Copycat companies might not lose lawsuits, but they should lose our respect, argues Kevin Dent
He's calling out Zynga, LOLApps and Escalation Games
The following opinions are his own.
A few years back, I was on a conference call with an employer and he told me to compile a contract that would basically screw a developer.
As an employee, I duly started to write the agreement.
I compiled the contract; it looked pretty innocuous in terms of its content. I sent it to a lawyer to review and he asked me why I wrote such a harmless agreement.
I then pointed out a few clauses that tied everything together. Alone, they were harmless, but combined, it was like a cocktail of prescription drugs that were fatal when ingested together.
My lawyer didn't see that, so I sent it to two other lawyers and they didn't see it either.
Any move the developer made, they were in a checkmate position. When I pointed out the three clauses together, the lawyers laughed and said I should become a lawyer.
I am not proud to admit that I was very, very good at building that contract; I am proud that I deleted it and quit my job the next day.
Copy and copy alike
Since Facebook and the various app stores came to fruition, we have seen amazing, delicious and spell-binding content that's violently exciting.
Soon after, we've seen badly executed knock-offs. We roll our eyes and hope the knock-offs die a thousand deaths.
It's just something that we have to live with.
Then, last week, we saw Zynga release a game that looks pretty much identical to NimbleBit's Tiny Tower. We all wrung our hands in desperation because we knew there was no recourse for NimbleBit, a three-man indie, to take on the $7 billion market cap Zynga.
Yet, at this point, can I be bold enough to suggest that we do not use what we can legally get away with as our benchmark?
Longshot I know.
Not so LOL
And so to the Clonegate for this week.
A few months ago, social publisher LOLApps (part of the 6waves LOLApps group) reached out to Spry Fox, a Seattle-based developer, which is run by a couple of industry vets. They were looking for a pitch. Spry Fox presented a game called Triple Town that they were working on.
They sent LOLApps their first playable version, and worked the pitch the way you work a pitch. They then sent the beta to LOLApps and worked towards a publishing contract.
Then, one day, the executive director of business development at LOLApps, Dan Laughlin, sends a Facebook message to the Spry Fox's David Edery that you can read below (it's also on page six of the lawsuit).
That sinking feeling
First off, if it were me in that position I would never have sent the message, because I would not have been working for LOLApps by that stage.
As soon as I found out what we were doing, I would have tossed in my chips and left. The fact Dan was obviously distraught is terrible, I feel bad for the guy... No, I actually don't.
The other aspect that makes me sad is that Shawn Green of Escalation Games - who worked on Doom back in the day - was also part of this; Escalation developed Yeti Town for 6waves LOLApps and has since been acquired by the company.
Shawn is a veteran of the industry. He knows right from wrong... Of course, we have to understand his position, he was in the process of selling Escalation to LOLApps at the time. So what if he sold his firm on the back of taking those 30 pieces of silver?
Ah, but you see fair reader, this is why I always, always, always say "Lawyer up".
I spoke to a source at LOLApps on Friday and they told me that chief product offer Arjun Sethi held an all-hands meeting to discuss this as a number of staff had threatened to leave the firm, and I personally have seen a number of resumes from LOLApps staff cross my desk over the past few weeks.
But even assuming this gets settled out of court - and it will because LOLApps is a VC-backed firm and there's too much risk to put this in front of a jury - LOLApps still needs to source new games from developers for its future business.
And, this is likely to be the main fallout from the affair; what developer would want to work with such a firm?
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