Earlier today we brought exciting news from the Great White North – Zynga had released two brand new games on the Canadian App Store, and one of them seemed to be in the same vein as Tiny Tower. Since that time I’ve had a chance to go hands on with Dream Heights, and it turns out that it’s less “the same vein” and more “blatant plagiarism.”
Please don’t get me wrong – I’m the last guy to cry foul when one social developer borrows from another. In fact, there have been a small mountain of Tiny Tower-inspired games over the last year that I take zero umbrage with. Tower Town, Pixel Mall – games like this are all well and good, and while they share a common influence, they’re unique enough on their own to not be called rip-offs.
Dream Heights isn’t like that.
Shot for shot, mechanic for mechanic, Dream Heights is exactly the same as Tiny Tower. Trade in the cute 8-bit design for a more generic flavor, drop a couple of well-polished touches, and you have a blatant Xerox copy of Nimblebit’s award-winning tower simulation game. And believe me, Nimblebit has noticed.
The team has put together a shot for shot comparison of the two games, along with a special message for Zynga, that was posted on the Twitter of Nimblebit developer Ian Marsh only moments ago;
“Dear Zynga (all 2,789 of you!),
We noticed you are about to launch a new iPhone game called Dream Heights! Congratulations! We wanted to thank all you guys for being such big fans of our iPhone game of the year Tiny Tower! Good luck with your game, we are looking forward to inspiring you with our future games!
Sincerely (all 3 of us),Nimblebit”
Like all social developers, Zynga’s been known to copy a formula or two (or twenty) in their time. But like the best social developers, they usually try to improve on whatever they borrow in some noticeable way. It’s the “incremental innovations” that Nathan McCoy spoke of (developer of Wavespark, the inspiration for Tiny Wings) that define the difference between plagiarism and inspiration. So for Zynga to release something with zero innovation is honestly something of a shock.
Will Zynga comment publically? Will Nimblebit’s fans go ape@#$%? Is it possible that Zynga might kill this one instead of releasing it worldwide in an attempt to stave off the bad press? It’s still too early in this saga to have any idea of what’s coming next, but whatever it is, it’s far from over.