Tiny Tower Devs Suggest Zynga Really, Really Loves Tiny Tower

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Posted by patrickklepek (2212 posts) -

Social games king Zynga has been accused of not-so-subetly borrowing from other games in the past, but no developer made its argument as succinctly as Tiny Tower developers NimbleBit has.

Nimblebit has passed around an image comparing Tiny Tower and an upcoming iPhone game from Zynga called Dream Heights, alleging that NimbleBit “wanted to thank all you guys [Zynga] for being such big fans of our iPhone game of the year, Tiny Tower!”

Apple named Tiny Tower as its iPhone game of the year in December.

The image from NimbleBit has a humorous tone, but the three-man company isn’t shying away from accusing Zynga of taking a little more than its fair share of inspiration from Tiny Tower.

I’ve contacted NimbleBit and Zynga, but have yet to hear back from either company.

The move from Nimblebit has come under some scrutiny for Tiny Tower’s own inspiration from Sim Tower, which was released by Maxis back in 1994. Sim Tower has since been ported to iOS, as well, but under the name Yoot Tower, playing on the name of the game’s creator, Yoot Saito.

In an interesting twist, NimbleBit designer Ian Marsh pointed out that Zynga once tried to acquire NimbleBit.

Cloning and iteration is common problem in mobile and social games. Super Crate Box creator Vlambeer famously raised a stink over its Radical Fishing being cloned, and will be exploring the issue at the Game Developers Conference with a panel called “Clones: Advancing the Discussion.”

#1 Posted by patrickklepek (2212 posts) -

Social games king Zynga has been accused of not-so-subetly borrowing from other games in the past, but no developer made its argument as succinctly as Tiny Tower developers NimbleBit has.

Nimblebit has passed around an image comparing Tiny Tower and an upcoming iPhone game from Zynga called Dream Heights, alleging that NimbleBit “wanted to thank all you guys [Zynga] for being such big fans of our iPhone game of the year, Tiny Tower!”

Apple named Tiny Tower as its iPhone game of the year in December.

The image from NimbleBit has a humorous tone, but the three-man company isn’t shying away from accusing Zynga of taking a little more than its fair share of inspiration from Tiny Tower.

I’ve contacted NimbleBit and Zynga, but have yet to hear back from either company.

The move from Nimblebit has come under some scrutiny for Tiny Tower’s own inspiration from Sim Tower, which was released by Maxis back in 1994. Sim Tower has since been ported to iOS, as well, but under the name Yoot Tower, playing on the name of the game’s creator, Yoot Saito.

In an interesting twist, NimbleBit designer Ian Marsh pointed out that Zynga once tried to acquire NimbleBit.

Cloning and iteration is common problem in mobile and social games. Super Crate Box creator Vlambeer famously raised a stink over its Radical Fishing being cloned, and will be exploring the issue at the Game Developers Conference with a panel called “Clones: Advancing the Discussion.”

#2 Posted by TheGorilla (229 posts) -

Zynga makes it hard to not hate them.

#3 Posted by ABritishNerd (318 posts) -
@TheGorilla

Zynga makes it hard to not hate them.

True that.
#4 Posted by Mesoian (1574 posts) -

The husband of a common relation of mine just started working for Zynga after a rather bad falling out from another independent game studio. Interesting to get his opinion on all this.

#5 Posted by Village_Guy (2662 posts) -

Wasn't there some former Zynga employees that said that they were pretty much told to look at other games that they could make cheap rip-offs of, some time ago?

And... This seems like it might be another one.

#6 Posted by superscott597 (109 posts) -

I saw this yesterday. SO funny. Really sucks that devs are copying each other so hard. Stupid Zynga.

#7 Posted by Slayeric (266 posts) -

You know, I WANT to like Zynga most of the time. But damn do they make it hard.

#8 Posted by HotSauceMagik (264 posts) -

SimTower?

Pot meets kettle.

#9 Posted by Maitimo (205 posts) -

It's pretty disgusting how frequently this seems to happen, although most people are quick to excuse it because it's usually Gameloft aping games that aren't on mobile devices (which arbitrarily makes it okay).

When the best you can get out of a PR-obsessed behemoth like Capcom is a half-assed apology, what hope is there for any contrition from Zynga?

#10 Posted by stinky (1553 posts) -

this is what makes video games good, people copying off each other.

copying, iterating and raising the bar.

sim tower was first as far as i can tell.

#11 Posted by nukesniper (1312 posts) -

Zynga makes this real bad and obvious. When Tiny Wings never came to Android, I wasn't bothered by Dragon, Fly! because it was the same game, but it was free. Now there is an ad-free paid version of it and I think it is really crazy that people can get away with things like this in the mobile market.

Tiny Tower is awesome though, and it looks better than Zynga's dumb game.

#12 Posted by Excast (1039 posts) -

Maybe the people in the video game industry who are upset about piracy and theft of intellectual property should take a look at this instead.

#13 Posted by Daveyo520 (6995 posts) -

And Tiny Tower is a lot like Sim Tower.

Online
#14 Posted by NickLott (793 posts) -

I was a big fan of SimTower and was initially dismissive of Tiny Tower because it looked like a rip off but upon playing I saw that while there was certainly inspiration from Sim Tower, Tiny Tower is a much different game. Zynga's game on the other hand, is shameless.

#15 Posted by Sword5 (150 posts) -

Didn't capcom rip off a bunch of games when they started their mobile group?

#16 Posted by spiceninja (3070 posts) -

This is just straight the hell up plagiarism.

#17 Posted by 234r2we232 (3181 posts) -

I'm going to tweet Zynga about this. Will post their reply if it comes.

Seriously, spent a good few seconds trying to figure out what was wrong with this Alex article. Not so disappointed anymore :)

#18 Posted by Eojay (183 posts) -

It's worth noting Zynga originally tried to buy Nimblebit before all this.

#19 Posted by LordCmdrStryker (345 posts) -

@Excast said:

Maybe the people in the video game industry who are upset about piracy and theft of intellectual property should take a look at this instead.

QFT.

#20 Posted by Bucketdeth (8048 posts) -
#21 Posted by Deathpooky (1443 posts) -

Iteration, copying, and using ideas from other games are one thing and are defensible, if not a good thing. This is outright thievery. It's a palette swap of the game. This isn't just taking ideas or inspiration, it's entirely recreating the game in a non-copyright infringing way.

I don't know how anyone could be defending this as normal industry practice. There's a line and it's obviously crossed here.

#22 Edited by Sergio (2245 posts) -

I have no doubt that Zynga ripped off Nimblebit here. However, if I were to make a dumbed-down, rip-off of SimTower with micro transactions, without ever having looked at Tiny Tower, it would probably end up being very similar. So while I do hate Zynga, I can't really sympathize with Nimblebit. Perhaps if they actually came up with a new idea, instead of "adapting" someone else's game to iOS like Gameloft.

#23 Posted by DonutFever (3536 posts) -
@Bucketdeth said:
Teehee.
#24 Posted by Sergio (2245 posts) -

@Bucketdeth: Bravo!

I like how the first comparison that Nimblebit makes can also be easily compared to both of the images for Yoot Tower and Sim Tower that links to.

#25 Posted by Shuborno (938 posts) -

I'm not sure why Zynga would have any defense here.

Zynga tried to buy Nimblebit. Nimblebit didn't go for it. Zynga just implemented Nimblebit's exact game themselves.

There's no iteration here. Just new art assets. It would be equivalent to someone pasting new models and textures on the same level/weapon/enemy design of a shooter. That's barely a mod, let alone a new product.

I don't think NimbleBit needs to worry though because it looks like Zynga's game has a terrible art style and NimbleBit's game is quirky and charming and is featured on the App Store by Apple.

#26 Posted by dvorak (1497 posts) -

This is what happens when a company is too small to have an actual PR department and decide that internet is a good replacement for that.

#27 Posted by WJist (308 posts) -

Isn't this the same argument about books, that all literature ever created and will be created owes its existence to, like, three books with actually original ideas? Video games have gotten to that same iterative point where we're all playing games with mechanics originally introduced years ago (doesn't make Zynga's rip-off any less blatant).

Looking forward to the discussion at GDC, though. I'd like to be a fly on the wall at that panel.

#28 Edited by iPliskin (117 posts) -

Zynga, Nimblebit and Gameloft can lick my peehole, they all suck.

#29 Posted by JerK (8 posts) -

@DonutFever said:

@Bucketdeth said:
Teehee.

Haha... moral high ground lost.

#30 Posted by Binarynova (150 posts) -

Yeah but, is Zynga's game as boring as Tiny Tower? Does the tower nearly build itself with minimal input, direction, or opinion from the player?

I tried Tiny Tower for a while. It falls prey to the same problem as a majority of free-to-play iPhone games (and Facebook games). It's not built to be a fun, lasting, engaging video game. It's a shiny Skinner Box built to slowly trickle money out of your bank account. At least some other skinner box games give you something to do now and then other than play bellhop.

Somehow I doubt Zynga's offering is any better.

#31 Posted by drowsap (683 posts) -

@JerK said:

@DonutFever said:

@Bucketdeth said:
Teehee.

Haha... moral high ground lost.

Wow thats good to know I still hate Zygna but your point is also true

#32 Posted by granderojo (1792 posts) -

Imitation leads to innovation. Nimblebit isn't going to lose any customers because consumers now have more variety in the marketplace for this sort of game. In any industry when the cost of development and imitation is so low strict copyright enforcement isn't necessary because the only reason to have state sanctioned monopolies over intellectual ideas(which a copyright is to begin with) is when it creates the best outcome for consumers. Until somebody explains to me how having an imitation of Tiny Tower is a bad thing for consumers I'll continue not giving a fuck about this. I have no patience for rent seekers, especially when they are imitating to begin with pretty heavily.

#33 Posted by Ten19 (18 posts) -

I'm sure no one, including the developers, will claim Tiny Tower is a completely original work. However, anyone comparing Tiny Tower to SimTower or Corporation Inc in the same manner one would compare Tiny Tower to the Zynga game is completely doing it wrong. The Zynga game is basically a copy+paste of Tiny Tower, whereas the SimTower etc merely share elements.

Please don't derail the important issue here by mudding the waters with misinformation.

#34 Posted by wewantsthering (1594 posts) -

@HotSauceMagik said:

SimTower?

Pot meets kettle.

Pot meet kettle. Kettle meet pot. Haha. I think SimTower is a dumb thing to mention in relation to Tiny Tower because it was so long ago, it was only vaguely inspired by it, and developed for a completely different platform.

#35 Posted by SSully (4319 posts) -

Well if this did anything for Tiny Tower is give them a shit ton of free marketing. I just downloaded the title myself just to see what its about.

#36 Posted by Krixok (85 posts) -

@drowsap said:

@JerK said:

@DonutFever said:

@Bucketdeth said:
Teehee.

Haha... moral high ground lost.

Wow thats good to know I still hate Zygna but your point is also true

This.

#37 Posted by iPliskin (117 posts) -

One thing is clear, both Zynga and Nimblebit copied stuff from Limbo of the Lost. Scumbags!.

#38 Posted by PerfidiousSinn (770 posts) -

I sure do love seeing the same picture five times on the same page of the comment section.

#39 Posted by Damolition (120 posts) -

@stinky said:

this is what makes video games good, people copying off each other.

copying, iterating and raising the bar.

sim tower was first as far as i can tell.

Well, they have 1/3 of that down to a science.

#40 Posted by Ydross (6 posts) -

@thabigred: Explain to me how copy-pasting a game will lead to innovation?

And to everyone mentioning Sim Tower. Using ideas from a game is totally different from blatantly making the exact same game as someone else.

#41 Posted by paulunga (2125 posts) -

Yeah, no, Sim Tower and Tiny Tower play very differently. Dream Heights is literally Tiny Tower with different graphics and sound. But hey, there's lots of scumbag developers on the smartphone app markets, this isn't a surprise at all.

#42 Posted by RadleyDuder (100 posts) -

@Damolition said:

@stinky said:

this is what makes video games good, people copying off each other.

copying, iterating and raising the bar.

sim tower was first as far as i can tell.

Well, they have 1/3 of that down to a science.

yeah, i've yet to see evidence of the other two.

#43 Posted by BitterAlmond (400 posts) -

This is why I've stayed clear of mobile gaming. That and the small screens and frustrating controls.

#44 Posted by ryguy777 (15 posts) -

At the end of the day people will play what they feel is the better of these two games. It seems to me that if NimbleBit has made a solid game then they shouldn't need to worry about some hot turd Zynga drops out of its smelly ass taking their customers away. The best way to secure their position is to make the better product.

But seriously, microtransactions can go eat a shit as far as i'm concerned. I waste alot of money on dumb shit but I gotta draw the line somewhere.

#45 Posted by Sayishere (1840 posts) -

i just got into tiny tower, FUCKIng addictive.

#46 Posted by tourgen (4542 posts) -

@stinky said:

this is what makes video games good, people copying off each other.

copying, iterating and raising the bar.

sim tower was first as far as i can tell.

yes, in fact this is quite natural and good. This is how ideas naturally develop and mature, leading to even better ideas.

#47 Posted by happymeowmeow (214 posts) -

Zynga is just so...easy to hate.

Even it seems like everyone is taking a swipe at them lately. Particularly enjoyed the "Zynga Abyss" article from Distance Quarterly posted in the Atlantic that was linked in Kotaku yesterday: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/01/the-zynga-abyss/251920/ (basically an article about the whole Skinner Box phenomenon).

#48 Posted by Bwast (1342 posts) -

@tourgen said:

@stinky said:

this is what makes video games good, people copying off each other.

copying, iterating and raising the bar.

sim tower was first as far as i can tell.

yes, in fact this is quite natural and good. This is how ideas naturally develop and mature, leading to even better ideas.

The evolution of video games. I'm sure that's the reason Zynga made this game.

#49 Edited by Inf225 (503 posts) -

This is getting pretty stupid.

#50 Posted by Beforet (2932 posts) -

Ah, nice, passive aggression. Because we're so mature right?

If they think Zynga is plagiarizing them, they should file a lawsuit and be direct in drumming up attention.

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