Standing up for ourselves

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Sometimes you need to stand up for yourself, or you’re just begging to be taken advantage of.

We (Spry Fox) have filed a copyright infringement suit in federal court against 6Waves LOLAPPS in response to their release of Yeti Town, their blatant copy of Triple Town. This was a difficult decision for David and I. We are not enthusiastic about the prospect of spending our time in court as opposed to making games. And in general, we believe that only in the most extreme circumstances should a video game developer resort to legal action in order to defend their creative works — the last thing our industry needs is frivolous lawsuits. Unfortunately, it is our opinion that 6waves has behaved in a reprehensible and illegal manner, and we can not, in good conscience, ignore it.

The full legal complaint can be downloaded here. In particular, I will call attention to these issues:

First: Yeti Town, as launched by 6waves, was a nearly perfect copy of Triple Town. We’re not just talking about the game’s basic mechanics here. We’re talking about tons of little details, from the language in the tutorial, to many of our UI elements, to the quantities and prices of every single item in the store (how exactly did 6waves “independently” decide to price 200 turns for 950 coins, or 4 wildcards for 1500 coins each? That’s quite a coincidence!) But don’t take our word for it. Here are just a few quotes taken from the numerous press articles that were published shortly after the release of Yeti Town:

  • Gamezebo: “Unfortunately for Yeti Town, the only substantial difference between it and Facebook’s Triple Town is the platform it’s on. Otherwise it’s the exact same game, only this time with snow.”
  • InsideSocialGames: “Yeti Town is a matching game nearly identical to Spry Fox’s Triple Town”
  • “Replace “saplings” with “bushes”, “tents” with “houses” and “yetis” with “bears”. What do you get? Something that would look a lot like independent developer Spry Fox’s Triple Town”

Second: what most people don’t know is that 6waves was in confidential (under NDA) negotiations with us to publish Triple Town at the exact same time that they were actively copying Triple Town. We gave 6waves private access to Triple Town when it was still in closed beta, months before the public was exposed to the game. We believed those negotiations were ongoing, and we continued to give private information to 6waves, until 6waves’ Executive Director of Business Development sent us a message via Facebook on the day Yeti Town was published in which he suddenly broke off negotiations and apologized for the nasty situation. His message can be found in its entirety in the body of our legal complaint.

It’s bad enough to rip off another company. To do so while you are pumping them for private information (first, our game design ideas, and later, after the game was launched on Facebook, our private revenue and retention numbers) is profoundly unethical by any measure.

Despite all this, David and I still struggled with the idea of initiating a lawsuit. However, 6waves brought the issue to a head when, rather than openly and honestly discuss their actions, they had the chutzpah to tell Gamasutra that they had developed Yeti Town completely independently, and characterized the legitimate public criticism of their company as simply “part of the natural process” of game development.

We believe that there is nothing “natural” or ethical or legal about 6waves behavior. What they did was wrong. And if they get away with it, it will simply encourage more publishers to prey on independent game developers like us. We refuse to sit back and let that happen.

-Dave & Danc


  1. About time, fight hard! don't give!up! Big publishers and big studios need to understand that this is not acceptable. And as community every game developer and designers that works at should get shit from the community.


  2. I've been enjoying Triple Town on my Kindle for well over a year now. I can't begin to tell you how many hours I've played it while sitting on an airplane this past year (still no Metropolis, though).Protect your baby! Rip 'em a new one!


  3. You stand to lose your company over this.The legal system is going to chew you up and spit you out over this one, win or lose. You will sink tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands into this before a court date is even set. It will drag on for years and even if you prove your case–which is not guaranteed, with a company like this, the management will have long since cleaned the whole place out and moved onto the next scam.I don't like being the bearer of hopelessness but you will be far, far better off cutting your losses and walking away from this one. At most, file an injunction to shut down Yeti-Town entirely, but whatever you do, do not waste $100,000 on legal fees in pursuit of $0 in returns. Do not bet your company on the fantasy that the legal system actually works efficiently or justly.Give real consideration to just walking away from this one. File an injunction, wreck their plans, sure, but walk away before you get stuck in a quagmire for the next 5-10 years.


  4. Sorry, but the pfd doesn't talk about insider trading, breach of the NDA or trade secret misappropriation, but is a \”COMPLAINT FOR COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT\”. If it has different code, assets (images, audio etc) and different names it seems like copyright via trade dress is what this case is trying to show? As this isn't explicitly stated in the pdf I am trying to understand which part of copyright law they hope to have applied.


  5. \”Idea == pretty easy to come up withImplementation == pretty frickin' difficult to do\”Great ideas are not easy to come up with. Anyone in the business of coming up with ideas will let you know good original ideas that actually work are few and far between.That's why people clone rather than coming up with original ideas. Because it's actually the implementation that is the easy part.


  6. Copyright encompasses \”expression\” of ideas, which is where all of this gets murky and most likely turns on various court precedents. While the game itself is the most obvious copyrightable bit, and the graphics and text are also obviously copyrighted, the idea-expression dichotomy indicates that the actual mechanics of play are also under copyright, to an extent, such as the identical freemium pricing, the particular sequence of matches, and so on. It's a weaker claim but it's still a possibly valid claim, along with the stronger claims of reused text.


  7. I never knew I'd see this day come. I'm still a bit sore because my Company, The Language Shop, got taken for a ride by 6waves as well. Mine was the Company that made 6waves super rich between 2008 and 2010 by directly providing them with multi-tiered, multi-language translation and localization services for many facebook games. I'm talking about over 83 jobs that involved several languages including French, Spanish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, Italian, German, Russian, Japanese, Czech, Indonesian, Turkish, They turned around and took the credit and said that they had done the translations. They claimed to stand out in the industry as the only developers that offered localization of the facebook games, when it was in fact my Company that provided these services. To this day, I have proof of all of the jobs we did. At least someone will get the credit for their work.


  8. You know you've hit the big time when someone steals your stuff. Congrats, Danc and Spry Fox. May you continue to prosper, regardless the hacks.


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