Voodoo, the french mobile games maker, has won a lengthy court battle against a prominent hyper-casual gaming rival and its publisher after it alleged that the pair had copied key elements of its carpentry game woodturning.
Voodoos clash with istanbul-based publisher rollic games, which was acquired by farmville creator zynga for $168m in august, and developer hero games began in january, when the two released an update to wood shop, a free-to-play game that allows players to whittle objects out of virtual pieces of wood.
The french company contended that new features, including a polishing and painting stage and the use of real-world objects rather than abstract shapes, were characteristic elements taken from woodturning, which centres on a similar premise.
The judgment marks the intensification of competition in the hyper-casual gaming industry a rapidly evolving sector characterised by cheaply produced, quick-to-play games which lead the download charts.
Were super excited at the outcome, said alexander shea, lead of publishing at voodoo. the decision of the court...sets a precedent especially for hyper-casual game copies.
In contrast to the lengthy development time and extensive testing of traditional gaming, hyper-casual games can be made within a matter of weeks. because its out in the public from a very early stage, theres high visibility... and games are easily copied, according to nassim ameli-jouffroy, the companys legal counsel.
Chinese internet group tencent last month took a stake in voodoo, which gave the french company a valuation of $1.4bn and made it the first unicorn in the sector.
Hyper-casual gaming is still maturing, said stephane kurgan, a venture partner at index ventures and former chief operating officer at king digital entertainment, maker of candy crush saga. theres a question whether companies can develop more successful ips into deeper games before moving away from the ad-based business models on which they rely, he said.
After a takedown notice failed, voodoo brought the matter of the alleged plagiarism to a paris court, which this month ruled in its favour. it ordered rollic and hero games to pay voodoo 125,000 in economic and reputational damages for unfair competition and parasitism.
However, the financial reward had not been the most important outcome for voodoo, said ms ameli-jouffroy. for us its important to have legal precedent. we want to sanitise the market of these practices.
Rollic and hero games were also ordered to remove wood shop from the google and apple stores, and will have to publish an announcement of the judgment in three newspapers or magazines of voodoos choice.
Ms ameli-jouffroy said that voodoo files takedown notices almost daily but that the company hoped that the legal case would have a bigger impact on the industry. there is very little precedent in the hyper-casual sphere about where the line is to protect your games.
Ninety-nine per cent of studios absolutely hate copies, said mr shea. [that 1 per cent] ruins it for the great developers out there.
He added that voodoo was proactively taking operational measures to beat would-be clones. we invest heavily into a game that is being copied so that the road-map is quicker and so that the original is always better than its copy.
Rollic and hero games did not immediately respond to requests for comment. zynga declined to comment.