The mobile space has a problem. Every time a great idea comes along, there is always someone waiting to tear it down to its core elements and hastily reassemble them for a quick buck. It happened with Angry Birds. We saw it with Flappy Bird (which is, itself, not an original concept). Now its happening with Threes.

A number of Threes clones have appeared in the app stores since the title was released in February. In particular, Threes developer Asher Vollmer (who created the title along with Greg Wohlwend) identifies two games, 1024 and 2048, as offenders. These two games make slight tweaks to the formula, but are clearly derivative with their art styles and swipe-to-match mechanics.

“It’s all in good fun, at least we’d like to think so, but try as our logical brains might, we still got the same 'cloning feeling,'” Voller writes. “Especially when people called Threes, a game we pored over for nearly a year and a half, a clone of 2048. And obviously, Threes is the reason 2048 exists."

Voller is sure that Threes (our review) is a better game, citing 2048’s ease and routine way in which the game can be conquered with a single strategy. “When an automated script that alternates pressing up and right and left every hundreth time can beat the game, then well, that's broken,” he writes.

There is an inevitability of cloning and ripoff games in the current market, Voller explains. “The branching of all these ideas can happen so fast nowadays that it seems tiny games like Threes are destined to be lost in the underbrush of copycats, me-toos and iterators,” he says. “This fast, speed-up of technological and creative advances is the lay of the land here.”

In order to help document the 14 months it took to develop Threes, the team has posted over 500 emails comprising a self-reported 45,000 words. It’s worth reading through some to see how the title evolved.

On Twitter, Voller points out a Los Angeles Times article about 2048, in which the author focuses on development over a single weekend. That article goes so far as to suggest that 2048 sparked the Threes copycats (without mentioning the latter until an update).

“It’s complicated and hard to express these conflicting feelings but hopefully this is a start,” Voller says. “We do believe imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but ideally the imitation happens after we’ve had time to descend slowly from the peak -- not the moment we plant the flag.”

[Source: Threes, @AsherV]


Our Take
Cloning is a rampant problem that has become a hot topic, especially in the wake of King’s Pac-Avoid scandal and allegations that the studio stole Candy Crush Saga. Apple and Google have been slow to crack down on clones and ripoffs, leading to clutter and situations just like this.