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Dev Claims King Cloned Their Game, King Quietly Removes It

scamperghost pac-avoid comparison

The latest in the whole King trademark saga is proving quite interesting, if you don’t mind my use of the word saga, that is. Maybe I should say that it’s so bittersweet, it could be the recipe for a crushingly good new candy? I’m so sorry – moving on.

An indie developer by the name of Matthew Cox has come out in light of the whole King trademark fiasco saying that King has actually cloned one of his games from 2009. His game, Scamperghost, was originally being proposed as a property to be published under King.

After negotiations failed, Cox and is partner Nick Bray signed on with a rival publisher, MaxGames, and King pursued other prospects with Epic Shadow Entertainment, who they contracted to make a literal clone of Scamperghost.

It turns out that King was in a mad rush to beat (and gain precedence over the rival game) Cox and Bray to the market, both of which came out on top by finishing and publishing Scamperghost first. They contacted King after receiving a tip from a friend who confessed that King was literally trying to beat them to the market.

In an email response from King’s vice president of mobile games, Lars Jörnow, they got the following statement:

“Scamper Ghost is a great game. We’re sorry our deal didn’t turn out with you guys – you made out with more money and we were left without an avoider game that we had already planned on. We needed an avoider game and sponsored a similar game.”

Things get really ugly from this point forward – Cox tracked down the developer Epic Shadow Entertainment, asking them if they actually cloned Scamperghost. Matt Porter, one of the two devs behind Pac-Avoid, had this to say in a response:

“We did NOT make the game knowing he would want, it then show him. He came to us.” They later confirmed to Game Informer that they literally cloned Scamperghost: “We created Pac-Avoid in about a week.”

So how do we know that they’re actually the developers behind Pac-Avoid? They revealed a juicy little bit of information that only a true developer would know of:

pac-avoid hidden screen

Each sentence is an Einstein quote, and the first letter of each quote makes up the name of their studio, Epic Shadow. Porter alleged that he worked with Jörnow prior to the commission for the Pac-Avoid job, and that they were paid to literally clone Scamperghost.

After these allegations, it’s hard to find any credence in King’s trademark disputes with other developers that are using the words saga and candy. Naturally, this kind of thing can’t be ignored by King, so they gave an interesting response to Game Informer:

“King does not clone other peoples’ game. King believes that IP – both our own IP and that of others –  is important and should be properly protected. Like any prudent company, we take all appropriate steps to protect our IP in a sensible and fair way. At the same time, we are respectful of the rights and IP of other developers.

Before we launch any game, we do a thorough search of other games in the marketplace, as well as a review of trademark filings, to ensure that we are not infringing anyone else’s IP.”

Following this dismissive statement, King actually removed Pac-Avoid from its online arcade, for “the avoidance of doubt, in this case, this game – which was coded by a third-party developer five years ago – has been taken down.”

If King had beat Stolen Goose to the market with their clone of Scamperghost, the legality of Cox’s argument could have been on completely different footing. Regardless, the traces of the original conversations held over email still remain as the main incriminating evidence.

So there you have it, King actually conceded defeat in this regard, but it seems they’re sticking to their guns with all of their other legal disputes. What are your thoughts on this whole thing?

Brandon Orselli

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Big Papa Overlord at Niche Gamer. Italian. Dad. Outlaw fighting for a better game industry. I also write about music, food, & beer. Also an IT guy.