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NimbleBit accuses Zynga of copying Tiny Tower

Mobile dev issues open letter highlighting similarities with Zynga's Dream Heights

Mobile developer NimbleBit has issued an open letter highlighting the similarities between its iOS hit Tiny Tower and and Zynga's latest mobile game, Dream Heights.

The letter was posted on Twitter by Ian Marsh, NimbleBit's co-founder. The actual text comprises brief, ironic sentences, showering Zynga with insincere praise.

"We noticed you are about to launch a new iPhone game called Dream Heights. Congratulations!" the letter reads.

"We wanted to thank all you guys for being such big fans of our iPhone game of the year Tiny Tower. Good luck with your game, we are looking forward to inspiring you with our future games."

The text is accompanied by a series of images that place screenshots from Tiny Tower and Dream Heights side-by-side, illustrating clear similarities in numerous areas of the game: the title screen, menus, levelling mechanics and gameplay.

David Marsh, who founded Nimblebit with his brother Ian, also joined the conversation on Twitter.

Zynga did go the honest route and try to acquire us first

Ian Marsh, NimbleBit

"Pretty sad when a company of 2789 people can't even come up with their own game ideas. What a large scale failure of imagination," he said.

"I don't wish Zynga any ill will, I just think it's depressing for all the devs at Zynga that don't have creative freedom."

As the Marsh brothers' Twitter followers began to respond, Ian also noted that, "[Zynga] did go the honest route and try to acquire us first."

NimbleBit's accusations of plagiarism have already begun to spark a strong response from other mobile and social developers.

Daniel Cook, CCO of Spryfox, was particularly forceful, describing those that spend their days "copying and selling the works of others" as "horrible human beings."

"It doesn't matter if it is your job. Or if you need the money. Or if some boss told you to do it," Cook said. "You pushed the pixels that hurt someone."

Zynga is no stranger to such accusations. Last year, the social gaming giant won a preliminary injunction against the Brazilian developer Vostu, after claiming that a number of its games infringed Zynga copyrights.

"Vostu has brazenly appropriated the copyright-protected aspects of Zynga's games...with scant effort to mask their strategy, and then offered games virtually identical to Zynga's games to prospective players in the United States and elsewhere," the company said at the time.

Growth in the mobile market is a key part of Zynga's current strategy. Earlier this month, the company's chief mobile officer David Ko revealed that it had acquired four mobile developers in the second half of 2012: HipLogic, Astro Ape Studios, Page44 Studios and Gamedoctors.

Zynga's performance and practices have been under intense scrutiny since its IPO last December. New releases like Hidden Chronicles on Facebook and Scramble With Friends on iOS have not matched the early performance of comparable titles in the company's history, and its shares have traded as much as 20 per cent below the IPO price of $10.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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