It never ceases to amaze me what makes it to the top of the App Store. Take Make It Rain: For Love of Money for instance. A variation on the Cookie Clicker concept with a tongue-in-cheek morality lesson, its simple gameplay and Wolf of Wall Street message provided us with a surprising amount of enjoyment when it was #1 earlier this month. It’s raked in big bucks for its developers, too.

Like any App Store success, clones were inevitable. This past week Make It Rain had to contend with one such release. But this one’s fishy.

For one thing, it has a title that could easily mislead gamers into believing this is another game in the same series. Make It Rain: Vegas Style has quickly shot up the free games charts, and as of this writing has even passed the game that seems to have inspired it.

For another, it’s from a highly reputable company: Big Fish Games.

 

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The confusion starts right on your iPhone’s home screen

 

Clones aren’t new to the App Store. Neither are blatantly misleading ones. But blatantly misleading clones from industry leading publishers? I feel like we can safely say this is a first.

In fact it was so surprising that I reached out to Space Inch, the developers of the original Make it Rain, to see if they had entered into a publishing deal with Big Fish. They haven’t.

“We have not done that one in conjunction with Big Fish and we think it crosses the line,” Joshua Segall, co-founder of Space Inch told us. “Same naming convention, same coloring of menus, same numerical values, same game mechanics. The fact that you wondered whether we did it in conjunction with them shows the degree to which it’s confusing.”

A quick check of both apps verifies Segall’s claims, and going even further, the iTunes description for Vegas Style seems to make a veiled reference to Space Inch’s game by pointing out its one noticeable difference: “Tired of swiping? Watch the chips fly when you speed tap. No more swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe, swipe.”

 

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Vegas Style is about tapping chips, while For Love of Money is about peeling off bills

 

We contacted Big Fish Games to learn their side of the story, and they were fairly quick to chalk this up to coincidence.

“‘Make It Rain’ is a common term and there have been dozens of similar games going back all the way to 2010. Space Inch did not invent this genre. The primary reason Big Fish launched this game was to provide a fun experience and to be a complement to our popular casino game, Big Fish Casino. Make it Rain: Vegas Style combines well known casual game mechanics and terms that refer to those mechanics, including a unique casino theme and innovative new features, such as a fully functional “Lady Luck” slot machine that enhances the theme. The main reason the focus is on Space Inch and the Big Fish’s versions of ‘Make it Rain’ vs. the dozens of others, is that Space Inch’s and Big Fish’s versions are popular and have been moving up the free ranking list.”

Big Fish isn’t wrong to point out what makes their release distinct, and yes, there have been dozens of similar ‘Make it Rain’ titles that preceded Space Inch’s. But when compared side-by-side, it’s not hard to see how the two games share some eerily similar gameplay mechanics.

 

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Left: Space Inch’s For Love of Money, Right: Big Fish Games’ Vegas Style

 

What made For Love of Money so unique in the space was its use of ‘investments’ to increase the dollar amount of each swipe, as well as to earn funds for players while they were out of the app. Vegas Style has copied this system part and parcel, replacing the ‘investments’ theme with casino-appropriate purchases like slot machines and “The Greatest Buffet on Earth.” When you compare the two, you’ll see that the similarities run even deeper. The layout of each menu is virtually identical, the price buttons both share a left-pointing arrow shape, and both games share a similar red background. Even the ‘levels’ of investment share a similar look, with numbers displayed inside a white circle with a colored background.

Big Fish Games might want to chalk all of this up to coincidence, but it’s hard to not see this as an attempt to capitalize on Space Inch’s audience with intentionally confusing tactics.

We know that Big Fish has been making a big push into the smartphone space this year, with mobile-exclusive entries in some of their most popular series (see: Fairway Solitaire Blast), but we didn’t expect that push to move into the shadier side of the App Store.

Let’s hope this is a one-off incident and not the start of a new trend for bigger publishers.