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Leaked Zynga Memo Justifies Copycat Strategy

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the nothing-new-under-the-sun dept.

Businesses 384

bonch writes "After taking heat over allegations of copying hit indie game Tiny Tower, Zynga founder Mark Pincus wrote an internal memo justifying the company's strategy of cloning competing titles, citing the Google search engine and Apple iPod as successful products which weren't first in their markets. Pincus infamously told employees: 'I don't want f*cking innovation. You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.'"

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384 comments

And that is what really stiffles innovation (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902713)

Who wants to come up with the next great innovation, when you know damn well that the second you do, some big player with more resources is just going to swoop in and steal it?

This is the kind of thing that copyright and patent laws were SUPPOSED to protect against. But, in reality, copyrights and patents are just something the big boys use as bludgeons against the little guys (and against each other). You think a little indie developer like Nimblebit has the money to hire even a single lawyer to go up against Zynga's *team* of high-priced lawyers? Good luck with that.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (3, Interesting)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902765)

The premise of your post seems to be that de facto trusts are squashing innovation in the modern era. What resolution to this issue do you imagine is possible? Removing copyright from the equation doesn't seem like it would help. What would?

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (5, Funny)

Exitar (809068) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902809)

Remove lawyers?

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (3, Insightful)

i kan reed (749298) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903297)

It troubles me that this was modded insightful and not funny. Do people really believe that advocates who understand the laws are an unnecessary part of the equation? I can't imagine the idea of being sued under a tort I didn't understand, and there being no one who could explain it to me, and help me defend my situation in court.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (5, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903369)

We shouldn't allow such complex laws that we need lawyers.

oooooooh (4, Interesting)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902861)

Removing copyright from the equation doesn't seem like it would help

and why it would not help. the case here is, the big boy easily copying the little guy, but not allowing little guy to copy him through lawyer power thanks to copyrights. remove copyrights, and what would lawyers do ? there. you just liberated the little guy. and 7 billion little guys' innovation > any corporation.

Re:oooooooh (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903169)

It would be an interesting world indeed! Software should never be a product in and of itself. Sure it's a trillion dollar industry now. But look at all the trouble it has caused. And please don't give us all the load of crap about "quality" because it's simply nonsense as F/OSS often has as good or better quality over commercial "rush to meet the deadline, we'll push out fixes later", "EULA indemnifying against usefulness, functionality or suitability" software. We all know the realities of the software game.

Software is something people write and get paid for writing. That should be the complete extent of income from software... that, and maybe income from running said software.

Re:oooooooh (5, Insightful)

JustSomeProgrammer (1881750) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903197)

You lost me. The big boy is copying the little guy. The little guy is the creator and has a game on market that the big boy just blantantly ripped off and marketed better to a wider area and with distribution channels the little guy cannot compete with. Removing the copyright would allow the little guy to... copy the game that the big guy copied from him?

I could be missing something, but how is the situation better? Are you proposing that every living human on earth (7 billion little guys aka the population of the earth) will band together to take down the big boy when copyright is gone? Or are you saying that 7 billion people innovating separately will create more value than 3000 people teaming together (# of employees at Zynga)? That's of course assuming that people won't copy off of each other when there is no penalty to do so. I honestly don't think that something like the Pyramids, any building bigger than a hut, most games that require a diverse amount of skills to create, would be made without people teaming together. I'm pretty sure even in this case the game wasn't originally created by just one guy but by a small team of people with different skills coming together to make a better product. Some people are better creators than innovators. And innovators aren't always the greatest creators. And I have rarely seen someone with one of those skills being a great marketer.

Re:oooooooh (5, Insightful)

neonKow (1239288) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903327)

Absolutely would not help. Copyrights allow little guys to get into a business. Without copyright, this wouldn't be a leaked memo; it'd be a public memo. There would be no reason for Zynga not to copy indie games if not for copyrights, and they would have the resources to market their product far better than most indie producers will.

Removing patents and copyrights is not the solution to people exploiting a loophole in the patent/copyright system.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38902869)

not removing copyright.
returning copyright to a reasonable time limit is still important. that's the real problem with copyright. make it extremely strict (so that things like gameplay are included where they are not currently), but only last for 10 years, end of story.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (3, Insightful)

theangrypeon (1306525) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903079)

that's the real problem with copyright. make it extremely strict (so that things like gameplay are included where they are not currently)

Are you fucking serious? Do you really want Wizards of the Coast suing every RPG that uses random chance to determine the outcomes of events, even if it is *only* for a decade?

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903217)

"using random chance to determine an outcome" hardly qualifies as "gameplay"

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903275)

Oh, I'll bet any amount of money you could find a lawyer to argue that point, and that there also exists a clueless enough judge to agree with the assertion.

You must have far more faith in the integrity of our courts than I...

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903305)

I'm sure WotC could hire enough lawyers to convince a court otherwise. And there's the rub. Just because something is 'common sense' doesn't mean enough money can't make the courts reach a completely different conclusion.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902925)

Removing copyright from the equation doesn't seem like it would help. What would?

How about restricting copyright holders powers to enforce their copyright, possibly back to what was intended with a short lifespan for copyright claims and using court action instead of acts like PIPA and SOPA?

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903027)

In this particular case, that would seem to make the situation worse, right?

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

JustSomeProgrammer (1881750) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903237)

I don't think this would help in this situation where someone is blatantly ripping someone off within a year of release. But yeah I can support a 15 year copyright.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38902981)

The premise of your post seems to be that de facto trusts are squashing innovation in the modern era. What resolution to this issue do you imagine is possible? Removing copyright from the equation doesn't seem like it would help. What would?

OK, I'll bite.

How about going back to the anti-trust regime we used to have? You know, where anti-competitive practices were against the law - and the law was actually enforced (sometimes by breaking up big companies into smaller ones).

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903001)

What resolution to this issue do you imagine is possible? Removing copyright from the equation doesn't seem like it would help.

Actually, I think it would help somewhat. The small guys would still be unable to defend their innovation against the de facto trusts (albeit for a different reason now), but the de facto trusts would also lose the stick they beat the independents with.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903005)

Forbidding corporations from growing larger than 50 people would clearly solve this problem.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (5, Insightful)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903099)

Revoking an abusive corporation's charter and putting its intellectual 'property' into the public domain would be much more effective. That's the kind of death penalty we should rally around.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903119)

And end all major production in the idiotic country that tried to enforce it.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

Merk42 (1906718) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903141)

and introduce a host of others

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (2)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903155)

That's dumb, then there will just be corporations of corporations, etc. All that would be is an obstacle for people to waste effort people getting around.

aaaah (2)

unity100 (970058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902811)

excuse me, this is what capitalism is. shareholders are in for making money. and if there is an easier to make money, they will always push the company to do it.

Re:aaaah (4, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902903)

And that's why there are vast swathes of laws that basically act as a substitute for ethics. Because companies have none.

Re:aaaah (3, Interesting)

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903287)

And that's why there are vast swathes of laws that basically act as a substitute for ethics. Because companies have none.

Please don't refer to companies as if they were people. Actions taken in the name of those companies violate ethical principles because those in charge, which are the people who ultimately make decisions on how their subordinates act and subsequentially give orders, don't have ethics. Subbordinates act because someone in the organization makes a decision and orders them to enact them. In this case, Zynga employees are working on copying other titles because people like Mark Pincus, according to the report, ordered the company's employees to "[j]ust copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers." This problem isn't caused by the the legal registration of an organization, but by specific people within that organization.

If we perpetuate this misconception that companies are to blame but not a single company employee has any responsibility on this problem then, in practice, we are giving these sociopaths a free pass on their sociopathic behaviour, and by doing this we are validating their anti-social contribution to society.

Re:aaaah (0)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903077)

I don't know if you could call taking advantage of crappy laws "capitalism". I see what you're saying though, maybe capitalistic?

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38902831)

I'm sure Slashdot posters will eat up your comment, but copyright and patents have absolutely nothing to do with making a copycat game. Unless Zynga actually copied code or artwork then the company has no case.

If anything, cases like this call for MORE, STRONGER intellectual property laws. The big guys shouldn't be able to just copy the little guys and then suck up the users.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (0)

theangrypeon (1306525) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902955)

If anything, cases like this call for MORE, STRONGER intellectual property laws.

No. Fuck no. Big companies abuse IP laws enough as it is. Why in the name of Zeus's butthole do you want more and stronger laws.

The big guys shouldn't be able to just copy the little guys and then suck up the users.

You have no god given right to have users play your game. If someone makes a more appealing game and they take your users away, well, tough shit.

Also, if we did have your way, what constitutes "copying"? In this case it's pretty obvious that Zynga game is essentially a knock-off, but how "different" do 2 games have to be to satisfy you in a legal sense for you to consider it not copying?

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

wrencherd (865833) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903159)

In this case it's pretty obvious that Zynga game is essentially a knock-off, but how "different" do 2 games have to be to satisfy you in a legal sense for you to consider it not copying?

Because that's the question of fact that courts get to decide, it's also where the actual law gets "made".

It's also why it's important, at least in the US system, that all of our federal judges–particularly obvious on the Supreme Court–come from such a limited pool in terms of political party affiliation (2), law schools (2 or 3), regional background (1), etc., etc.

If you want different law you're going to have to elect different people to appoint different judges.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (4, Insightful)

JustSomeProgrammer (1881750) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903267)

Zynga didn't make a more appealing game. They made a better marketed game. You know something the little guy can't compete on since Zynga actually has a budget to do that with.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (4, Insightful)

Dexter Herbivore (1322345) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902941)

Apparently the Zynga mission statement is, "Do Evil".

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903381)

It always was though. Ever since this guy's face became public. I remember him being quoted as "I wanted money and I knew I wanted money now, nothing else mattered" (paraphrased) - when asked about unethical ties with various shady ad, affiliate and pay-per-click companies.

Nothing new here - an unethical man promoting his unethical behavior.

But in what field? (4, Insightful)

sakdoctor (1087155) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902963)

Zynga's field is 'scummy games for retards'. Does it really matter if innovation in that field is stifled?
Perhaps the parasite will kill it's hosts.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902989)

This is the kind of thing that copyright and patent laws are DESIGNED to protect. The system works

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

alen (225700) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902999)

no, historically innovators like Henry Ford are narrow thinkers and stubborn. even steve jobs made a lot of wrong decisions and had to be convinced by others to change his mind

innovators come up with a cool new idea but never expand it for the mass market. the copycats like steve jobs, zynga and Alfred Sloan are the ones that make it popular

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (0)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903081)

Who wants to come up with the next great music album/movie, when you know damn well that the second you do, lots of pirates with no scruples are just going to swoop in and steal it?

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

Cormacus (976625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903249)

Your analogy is flawed; music/video pirates don't generally turn around and sell what they 'swoop in and steal', whereas software pirates in this case are profiting immensely.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903339)

Does that matter to the creator? Whether the music/video pirate sells the product or just shares it freely, the net effect is the same to the person who produced that work.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (1)

repapetilto (1219852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903257)

I do.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (3, Interesting)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903101)

Has anyone actually tried yet? After the story a few days ago about how a photograph violated copyright simply for emulating the style of another photo, it seems like what Zynga's doing should be a lot easier to prove.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (3, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903139)

This is the kind of thing that copyright and patent laws were SUPPOSED to protect against.

I'm not so sure about that. You can't copyright an idea. For instance, you could write a novel about a detective in a futuristic domed city who's investigating a murder, who hates robots and has a robot partner, without infringing on The Caves of Steel [wikipedia.org] . The novel is copyrighted, the idea is not and cannot be.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903193)

Who wants to come up with the next great innovation, when you know damn well that the second you do, some big player with more resources is just going to swoop in and steal it?

You got it ass-backwards buddy. A writes some useful piece of program, B thinks of a useful feature to add to A's program. Under your proposal B can't copy A's program and evolve it. But if it was allowed to copy programs, then B could improve on A's program, and C or even perhaps A could improve on B's program, etc.

If people shared your mindest 20 years ago, we'd still be using Mosaic to access the web.

Re:And that is what really stiffles innovation (0)

ieatcookies (1490517) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903395)

Tiny Towers was far from original IP but that's ok because Nimblebit is not Zynga.. and ./ loves to hate on the big guy. It's one thing to actually take assets from a game and another to simply put out a competing game in the same genre/game mechanic. Yes they look similar BECAUSE THEY ARE THE SAME TYPE OF GAME and that's perfectly ok. The consumer should win here.. It's like the claims that Zynga's Bingo was copied.. well, good luck making a Bingo game that doesn't look like all Bingo games. And if you poke around, you'll find that portions of games (huds, friend bars, power up assets) are scooped and shared ALL AROUND. Are you going to blast Words with Friends for being Scrabble next.. maybe no one should ever be able make a scrabble type game again.

Who wants to come up with the next great innovation, when you know damn well that the second you do, some big player with more resources is just going to swoop in and steal it?

Stealing something doesn't make it good. Nimblebit made the tower genre good by improving on previous tower games (sim towers, etc). Zynga is attempting to make Dream Heights/Towers (whatever it's called) better than Tiny Towers. Nimblebit should spend less time throwing stones at Zynga and more time seeing what's working for Dream Heights and improving their own game. Make a better mouse trap.

I got something to tell you! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38902749)

I'm not wearing underwear today.
No I'm not wearing underwear today.
Not that you probably care,
Much about my underwear,
Still none the less I gotta say,
That I'm not wearing underwear today

Re:I got something to tell you! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903243)

Get a job!

It worked for Microsoft (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38902761)

And look where they are at.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (1, Insightful)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902771)

And Apple.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (0)

Pieroxy (222434) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903031)

Care to point out what Apple did steal from others?

And please, don't mention Xerox.

Thanks.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (2)

Khyber (864651) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903097)

The iPod certainly wasn't the first MP3 player.

And it's copy, not steal.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903121)

It may sounds familiar, but: THEY HAVE SWEATSHOPS.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (0)

Moheeheeko (1682914) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903149)

"We invented the touchscreen!"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PalmPilot [wikipedia.org]

"we invented the tablet!"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tablet_computer#History [wikipedia.org]

"We invented the mp3 player!"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portable_media_player#IXI [wikipedia.org]

I could go on.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (4, Insightful)

NatasRevol (731260) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903273)

Except that Apple didn't actually say that. They'll tell you that they built the best versions of those things, not the first.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903349)

With respect to your first two links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton_(platform)

Re:It worked for Microsoft (2)

kiwimate (458274) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903205)

Care to point out what Apple did steal from others?

Who mentioned stealing? The debate is just talking about ripping off someone else's idea.

And as everyone on Slashdot knows, "intellectual property" is an impossibility. (/sarcasm)

Re:It worked for Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903421)

You fucking Apple zealots just don't get it. Steve Jobs himself said that copying others was a great strategy [youtube.com] . And he proved it. The first iPhone was a functional clone of the LG Prada that was available months earlier and the current iPhone 4 looks almost identical [blogspot.com] to the original LG Prada including shape, screen size, color and even the placement of the camera.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (3, Insightful)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903131)

I am not an fan of Apple by any means, but you seem to be grossly misinformed. Microsoft stole from Apple, who had permission from Xerox to use the GUI concept.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903301)

I heard from RIAA about those stolen MP3s too...

Re:It worked for Microsoft (1)

Fastfwd (44389) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903365)

Did they not both borrow with permission from Xerox?

Re:It worked for Microsoft (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38902833)

As I recall Linux is just a rip off of a much better series of OSs. But you know, that's the kind of honesty that gets one modded as a troll around here.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (0)

Barryke (772876) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902857)

Well you nailed it.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (1)

Urban Garlic (447282) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902951)

For something branded as "honesty", it's a little incomplete. In fact, it's probably more fair to say that the GNU tools (bash, gcc, etc.) are work-alikes of older technology. Linux, which as we all know is primarily a kernel, has evolved a great deal over the years, and has support for functionality (like journaling filesystems, for instance) that just plain didn't exist in System V or Berkeley. And, in fact, the kernel is even famous/infamous for its unstable ABI, tuning parameters, and changes in its scheduler. There's the hierarchical file system, of course, and the file-based device access scheme in /dev, but on the whole, I think it's fair to say that the Linux kernel is not, in fact, a work-alike of other OSs.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (1)

sydneyfong (410107) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903111)

Let's see what Microsoft PR dept might say.

In fact, it's probably more fair to say that Microsoft Windows (95, 98, etc.) are work-alikes of older technology.

Internet Explorer, which as we all know is primarily a web browser, has evolved a great deal over the years, and has support for functionality (like Javascript, for instance) that just plain didn't exist in Mosaic or Lynx. And, in fact, the browser is even famous/infamous for its non-standard features, tuning parameters, and changes in its API. There's the document.all object, of course, and the filesystem access loopholes in ActiveX, but on the whole, I think it's fair to say that the IE browser is not, in fact, a work-alike of other browsers.

Uh, I didn't really write this just to be sarcastic. It almost sounded like you were saying what I wrote above when I read how "great" Linux was compared to its predecessors and how it's supposed to be "better" than how the big bad corps "innovate".

Really, Linux is really just a "user friendly" and improved Unix. I love it, but it's not where you point to for evidence of innovation.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903023)

Which OS? Microsoft is based on WindowsNT (which is somehow close to BSD but nevertheless it is "home-made"), Apple on BSD. Linux on BSD. SO, again, which OSsssssss?

Re:It worked for Microsoft (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903189)

Linux is an expansion of 'Minix' which is still used as a college trainer OS based on Unix standards.
Try to know something before you troll.
(not a Linux fanboy, I have no interest in recompiling my kernels, I prefer to game)

Re:It worked for Microsoft (4, Insightful)

Riceballsan (816702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902957)

The difference between say windows and macOS, and even macOS and xerox, android and IOS, is still they all had unique features to a much larger degree. Zynga tower, quite litterally is a new skin on tiny tower, as farmville is a new skin on farmtown. There is a big difference between taking a general concept and adding features to it, and taking something and slightly sharpening the graphics.

Re:It worked for Microsoft (2)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903213)

Zynga tower, quite litterally is a new skin on tiny tower

Someone should re-skin Zynga Tower.

With the skin of Mark Pinkus.

There is a good business oppertunity here (5, Insightful)

BondGamer (724662) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902815)

Someone should start copying all Zynga mobile titles. They already have done the research and figured out what are the best games to copy. You copy their games, make what you think are the best improvements, and reap all the profits. Call it Dream Tower.

That pits you against the big boy... (1)

vinehair (1937606) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902855)

...directly in their field of expertise and strength.

If you willingly cut out the best (and sometimes only) advantage that an independant developer has, their freedom to be creative, then good luck with that one.

Re:There is a good business oppertunity here (5, Insightful)

Stormthirst (66538) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902879)

The irony here is that:
a) You'd probably make quite a profit
b) You'd get sued by Zynga - and they'd win.

Re:There is a good business oppertunity here (1)

Gwala (309968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902971)

I don't know. I don't think Zynga would actually take it to a suit. They'd try a C&D first, but I can't see them encouraging any precedents being set that'd work against them later.

Re:There is a good business oppertunity here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903007)

This.
Hell, I seriously wouldn't have been surprised if the corrupt fucks tried to sue the Tiny Tower guy if he never brought it to everyones attention.

Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they STILL try to do it anyway. AND probably win!
Fuck Law. Seriously.

Re:There is a good business oppertunity here (1)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903333)

Zynga's business plan is a perfectly understandable one.

1. They see a product that works - they know there is a market for this product, with an approximate size of N.

2. They make a copy of the game, knowing that they'll capture 1/Nth of the market.

You can't say Zynga has no model or plan. Their power comes from crunching numbers, and monitizing the crap out of their products. If their competition is not doing that - it's certainly not the fault of Zynga. The long and the short of it is - companies are in business to make money. Zynga doesn't pretend to make games for fun, it's to make cash - and it obviously works.

If, as the nay-sayers say, all Zynga games were terrible, and poor copies of other titles - then they wouldn't be making money or headlines.

I don't care either way, but you have to acknowledge reality.

Re:There is a good business oppertunity here (1)

forkfail (228161) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903359)

Not sure you can improve on their games.

Oh, I don't mean from a gamer's point of view - I mean from a success point of view.

They've got psychologists and artists who know cute better than the lolcats folks; they understand exactly how to get the little rats to pull the Skinner Box levers.

Which is why to them the actual "content" of the game doesn't matter; it's all about eye candy, about turning stripping absolutely everything except the achievements of other games, throwing in uber cute eye candy, then adding a time factor, then allowing you to buy your time back for real world money.

When viewed that way, there is nothing to improve - they have the absolute pure, distilled version of the crack that they sell already.

Honest question: is it legal? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38902889)

In the context of copyright and games, is this legal? Do the makers of Tiny Tower have legal recourse?

Re:Honest question: is it legal? (1)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902977)

In general, the design of a game cannot be copyrighted. Graphical elements and the text of the rules can, but not the overall game. This is why there are so many board-game knockoffs online.

If the competition isn't copyrighting/trademarking (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902949)

If the competition isn't copyrighting and trademarking their games as companies used to in the era of "Pac-Man" and "Space Invaders", then they haven't got the tools needed to defend themselves against Zynga's predatory practices.

There have been many precedent setting cases in the US and Canada where competitors who cloned and renamed games without altering the play were able to defend against their predators, and force the competition off the market.

In short, Zynga's approach is NOT legal, but it's not something the FBI is going to investigate, either. They have to be pursued by the individual companies whose products are being cloned.

If Apple can force HTC and Samsung into a corner because of "design similarities", then the game companies should be able to lynch Zynga the same way. IP theft is IP theft, regardless of the scope or scale of the theft. The question is whether any of the competitors have the deep pockets for lawyers that Zynga does -- because the case will take YEARS to run through all the appeals before a final victory for either side.

Re:If the competition isn't copyrighting/trademark (3, Interesting)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903017)

And if the originators of the game ideas win the case, I strongly recommend that they demand jail time for Pincus seeing as he's clearly documented that this is a POLICY of the company under his leadership, so he can't pin the blame on some middle manager and fire him instead. Jail time would mean losing out on any cash settlement, but by the time there's a victory, no one will probably still want to play that particular style of game, so it won't help with FUTURE revenue for those companies.

The question is whether the competitors want to PUNISH Zynga's leadership or PILLAGE them for cash. Unfortunately I suspect most of them will settle for cash, and Zynga will therefore just treat it as a cost of doing business and continue ripping off competitor's ideas.

Re:If the competition isn't copyrighting/trademark (3, Informative)

JDG1980 (2438906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903127)

And if the originators of the game ideas win the case, I strongly recommend that they demand jail time for Pincus seeing as he's clearly documented that this is a POLICY of the company under his leadership, so he can't pin the blame on some middle manager and fire him instead.

You don't seem to understand much about U.S. law. Torts are not crimes, and civil cases are not criminal cases. Individuals can't prosecute someone for a crime. You can only sue them civilly and get monetary damages, and/or an injunction to stop doing something. To send someone to jail, the state or federal government would have to criminally prosecute them. And there's next to no chance this will happen here, since it's not even clear that what Zynga did was a tort, let alone an actual crime. (Most trademark and patent infringements are not crimes, though some forms of copyright infringement are.)

Re:If the competition isn't copyrighting/trademark (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903211)

Ah, so it's the same as Canada, then. If you file a suit, you collect damages. If you go through the RCMP/FBI, you get justice.

So the question is not whether they CAN pursue Zynga for jail time, it's a question of whether they CHOOSE to, or go for cash instead.

It's too bad there isn't a provision on either side of the border for some sort of victim's damages collected on the basis of criminal cases.

Here I thought lawsuits were the only way any one pursued criminals in the US unless the police/FBI got involved. Thanks for clearing up that it's up to the victim to decide which approach to take.

Re:If the competition isn't copyrighting/trademark (2)

JDG1980 (2438906) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903073)

If the competition isn't copyrighting and trademarking their games as companies used to in the era of "Pac-Man" and "Space Invaders", then they haven't got the tools needed to defend themselves against Zynga's predatory practices.

Do you have any idea how many Pac-Man and Space Invaders clones there were in the early 1980s? And few, if any, of the cloners were ever sued. This is because, as others have noted, you can't copyright game rules. You can trademark the title and copyright the code and graphics, but not stop someone else from independently re-implementing more or less the same game on their own.

There have been many precedent setting cases in the US and Canada where competitors who cloned and renamed games without altering the play were able to defend against their predators, and force the competition off the market.

Can you cite any of these cases?

f Apple can force HTC and Samsung into a corner because of "design similarities", then the game companies should be able to lynch Zynga the same way.

Apple's claims were based on patents, not copyrights or trademarks.

Re:If the competition isn't copyrighting/trademark (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903151)

Yes I do. And do you have any idea how many of those clones were shut down by successful lawsuits?

The fact that winning the battles in the face of rampant gameplay/idea piracy proved futile was because of the sheer VOLUME of players. I wouldn't recommend this tactic for dealing with iOS and Android game developers, because they're going to be outnumbered by them. But when the issue is one monolithic company that's abusive, like Zynga, then the tactic DOES WORK.

As to citing cases, get off your lazy ass and search for yourself. I'm not your Google.

Re:If the competition isn't copyrighting/trademark (1)

slim (1652) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903379)

You don't need to "copyright" things. You automatically own copyright, on works that are in-scope, the moment you create it. There's no registration process or anything like that.

But: copyright doesn't apply to the rules of games. It's long established in US copyright law, hence all the variations of Monopoly.

Remake Civilization, with your own artwork, title, and independently-worded rulebook and no lawyer can touch you.

Re:If the competition isn't copyrighting/trademark (2)

Kagato (116051) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903393)

Civil law is not about what's right or wrong. It's about being the last man standing. It's about having the fortitude and war chest to defend what is yours. I've actually seen a case where a small company tried to defend it's patents against a larger one. The large company fly the lawyers in the meet with them. They took one look at the offices of the small company and told them point blank "You don't have the money to win this, we're not giving you one cent. Good day."

Try Harder! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38902953)

As some wag once said, "If you aren't stealing the competition's ideas, you aren't trying hard enough!"... :rolleyes:

Copyright!!!! (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38902975)

The problem here is not the COPYRIGHT, but the COPYCAT. And actually, that is the main reason of creating the copyright, to prevent the copycat, not to prevent the copy-use, copy-download. What Zynga is doing is stealing in its true meaning. Not fair use, not format change, but STEALING.

Re:Copyright!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903309)

Copyright doesn't apply here. If they had copied the exact code for the game or the exact graphics, that would be a copyright violation. But producing a game using the same mechanics is not.

Been there, done that (1)

TheJabberwocky (876055) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903009)

Second verse, same as the first...

Google + iPod (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903029)

Of course, Google didn't just come out with a search engine that was a copy of the competition. They created the innovative PageRank algorithm, for which they were awarded a patent and were featured on the cover of Scientific American, which made their search engine much, much better than the competition (AltaVista.) Even today I am constantly surprised by how good Google is at figuring out what I'm searching for.

The iPod too wasn't just an MP3 player. Competing MP3 players at the time had crap software that made it hard to load them up with music, poor UI, and either bad form factors (Nomad) or almost no storage (flash based devices.) What really made the iPod take off was iTMS.

Remind me again how Mafia Wars was different from Mob Wars? Maybe some better graphics?

Re:Google + iPod (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903103)

Mod parent up. This AC is absolutely right -- the comparison to Google and Apple is a red herring -- it's not the same situation at ALL.

Re:Google + iPod (1)

Archon-X (264195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903251)

You've never used an iPod right?
iPods were/are well designed, look good, have great interfaces, etc - but getting music onto them is horrendous.

You can't just copy music on / off. You can't click and drag playlists across. You can't copy your music off (easily). iPods are many things, including "victim of bad software"

What's wrong with that? (5, Interesting)

pruss (246395) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903065)

When the Tetris folks try to squash all the Tetris clones, people here think that's bad, and we're right that it's bad to squash Tetris clones. There is no copyright on concepts. But the same applies here. It shouldn't matter too much if it's a big company copying the ideas of a small developer did or a small developer cloning the ideas of a big company. It would, of course, be polite for the big company to offer some sort of thanks, though.

I looked at the side-by-side screenshots, and while the basic (uncopyrightable) gameplay ideas are very parallel and presumably copied, the graphics (which are copyrightable) are significantly different in style. And looking at coin amounts in the two screenshots, it looks like the rules weren't copied either (not that there would be anything wrong with copying rules, since there is no copyright on game rules, only on their written expression).

Early in January, I released on Amazon's Appstore a popular app aimed at the Kindle Fire to dim the too-bright screen. About two weeks later, two others appeared. I don't know if there was copying of ideas going on. But even if there was, what's the big deal? The competing apps have somewhat different interfaces, and differ a little bit in feature set, and now consumers have more choice. And inspiration in respect of additional features can go both ways, and as a result all the apps can get better.

Re:What's wrong with that? (1)

Merk42 (1906718) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903223)

I forgot I already posted but i wanted to mod you up!

The mentality seems to be this:
Big Guy copies Little Guy = EVIL!
Little Guy copies Big Guy = A OK!

news? (3, Insightful)

residieu (577863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903145)

I assumed management knew what they were doing and approved all the copying. Do we really need leaked memos to prove it?

This is like "Leaked memo from BizCo CEO: We should make money!"

Nothing surprising here. Nothing incriminating

Making money... (1)

DogDude (805747) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903163)

If they're in the business to make money, then they're right. Find something that makes a little money, and duplicate it as many times as you can. There's really no reason to waste money innovating if they've already found a method to make money (for now, of course).

Re:Making money... (1)

msobkow (48369) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903235)

"Making money" does not excuse a company from being subject to the law, much to the annoyance of the rich and powerful.

Re:Making money... (2)

residieu (577863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38903321)

Which would be important if there were any laws being broken, but there aren't.

It still works for China (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38903199)

And they have been doing it for decades.

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