It sometimes feels like there are only a handful of mobile games. In reality there are actually thousands but how many of them are clones of – or draw a lot of inspiration from – another game.
There are mobile games that provide a ton of innovation, like Clash of Clans, Candy Crush, Clash Royale, Monument Valley, Infinity Blade, Summoner’s War, and The Room.
But so many more simply steal the gameplay wholesale from the true innovators – their aim to simply hang on to the coat tails of more creative developers to make a quick buck.
Clones are an issue on console too, though nowhere near as much as on mobile
While this does happen on console, it’s much less prevalent due to the insanely high costs of making a AAA video game. A game has to be an enormous success in the first place to warrant getting a few clones. Examples include PUBG, Dark Souls, and Assassin’s Creed.
As such, it’s a much bigger problem on mobile. Think of how many Clash Royale clones have launched in the past two years? How many games like Hearthstone have you spotted cropping up on Google Play? Do we really need any more gacha RPGs like Summoner’s War?
There’s no doubt that mobile has a serious clone problem and it really hurts the platform. We’d even go so far as to argue that it’s one of the biggest reasons mobile has such a bad reputation among core console gamers.
Well, that and some absolutely dire freemium business models but we’ll save the dissection of that for another day.
But how do we tackle the issue?
The problem is, it’s not really clear how you can tackle the issue. Anyone can make a mobile game these days and there doesn’t seem to be much of a barrier to entry. Neither Google nor Apple discourage clones from infesting their respective app stores.
But who does the buck lie with? Is it up to Apple or Google to police this, preventing developers from releasing straight up clones? Or doing a better job of hiding them in the App Stores?
Or is it up to us? Should we make more of an active effort to avoid the clones? Should we shout more about the games that kicked off these new genres in the first place?
You see, this isn’t just an issue that affects mobile’s reputation, and that isn’t really the biggest issue either. It’s those few developers that create something truly special only for it to then get lost in a crowd of copycats.
Huge developers like Supercell won’t see it as much of an issue, but it hurts smaller developers like Sirvo
It isn’t as much of a problem for the likes of Supercell, King, or ustwo, who are all such big games in the world of mobile by now that their names carry weight. But what about the smaller developers like Sirvo, the creator of Threes! Or Ben Esposito, the mind behind iOS-exclusive Donut County?
Both of these games were infamously cloned by experts like Voodoo and Ketchapp – developers whose entire business models involve cloning games for a quick profit.
And it’s a model that really works. You only have to check out the App Store or Google Play charts occasionally to figure that out, with games by both developers regularly taking the top spots.
Ultimately, we don’t know what the answer is but it’s a problem that absolutely needs a solution. Clones hurt developers, mobile’s reputation as a respectable gaming platform, and players too. After all, they’re often robbed of the true brilliant experience when they accidentally fall foul of a nasty clone.