Zynga boss dismisses Tiny Tower copycat claims

By Brenna Hillier
1 February 2012 21:35 GMT

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus has defended the derivativeness of Dream Heights as standard industry practice.

In a memo to employees marked “confidential” but released in full to VentureBeat after it was leaked, Pincus compared Zynga’s approach to game design to other companies which have refined existing products.

“Google didn’t create the first search engine. Apple didn’t create the first mp3 player or tablet. And, Facebook didn’t create the first social network. But these companies have evolved products and categories in revolutionary ways. They are all internet treasures because they all have specific and broad missions to change the world,” he said.

“We don’t need to be first to market. We need to be the best in market. There are genres that we’re going to enter because we know our players are interested in them and because we want and need to be where players are. We evolve genres by making games free, social, accessible and highest quality.”

Zynga has been the subject of much bad press after tiny independent studio Nimblebit highlighted the startling similarities between Zynga’s Dream Heights and its own award-winning, pre-existing offering, Tiny Tower.

Addressing Dream Heights specifically, the CEO admitted Zynga hadn’t invented the genre, but noted it had “existed since 1994” and gave titled examples.

“This has always been the case for our company and the rest of the industry. Zynga Poker, FarmVille, CityVille and Words with Friends, none of these games were the first to market in their category but we made them the most fun and social, and the most popular,” he said.

Pincus didn’t find any tension between this attitude and the company’s litigation against copycat Vostu, noting that the latter has “crossed the line” by using “copyrighted IP and artwork”.

“That’s different than competing to build the best product or out-innovate us in the City category,” he said.

Speaking to TouchArcade, Tiny Tower developer Ian Marsh said Zynga’s defence was a cop out.

“It is a smart idea for Mark Pincus and Zynga to try and lump all games with the name Tower together as an actual genre whose games borrow from each other,” he said.

“Unfortunately sharing a name or setting does not a genre make. The games Pincus mentions couldn’t be more different. Sim Tower is a true “sim” with macroscopic management and fine tuning of a buildings facilities. Tower Bloxx is a timing based high score game.

“If you take a quick look before ‘pulling the lens back’ as Pincus suggests, you’ll find an innumerable number of details in the game that were painstakingly crafted to be identical to Tiny Tower.”

Thanks, Eurogamer.

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