The Charticle: Just how successful are clones on the App Store anyway?
Your weekly app store analysis
The case centred around the question of whether 6waves had infringed Spry Fox's copyright by releasing a supposed Triple Town clone Yeti Town - following early access to Spry Fox's title when it was seeking out a publisher.
After 6waves' motion to dismiss the case was denied, the company didn't fancy its chances in front of a jury, and offered Spry Fox an out of court settlement.
As a consequence of this settlement, the Yeti Town IP has been handed to Spry Fox, and the game has been removed from sale. The whole affair begs a question, though: just how successful are clones on the App Store anyway?
Not very, according to a quick glance at the analytics, which suggest - in the case of Triple Town, at least - consumers consistently preferred the original title to its clone.
Even though Yeti Town beat Triple Town to market on iOS, it only managed to peak at #924 in the US top grossing games chart.
Analytics graph (courtesy of App Annie) showing Yeti Town's performance in the US top grossing charts. Note that there is no on-screen line for its grossing games chart position it didn't rank high enough.
The game found more success in certain Asian regions, most notably reaching #4 in Macau for one day before plummeting out of the charts, but overall, it failed to achieve sustained grossing success.
Triple Town, meanwhile, may not have broken sales records, but it performed significantly better than its imitator. In the US, it peaked at #82 in the top grossing games chart.
That may not be a hugely impressive ranking in itself, but the key point is that, while its clone enjoyed just a brief flirtation with the grossing games chart, Triple Town has been a permanent resident in the top 800 grossing games chart since launch.
Other titles haven't managed to outperform their 'clones' quite so comprehensively, however.
NimbleBit's Tiny Tower launched in June 2011, and attracted a steady stream of critical praise in the wake of its release. The title peaked at #3 in the US top grossing games chart, was featured on the iTunes home page in 32 regions and was named by Apple as its Game of the Year for 2011.
Zynga's Dream Heights launched in February 2012, and attracted widespread criticism for its striking similarity to Tiny Tower.
NimbleBit publicly mocked Zynga for its lack of imagination, and its App Store debut was greeted with scores of one-star reviews.
But even though Dream Heights was now the unwitting lead in a narrative that cast Zynga as a creatively and morally bankrupt Goliath and NimbleBit as a plucky David the title performed well, peaking at #12 in the US top grossing games chart.
What's more, Dream Heights remained in the top 100 grossing games chart for some three months after release, and title updates still see the game poke its head back into this upper echelon.
That's not to say that Dream Heights has outperformed Tiny Tower, and overall, it would seem that NimbleBit's original has monetised more strongly than its corporate rival. It's notable, however, that Zynga's offering still raked in plenty from in-app purchases in spite of all the bad press.
The best and worst
The success of other, more egregious clones is difficult to analyse, however.
Temple Run, for instance, has attracted dozens of imitations, but they tend to be premium apps designed to confuse customers. With near-identical names and app icons, these games pop up, earn as much as they can from the less-savvy consumers, and then are stamped out by the App Store enforcers.
At the other end of the spectrum are games that some believe take their inspiration from previous titles, without cloning them directly.
Angry Mob Games' Muffin Knight, for example, is believed by many to reproduce the gameplay of Valmbeer's Super Crate Box, but the developer has tweaked the formula and implemented its own thematic and visual design.
And, interestingly, it's the only example here of an apparent clone that has received more featured slots from Apple than the original. Muffin Knight was featured in iTunes (although not on the home page) in 223 regions. Super Crate Box received similar spots in just 91 places.
In terms of grossing rank, Super Crate Box peaked higher (reaching #107 in the US), but regular title updates kept Muffin Knight in the top 1000 grossing games chart for considerably longer.
Analytics graph (courtesy of App Annie) showing Muffin Knight's performance in the Us top grossing games chart. Note the long tail compared to Super Crate Box, which dropped out of the top 1000 after one month.
It's difficult to say which game was more successful, then, but it's clear that Muffin Knight is better regarded than many of the other supposed imitators mentioned here.
By supposedly mirroring a gameplay system rather than a game, Angry Mob Games avoided the bad press that Zynga and 6waves generated, and came closest to matching (or possibly exceeding) the revenue generated by its inspiration.
In other words, we'd suggest that, if you're considering cloning a game, you'd best put some effort into it. Players can tell the difference.