the business of cloning games anymore,” said Cox. “They’re more interested these days in trademarking common words like ‘candy’ to limit the innovations of rival developers.”
King defended its actions against The Banner Saga and Candy Slots in a statement from earlier this week.
“This is an important issue for King because we already have a series of games where ‘Saga’ is key to the brand which our players associate with a King game,” a King spokesperson explained. “Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and so on. All of these titles have already faced substantive trademark and copyright issues with clones.”
Despite those issues, King says it doesn’t want to stop The Banner Saga from using the word in its name, but it also doesn’t want to let the company get a trademark with Saga in it because it would weaken any future claims it might choose to make.