A game from Candy Crush Saga maker King’s website that looked suspiciously like an independent developer’s title has been removed, according to the company.
The developer, Matthew Cox, ignited a mini-controversy when he published a blog post about trying to license his in-development game Scamperghost to King four years ago. King turned him down and instead published a similar game called Pac-Avoid, whose developer, EpicShadow, apologized to Cox for “clon[ing] your game.”
“He [King Labs VP Lars Jörnow] asked us to clone the game very quickly, and even wanted to beat the release of the original game,” EpicShadow’s Matt Porter wrote in an email to Cox.
King, however, denied the allegation in a statement emailed to Re/code and other publications.
“King does not clone other peoples’ games,” a company spokesperson said in the email. “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 [sic] years ago — is being taken down,” the statement concluded.
In other words: We didn’t do anything wrong, but just in case, it’s EpicShadow’s fault!
Cloning has murky history in the gaming industry, with many critics over the years pointing out the similarities between games like King’s Candy Crush Saga and PopCap’s Bejeweled, or Rovio’s Angry Birds and Armor Games’ Crush the Castle. An article on USGamer today walked through some of King’s internally developed titles, comparing them to older games with which they share some (or a lot) of DNA.
And for the most part, cloning is one of the accepted — and sometimes sharply satirized — risks of game development. But King is drawing special ire from developers like Cox here because this week it received a trademark on the word “candy” and began contacting developers of other games with “candy” in the title, supposedly for infringing Candy Crush Saga’s IP.