King.com just can't stop making the headlines this week. In addition to the many stories about their over-litigious attempts to bully developers out of using the words "Candy" or "Saga" in game titles (prompting the creation of The Candy Jam as a response to their "trademark trolling"), new allegations have surfaced suggesting that they are thieves, as well.
In a posting to his official website, Matthew Cox aka Junkyard Sam of Stolen Goose alleges that, following a failed deal to sell his modified Pac-Man clone Scamperghost to King.com, the Candy Crush Saga developers then blatantly copied his game, dubbing their copycat creation Pac-Avoid and nearly releasing it first.
In a detailed take down with screen shots for comparison, Cox not only makes the case that King.com deliberately replicated his game, he also has emails that seem to prove it. After tracking down Epic Shadow, the developers who were hired by King to make Pac-Avoid, they reveal in an private message exchange that the rip-off was deliberate:
from: Porter [email protected]
date: Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 9:25 PM
subject: Pac Avoid / Scamper Ghost
First off, sorry that we (Andrew and I of EpicShadow) cloned your game for Lars of King.com. I know there's a ton of rumor as to what happened, so here's the exact details, you believing them is your decision. Lars approached us one day explaining that you (Stolen Goose) had signed a contract, had been working with him on finishing the deal, and then got a better deal and backed out. As tempting as more cash would be, if contract was signed, douche move. I don't know if that actually happened, so feel free to clear it up. He asked us to clone the game very quickly, and even wanted to beat the release of the original game.
No contract had been signed by Stolen Goose prior to the deal falling through, and Cox believes that Epic Shadow were lied to by King so they would agree to make the clone. For their part, King.com has more or less denied the accusation, claiming they simply needed an "avoider game" to fill the void left by Stolen Goose backing out of the deal. Of course, the email from Epic Shadow above proves otherwise. Cox concludes:
"Scamperghost isn't the most original game in the world. It's obviously inspired by Pac-Man but we at least took it in an original direction by making it a mouse avoider with no walls. King.com, however, showed no respect for other people's intellectual property when they made a direct, blatant clone of Scamperghost. Now they've trademarked "Candy" and are using their massive legal power against other small competing developers. A bit of a double-standard, eh?"
In an interview exchange with Gameranx he echoed these sentiments, adding:
"I don't care so much that our game was copied — it's the double standard of King walking on our intellectual property (because we were too small to do anything about it) and then turning around and protecting their own with their trademark enforcement against rival products unjustly [as with] Banner Saga."
This news is perhaps unsurprising to the many who have pointed out Candy Crush Saga's glaring similarites to Bejeweled and many other "match three" games.
Update: we have reached out to Matthew Cox in order to verify the emails exchanged between Stolen Goose and Epic Shadow. We will update as soon as we hear back.
Update 2: We have since seen verifying evidence of the email exchanges between Matthew Cox and King and Matthew Cox and Epic Shadow. It appears to be legitimate.
Update 3: We have reached out to King.com for comment. We will update here should we receive a response.
Update 4: Via Game Informer, Epic Shadow has verified that they created the Scamperghost clone at the behest of King.com, revealing that it took one week of work to make Pac-Avoid.