Casual games publisher King claims to have shut down one of its games in response to complaints
from indie developer Matthew Cox (a.k.a. Junkyard Sam) that King deliberately copied his game Scamperghost
after he and his development partner turned down a deal to license the game to King.
According to Cox, he and his partner Nick Bray -- who together form the indie development team Stolen Goose -- were negotiating with King representative Lars Jornow to bring their Flash game Scamperghost
to King's stable of browser games. However, Stolen Goose backed away from the deal in 2010 to pursue a more lucrative arrangement with MaxGames.com.
Cox alleges that King subsequently paid another Flash game developer, Epic Shadow Entertainment, $3,000 to create a direct clone of Scamperghost
and get it out in time to match or beat the release of Scamperghost
[sic] is a great game. We're sorry our deal didn't turn out with you guys - you made out with more money and we were left without an avoider game that we had already planned on," reads an email Cox claims to have received from Jornow after the deal fell through. "We needed an avoider game and sponsored a similar game."
Cox claims that one of the creators of Pac-Avoid
apologized via email and instant message for accepting the deal to clone Scamperghost
, and shared some of these private emails with Gamasutra.
"[Jornow] asked us to clone the game very quickly, and even wanted to beat the release of the original game," reads an email Cox claims to have received from Pac-Avoid
developer Matt Porter. "He offered us 3k, and the only reasons we took the project was because we found it immoral that you backed out of a deal (as it was told to us, perhaps not as it was), and because we were short on cash and in a very shitty living condition."
Cox claims that Stolen Goose "tentatively accepted" King's verbal/email offer on the condition that King and Stolen Goose could come to agreement on some conflicting issues, including King's request that Stolen Goose rework Scamperghost
to match King's resolution requirements.
Stolen Goose was ultimately unwilling to meet King's conditions and, according to Cox, never signed a formal deal.
However, he says he's not interested in protecting Scamperghost
specifically but rather exposing what he believes to be hypocrisy on King's part in defending its trademarks
on commonly-used words like "Candy" and "Saga" while at the same time allegedly paying developers to clone games.
When reached for comment, a King representative claimed the company "does not clone other peoples' games."
"King believes that IP - both our own IP and that of others - is important and should be properly protected," said King. "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 5 years ago - is being taken down."
At the time of this writing, the game in question -- Pac-Avoid
-- was still available for play
on King's royalgames.com website.
Gamasutra has reached out to Epic Shadow Entertainment representatives for comment, and will update this story accordingly.