Are Mobile Game Heavyweights Stealing from Smaller Dev Shops?

Mobile game giants Voodoo and Ketchapp are having no trouble generating ideas for new games. And now we know why.

As it turns out, Voodoo fields proposals from developers on what gaming ideas to pursue and ultimately execute. And because they are huge and well-funded, they can execute faster than just about anyone, including those who developed the idea to begin with. In a recent story by Jessica Conditt that appeared on Engaget, the author interviews Ben Esposito, a Los Angeles-based independent mobile game developer who details how VooDoo stole his idea about a game called Donut Country, which is suspiciously similar to, Voodoo’s wildly successful game. Esposito had this “hole in the ground” idea back in 2012 when he began working on the mechanic, and since then Donut County has evolved into a story-driven game celebrating the sights of Los Angeles in a unique cartoon style. After years of development, Esposito is finally ready to launch Donut County on iOS, PC and Mac later this year. It will a reasonably-priced premium title, not free.

Voodoo is a French publishing company founded by Alexandre Yazdi and Laurent Ritter in 2013 with a focus on bringing iOS and Android titles to as many smartphones as possible. This was a time when the App Store was booming, and a few high-profile developers were raking in the dough. Ridiculous Fishing, Year Walk, The Room Two, Impossible Road and Badland to name just a few that came out in 2013. And it looks as though Voodoo has been capitalizing on the energized mobile market evert since with its own titles, including Snake Vs Block,, Flappy Dunk and Rolly Vortex. In May, Goldman Sachs invested $200 million in the publisher.

“There’s clearly a market, and Voodoo has found it. They’re starting to dominate it, and that’s why people are investing in them.”

Ketchapp made a name for itself in 2014 with the release of 2048, a free game that borrowed heavily from Asher Vollmer’s Threes, which cost $2 at launch. Ketchapp is also the publisher of Skyward, a game that looks suspiciously like Monument Valley and Run Bird Run, which borrows from the Flappy Bird idea. Ketchapp is owned by Ubisoft.

The idea of stealing other’s intellectual property might not sound all that bad on the surface, but when you dig in on the implications you might feel differently. Innovation is at the heart of game development, and if innovators can get the credit and rewards for their hard work, then this innovation will get stifled and the end user will suffer.