Words With Friends, Scramble With Friends
Hanging With Friends
) creations that have spent a fair share of time atop
) App Stores' bestsellers list. People might better recognize these
games as Scrabble, Boggle -- both
) products -- and hangman.
Hangman may not belong to anyone in particular, but Zynga's rocket
to success, and eventually an IPO, founded itself largely on other
people's work. Capitalizing on the shortened attention span of the
mobile generation, Zynga allowed people to play their version of
Scrabble and Boggle whenever they found themselves with a free
minute or two.
As a fan of word games, and someone who was on the slow boat in
buying a smartphone, it blew my mind as I watched people, who
likely would've looked at me like I had three heads if I asked them
to play Scrabble, obsessively play, argue, and brag about
Words With Friends
Mafia Wars, Restaurant City,
are just three of the company's other games that have been accused
of being mere copies of already successful games.
While other game developers may hate Zynga, consumers have made it
the darling of the reproduction market. Its stock may be struggling
now, but for it to go public when a huge number of its products
were retooled versions of previously created games proved how
valuable this strategy could be.
Consumers will always see potential for improvement when it comes
to games. If a company has the means to accurately recreate said
game and then provide the desired improvements, it's no surprise
that consumers would jump at the opportunity to acquire the
Zynga may be the go-to example, but reproduction is rampant when it
comes to apps.
Red Velvet Art's A Beautiful Mess currently holds the second
position on Apple's list of top paid apps. Igor Kalicinski's
is sixth. The first is a revamped version of Instagram
which was acquired by
), and the second mimics
a game by Mojang that allows users to explore an open world and
build structures using square blocks.
A Beautiful Mess features alternative ways to spice up photos from
Instagram, and in itself is not an exact rip-off of the
photo-editing app that took the world by storm. Its icon, however,
features the same two-toned square with a camera lens at the center
and a set of colored stripes.
Homage, or otherwise, this logo, and many others like it, signal a
time when the fact that one product is largely based on another
isn't a dirty secret for a business, but an openly embraced
Consumers are more than aware of the similarity between products,
and while some people implore others to consider what's really
going on, other users acknowledge the reproduction and embrace it.
Here's what one user who gave
a five-star review on iTunes had to say:
sells for $3.99, while
Minecraft - Pocket Edition,
the actual mobile iteration of
, sells for $6.99.
currently stands fourth in the top 10 paid apps category, just two
spots above its very successful doppleganger.
A Sign of Things to Come in Other Markets?
The counterfeit goods market has become a multi-billion-dollar
industry, with illegal copyright infringement providing the key to
its growth. The app market, however, suggests that the very concept
of infringement could become a thing of the past, and that it may
one day be commercially acceptable to work off a company's
established template, implementing only a few improvements and
Such a shift -- if extended across markets -- could be truly
Keeps Apps Market Volatile
This new norm for apps could also be the driving force behind the
transitivity of the app marketplace. Certain apps will dominate for
extended periods of time, but it seems that within months there
will always be a changing of the guard.
The instability of the app market might explain Zynga's struggles
as a public company. Apps, especially games, largely lack
durability because there will always be a more entertaining or
effective app, even if it looks a lot like one that came before it.
While constant swings in the App Store have come to be expected,
these brief bouts of huge success followed by a steady decline
would wreak havoc in the public space. Small companies with
financial backing could, in theory, overtake market share in a
sector by replicating an already successful company's product, only
to have the same thing done to them a few years down the road.
For now, companies can still thrive in the presence of knock-offs
and clones, but this trend in gaming should serve as a red