Of Course We Copied It, Says Zynga Inc (ZNGA) VP

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I know I’ve seen this game somewhere before. Was it in Texas? Las Vegas? Yahoo? A smoke-filled room in the back of the greatest bar ever in Guatemala? These are not questions one asks when playing Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA)’s Texas Hold Em’. However, for a number of Zynga games, you can’t help but say….this is a blatent, brazen fabrication of others’ work. And for a number of the smaller companies that Zynga has cloned…well, their legal budget just can’t compete on an even playing field.

Of Course We Copied It, Says Zynga Inc (ZNGA) VP

Here are just a few of the clear rip-offs that have led to lawsuits and/or settlements for them:

  • EA’s Sim Social became…..The Ville
  • Nimblebit’s Tiny Tower became…..Dream Heights
  • Slashkey’s Farm Town became……Farmville
  • David Maestri’s Mob Wars became…..Mafia Wars

The list just goes on. Check out Forbes’ photo retrospective of more here.

Anyone who has spent time with Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA)’s offerings can’t honestly claim that Zynga isn’t guilty in this respect. Imagine my shock when I read this from a Zynga VP; granted, one whose company was bought by Zynga for $200 million.

“Zynga is often accused of copying games, which is mostly true,” Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) VP Dan Porter said Wednesday night at a panel discussion in New York hosted by menswear startup Frank & Oak.

He then added, “what Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) is really good at is managing a game as a live service.” That’s a ballsy statement. It’s almost as though Mr. Porter is saying because you don’t have our resources, you don’t deserve your creation. It’s not quite good enough.

Mr. Porter makes some valid points. Zynga Inc (NASDAQ:ZNGA) is able to add to games they’ve essentially not created by using feedback and analytics to both tweak what exists, and add new material in order to enjoy a steady stream of returning customers and a growing customer base. Unfortunately, for the smaller game developer or small firm, Zynga is able to change just enough to avoid claims of copyright infringement. It costs them far less, apparently, to put their team on your work, your blood, sweat, tears, time and money than to buy you out properly.

I find it a touch ironic that this new societal belief that bullying is horrible doesn’t carry over to the likely target of bullying,… (at least when I grew up) computer geeks. I also have a hard time believing that Bill Gates never lost his lunch money or was never forcefully put into a locker.

Porter also pointed out that social media like Twitter are essentially casual games. “Twitter is ultimately like a huge game,” he said. “All of [Twitter] is a game that you don’t think is a game, but it is. It sucks to tweet something and not get it retweeted.”

I guess we have Zytter to look forward to as well.

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