Though Zynga has been a wildly successful publisher and developer of mobile and web-based apps in the past, they have recently come under fire for releasing titles that bare a striking resemblance to other smaller games. Most recently Zynga was taken to task by Tiny Tower developer Nimblebit for the similarities between Tiny Tower and one of Zynga’s most recent creations, Dream Heights.
Both feature a Sim Tower-esque building mechanic, but only one smudge on a publisher’s reputation isn’t going to do much to get the ball rolling. And then came Zynga Bingo, which yet again seems like a carbon copy of another popular web-based app.
Currently in closed beta, Zynga Bingo, when compared side by side with popular Facebook app Bingo Blitz – from developer Buffalo Studios – doesn’t just look the same, it even features similar core mechanics to boot. Unlike NimbleBit, however, Buffalo is treating this situation in a much more tongue-in-cheek manner, only poking fun at Zynga’s plagiarism. After all, as pointed out by Zynga, Bingo Blitz seems suspiciously similar in design to their own Poker Blitz — the circle completes itself.
Obviously there’s a certain amount of “borrowing” amongst game developers – just look at how many Words With Friends (a copycat of Scrabble) clones there are out there – but at a certain point that creative license begins to wear thin. In fact, when questioned about Dream Heights‘ similarities to Tiny Tower, Zynga‘s Bryan Reynolds was instructed by PR to steer he conversation away from that hot button issue.
It’s hard not to give Zynga credit for almost singlehandedly creating a new genre of game, and a new business model for smaller developers, but the water they have been treading recently certainly takes away from their accomplishments. CityVille and FarmVille are benchmarks for the developer’s legacy, but games like Dream Heights and Zynga Bingo could be what take them down.
Do you think that Zynga should face legal action for copying other developer’s games or is it just an inherent part of the business? Who has the greater case NimbleBit or Buffalo Studios?