I mentioned not too long ago the five things indie developers need to take a closer look at when it comes to creating their next mobile game. This time, I’m going to take a look at one specific issue I raised within that article that’s just gaining some extra momentum in the news of late, thanks partly to the words of one Jonathan Blow.
If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it should. Jonathan’s 2008 hit Braid placed him on a rather high and worthy pedestal upon its release, along with his appearance in the successful film Indie Game: The Movie. Never one to pass away the chance to speak his mind, Blow has now criticised the indie industry for simply copying other ideas in a recent interview on Gamasutra, in a very similar way to the AAA console/PC race.
“Some indie developers innovate, but strictly speaking by quantity, most indie developers are just copying other peoples’ games with minor changes, just like mainstream developers do,” says Blow, “Look at all those iPhone games! The difference is just that you notice the indie games that are innovative because they make bigger splashes than the copies.”
It’s a very valid point, something I hinted on myself previously. The ‘cashing in’ phase is becoming an increasingly worrying trend, one that sees at least a handful of new games released each week on mobile platforms that mimic or outright steal ideas from other more successful releases, in order to catch the attention of the growing user base.
Cloning has been around for as long as games have existed. No doubt you’ve played some kind of weird hybrid of Pac-Man or Space Invaders that feels like the real thing but looks or sounds just that little bit different. But the problem here is the excessive use of cloning that’s trying to cash in on a younger audience or parents trying to keep said kids happy over a long car ride. It’s exploitation in it’s purest form and, sadly, it will only get worse before it gets better.
But outside of re-using game mechanics or visual ideas, for me what’s worse are developers who specifically name their title very similarly to the big hits. Names and brands are important, they always have been, but the trend lately has more to do with search results than trying to stick out from the crowd. Tell you what, go ahead and search for Angry on the app store for a moment. Go on, I’ll wait…
See the results? Yes, Angry Birds takes top billing and rightly so, but take a closer look at some of the apps that appear within that result. Angry Gran, Angry World War 2, Angry Hippo, even Angry Fruit! I’ll bet you whatever you have in your wallet that most of those games are either forgetful or just plain poorly developed (though there will always be an exception to that rule, of course).
Now search for Jetpack. Again, a similar set of results occur with Jetpack Joyride the first result and then followed by a number of similarly titled games.
If you’re a talented developer looking to get your name out there, I implore you to use your wits instead of cloning your easy way to profit. Oh, and for God’s sake, don’t go turbo.