Indie Developer Claims King.com Stole His Game In 2009
An indie developer named Matthew Cox claims that King.com cloned his Flash game Scamperghost after negotiations between the two broke off. After talks ended and Cox and his partner Nick Bray (as development studio Stolen Goose) signed with MaxGames, King.com allegedly contracted another developer to clone the title.
Cox provides evidence on his personal website (with more in-depth information sent to Game Informer), including correspondence with King.com vice president of mobile games Lars Jörnow and the developer that made Pac-Avoid, the similar game.
Cox tells Game Informer that a friend tipped him and his partner that King was trying to beat Scamperghost to market. “We frantically got our game out so we could beat King,” Cox says. Following the release, Stolen Goose reached out to King.com.
“Scamper Ghost is a great game,” Jörnow says in an email to Cox. “We're sorry our deal didn't turn out with you guys - you made out with more money and we were left without an avoider game that we had already planned on. We needed an avoider game and sponsored a similar game.”
Cox decided to track down developer Epic Shadow Entertainment, who created Pac-Avoid for King.com. “We did NOT make the game knowing he would want, it then show him,” says Matt Porter, who was one of two developers who created Pac-Avoid told Cox in an email dated June 21, 2010. “He came to us.”
We reached out to Porter to confirm the story. He tells us that Jörnow, with whom he had worked prior to the Pac-Avoid job, reached out with the commission. Porter says that Jörnow paid Epic Shadow to clone Scamperghost. “We created Pac-Avoid in about a week,” he tells us.
Porter provided proof that Epic Shadow created the game. A hidden screen accessible in Pac-Avoid reveals Einstein quotes. The first letter of each spells out "EPIC SHADOW."
Click to enlarge.
Cox tells us that the current news about King.com’s trademark of the word “candy” motivated him to come forward with his story. “This came up again when [King.com] started with the trademark stuff,” Cox says. “This is a real double standard. They supposedly care so much about their own intellectual property, but they had no problem doing a pretty blatant clone of our game.”
We’ve reached out to King.com for comment. We’ll update should we receive a response.
Despite legal footing, King.com’s moral position in its recent trademark matters is shaky. The company has drawn the ire of developers and fans, especially with news of opposition to The Banner Saga’s trademark over the word “saga.” Mobile game cloning happens quite a lot, but it’s rare that there are confessions to the act. King.com’s alleged theft might have gone unnoticed if not for an overreach and manipulation of trademark law that favors the party with the larger bankroll.