A few weeks back I received an email (as I often do) from a developer asking me to check out their game. In this case, the developer in question was Open Name Ltd, and the game was Bog Racer.
I gave it a whirl, and while it was cute and challenging, I didn’t really think it was enough to warrant coverage on Gamezebo. I moved on and never expected to think about Bog Racer again.
But then I did.
Last Thursday, Dong Nguyen released Swing Copters to the App Store. The first game from his dotGEARS studio since the release of Flappy Bird, it was guaranteed to be a chart-topping hit. Nguyen could have released a shoe, called it a game, and it would make a million dollars. “What will Dong do next?” was such a hotly debated question that the answer itself was going to be profitable regardless of substance.
But after playing it, another question sprung to mind: Why does this remind me so much of Bog Racer?
It would seem I wasn’t alone in this thought. The developers at Open Name Ltd. have emailed me again, this time to accuse Nguyen of cloning their game.
“Developing a high-quality, well-balanced game took us over four months,” Open Name’s Victoria Arnold told Gamezebo. “We invested the last of our money into a modest advertising campaign to promote Bog Racer. And the result of our campaign is … the appearance clone from Dong Nguyen. His ‘new’ game Swing Copters uses Bog Racer‘s game mechanics.”
But does it? The games are similar, no doubt, but the one complaint people have had about Swing Copters (beyond it’s initially insane difficulty) is that it’s essentially just Flappy Bird turned on its side.
Both Bog Racer and Swing Copters share the “tap to alternate directions” mechanic as the core of their gameplay, but is that really enough to call Swing Copters a clone? Is it possible Nguyen and Open Name came up with this mechanic independent of each other?
There’s really no way to say for sure, but my gut says yes. Here’s why:
- Nguyen told Rolling Stone back in March about a number of different prototypes. He has original games in the hopper, so I don’t know what motive he’d have to steal Open Name Ltd’s work. If he was going to steal anybody’s, I’d think it would be his own. Flappy Bird 2 would clean up.
- There was less than a month between Bog Racer’s release (July 24) and Swing Copters (Aug 21). That doesn’t feel like a lot of time to invest in your follow-up to Flappy Bird – even if, as Open Name claims, you are stealing the gameplay mechanics.
- Bog Racer has very low visibility. According to App Annie, it’s yet to break into even the top 500 racing games on the US App Store. The chances of Nguyen coming across this seem incredibly low.
- Having arguably been the most plagiarized mobile game developer to date (I’d think there are even more Flappy Bird clones than 2048 games), wouldn’t Nguyen be the last person to clone somebody else’s game? Especially with how high profile this release is?
- One of the prototypes Nguyen told Rolling Stone about was called “Kitty Jetpack.” Swing Copters doesn’t have a kitty or a jetpack, but it’s not hard to see how this might have evolved from that.
Bog Racer is cute, it’s similar, and it’s well worth a download. Heck – I think I might even like it better than Swing Copters. But I don’t think it’s the inspiration for Swing Copters. Given the “Flappy Bird on it’s side” gameplay, this seems more likely a case of parallel thinking than thievery.
Bog Racer’s developers intend to request that Swing Copters be removed from the App Store.