"King copied our game" says indie dev

Matt Cox of Stolen Goose says King copied his game when publishing negotiations fell through

Matthew Cox, one member of indie studio Stolen Goose, has made allegations that publisher directly copied his game, Scamperghost. On his personal website, Cox says that Stolen Goose was in talks with King vice president of mobile game Lars Jornow to bring Scamperghost to King's RoyalGames portal. During negotiations, Stolen Goose decided that an alternate online portal,, made a better offer, so they parted ways with King.

Cox says King then had another developer, EpicShadow, clone Scamperghost to create Pac-Avoid. In an email to Stolen Goose about the situation, Jornow explained that King had decided to sponsor a similar game. When Cox emailed Pac-Avoid's developer, EpicShadow, he was told that the second developer was asked by King to clone the game.

"First off, sorry that we cloned your game for Lars of," wrote EpicShadow's Matt Porter in an email. "Lars approached us one day explaining that you (Stolen Goose) had signed a contract, had been working with him on finishing the deal, and then got a better deal and backed out. He asked us to clone the game very quickly, and even wanted to beat the release of the original game."

According to Cox, no such contract was signed. Porter told VentureBeat that his team was paid $3,000 to clone the game and he believes that Stolen Goose "probably did something that wasn't perfectly ethical." Despite his belief, Porter says that does not validate King's decision to clone the game.

"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 in his post. ", 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?" has yet to respond to our request for comment.

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Latest comments (18)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 8 years ago
Hmmmm.... we have another company like Zynga on our hands. If this news is true, is just dispicable dirty company. They are building a pretty bad rep, lets see how that works for them. To all honesty companies like this go down just as hard as they rose up. Zynga being a fine example.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 8 years ago
King is about to meet the Karma Candy Crusher. Hmm, I should trademark that before someone else steals it.
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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany8 years ago
This is exactly my problem with mobile/browser based games.

No key designers "a la Kojima", no voice actors like Troy Baker, No deeply developed story like Last of Us, No big open worlds like Skyrim.

Instead a lot of rip-offs and quick cash-ins sometimes with licenses from movies. And, when it's not the case (because there are some good products with talented people behind them) they are 90% time killers with little else to offer because that is what most of the phone companies want Money, money, money and maybe sell the company in two/three years. A step back that sends games directly to the 90's, when all that was there was "shoot the little enemy airship" "jump over the little platform" and "win that race with 300 cars ahead of you"

But who cares? we'll have 7 Billion smartphones in two years and we get 3 Million activations per day. developed and complex games in consoles and PC with good acting, good script and great production values? Irrelevant, right?

No offense, but just my opinion/friday rant. Have a great weekend ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Alfonso Sexto on 24th January 2014 8:04am

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Darren Adams Managing Director, ChaosTrend8 years ago
Jeez, the world really is full of self-serving assholes. I think we need an asshole cull. :D
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Sandy Lobban Founder, Noise Me Up8 years ago
@ Alfonzo. Pretty much right.

Unless you are self funded (which I try to remain so, via providing services) developers working in this area of the industry are at the mercy of investment groups to prove that they can infact make money after convincing these investors with activations and user numbers, and that they are a good bet.

From an investors point of view, its rarely done for the love of the medium, so its not long before they start looking at the idea of cloning successful products with slight mods as the financial pressures are applied and the original content isnt hitting the numbers promised when they pitched.

I meet with business owners from a range of sectors, some start ups and some well established businesses twice a month. My advice from what I have learned from them is: before you sell out to someone, you should have a long hard think about what you want to become. In a lot of cases pressure from investors can lead to the death of your company (distortion of your products) as much as it can lead to its growth.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Sandy Lobban on 24th January 2014 10:21am

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Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop8 years ago
A bit of a double-standard, eh?
Well no, not really. Copying your game is obviously shitty form, but they're not trying to pass their game off as yours to confuse your customers in to playing their clone instead, which is what the "Candy" / "Saga" trademarking is about.

Also curious that everywhere I've seen this commented on there's no hate for EpicShadow who took money from King on a contract to clone a game. Not like they didn't know what they were doing. Obviously the narrative is better when it's a big mean company ripping off an indie, but in this case it's a big mean company offering a contract, and an indie taking the money to rip off another indie. Yay for the little guys screwing each other over for cash!
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd8 years ago
I remember this happening at the time.

King (or MidasPlayer) were a company that had no interest in games beyond their being a means to drive traffic to their online casinos. The tech press are quick to have a revisionist view of any company that is mega-successful.

@Anthony Gowland

Actually that's exactly what they were doing. It's a similar situation to Ninja Fishing/Ridiculous Fishing. King couldn't buy the game so they tried to use their considerable distribution muscle to make their clone the de facto standard. I don't think EpicShadow are exactly blameless but ultimately it was King's decision.
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Thomas Dolby Project Manager / Lead Programmer, Ai Solve8 years ago
Man, it's been quite a while since I saw a game companies reputation tank so quickly. Their PR department have some work to do.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development8 years ago
Do they have a license from Namco to infringe on the Pacman brand? given that Pacman is the first thing that came to mind when I saw this title.
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Russell Watson Senior Designer, Born Ready Games8 years ago
Hopefully Namco have trademarked "Pac" ...
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Al Nelson Producer, Tripwire Interactive8 years ago
If you've played King games, you know their ethical stance is "anything goes". They are a money company, not a game company. Anything that drives cash is allowed. The games are just colorful bait on a sharp hook.
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Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer 8 years ago
This is a typical behavior of companies that chase the trends to make a quick buck.
It's a pity that they actually manage to get a degree of success, at least in terms of revenue, because then they overshadow better quality products.

The only bright note is that these companies don't last in the long run. Their policies are too short term and, without investing in something actually creative and innovative, their success burns fast.
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James Persaud Game Programmer, Firefly Studios8 years ago
Not that long ago a recruiter approached me about applying to King. At first glance the job and location looked interesting so I researched into them a bit and the games they'd already done. Well, the online casino connections put me right off but besides that, something about them said "Zynga" to me. The brutal truth for those of us who dream of making art is that today's games are just a means to an end (money) for the majority of people involved in their production.
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Germán Vázquez Executive Producer, Neggi Studio8 years ago
I used to be an avid Candy Crush player, it simply was a life savior everytime I had to stand in line at the bank or sometimes during commute I will try to get a few levels done, now I kep doing the same with Papa Pear and had a certain image when thinking of King, I would have never thought that in the spam of a few week that image will change so radically.
One could argue that its almost a by-product of a company becoming very successful and suddenly it become absolutely necessary to protect your brand from companies that want to jump on the quick buck and create similar products to confuse consumers and take advantage (which in al fairness sometimes is the case) it happened to Zynga and their "farm" or "Ville" titles and now king seems to be the next in line.

The thing that stops me from completely defending them is the fact that Rovio, arguably the most successful of all, never got into this kind of PR nightmare, at least not that I can remember, they didn´t trademark "bird" which just thinking about it is ridiculos but King got "candy" approved so go figure. As far as I can tell people will never put Rovio and Zynga in the same sentence, but now king seems poised to become the next Zynga and I can´t help to think that there must have been a better way to handle the situation.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus8 years ago
Someone said it best: King is not a games company. They're a money company, using a compulsion loop with colourful bait. It's ironic, since the gameplay for Candy Crush Saga was very likely taken from a game from 2007.

The problem is, we complain about these things here, on a games industry-centric site, but the reality is that we're not the target audience .We're just a vocal minority. I have friends who don't like video games, but play Candy Crush Saga all the time. They're the epitome of casual; they just looking for time-wasters. They aren't even hearing about this unless I tell them, and then at that point, they don't care. Their game is fun, that's it.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 8 years ago
Methinks Namco may be poking their nose into this matter soon if they haven't already. I know they're very protective of Pac-Man, and at least to my eyes, both of these games use elements from those games that may seem too close to be "legal". Eh, we'll see (as always)...
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James Robertson Founder, Oso Games8 years ago
While it's entirely possible a contract hadn't been signed, I would at least have expected King to have signed an NDA before being shown the game. I certainly would never show anyone anything I'm working on without having them sign an NDA first.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by James Robertson on 27th January 2014 10:37am

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 8 years ago
If the allegations are true, EpicShadow just needs to whop out the work order / project spec / contract and King will be learning what copyright infringement law suits are actually supposed to be for.

Which is not "preventing people using a word as its dictionary definition."
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