Misconception Monday #5 – The Idea Theft Problem

This misconception is all about Developers who think that sharing information about their game is a bad idea.

It stems from a fear that sharing information about how the mechanics of your game work, either with players or just other developers, will lead to someone stealing those concepts and making their own game with your ideas.

The problem is with this misconception is that it’s not completely unfounded. Rarely, it does happen. It’s not a misconception that’s easily solved by saying you never have to worry about it.

The most famous case is probably the Ridiculous Fishing clone, Ninja Fishing, but there are more recent examples too such as the clone of Donut County by Hole.io developer Voodoo Games.

Donut County looks a lot cooler than hole.io anyway..

The main problem for developers here is that game mechanics can’t be copyrighted. This is for very good reasons, but it’s something that can be abused by companies like Voodoo who can create the same mechanics quickly, throw marketing money at it and release it before your game can come to market.

As long as they dont use your assets or name, they’ll be safe legally.

This all sounds very scary, right?

My above examples are horror stories and horrible to see and hear for anyone investing in original ideas and game development.

But it’s also worth pointing out that Ridiculous Fishing actually did incredibly well, and there’s no denying that the widespread coverage of the clone story here increased sales of the game on release.

Not that you should or can rely on the media to cover negative stories like this, but there’s some silver lining that even when this has happened in the past, some of the developers involved have actually come out of it better off thanks to increased coverage and community support.

The most important thing to keep in mind though is how incredibly rare these situations are, even in the mobile space. Comparatively to the number of games announced and released every day, these examples are unfortunate but nearly insignificant.

There aren’t thousands of developers like Voodoo Games, funded by Goldman Sachs and waiting in the sidelines to steal your idea the minute you talk about it.

This was the result AFTER Flappy Bird saw it’s amazing success, not before the game was launched.

Most of the stories of clones we hear about tend to be clones developed after the release and success of a specific title, such as Flappy Bird, not clones of games in development.

Even Ridiculous Fishing was technically “released” as web game Radical Fishing before it was cloned on iOS.

The most important thing is NOT to stop talking

Having your game cloned and released before you can bring it out would be horrible, but if you end up deciding not to speak about or market your game until launch out of fear of it being copied, you’ve hobbled its chances for success so much more than any clone could ever do.

Ridiculous Fishing didn’t do well because Vlambeer stopped speaking about it when they heard about the clone, and it certainly wouldn’t have done Vlambeer any favours if they’d hidden from the world for their future games.

Instead, they went on to develop Nuclear Throne, a game where they were so open about development they literally streamed themselves creating it.

Nuclear Throne. There’s a great talk here about how streaming development worked out for Vlambeer.

In fact, you probably don’t even have to worry about cloning at all if you’re working on a more complex game.

There’s a reason that this stuff happens more in mobile, and that’s the tendency for mobile games to be more mechanically simple, or single focused, and therefore easy for a single idea to be envisioned and developed by others.

Not to mention that games are more than their ideas. I could tell you the idea for Dead Cells, it’s not a hugely uniquely game in that sense. Dead Cells is excellent because of things like it’s control system and how nice it FEELS to play, and it’s much more difficult to clone that sort of thing.

But ultimately, please, keep talking. No clone could damage your game as much as you can by trying to protect an idea or a concept. Players need to hear about your game and get excited, you need to be able to share and receive feedback, and hiding behind a paranoia that your game might get cloned does nobody any favours at all.

That’s all for this Monday, hopefully this was helpful! Follow us on Twitter, join us on Discord or check out our new website for more updates and guides!

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