A new month, a new episode of Games and Names, a podcast about the gaming industry from AppMagic and WN Media Group. This time, the guest of Stas Minasov, Vice president of product at AppMagic, was Jesse Kroon, senior designer at Product Madness studio. The topic of cloning mobile games was discussed with him.

Just below are the main theses of the issue. As for the full version, you can listen to it on:

What is the difference between “good” and “bad” clones?

According to Kroon, there are two types of clones:

  • “dishonest clones” are those projects whose developers duplicate every element of someone else’s game “as is”, without adding anything of their own, in fact stealing other people’s ideas;
  • clones, whose developers respect someone else’s heritage, are talking about projects in which the same mechanics can be used as in the original source, but where the borrowing was creative (the game was not copied, but inspired by it, changing and rethinking the solutions used in it).

“For example, if you made a game that is played and looks confusingly like Survivor.io , then I would just call her a bad clone. I don’t think this should happen in the industry,” Kron said.

Why do developers clone games?

The main reason is the desire of developers to reduce the time for the production of games. Teams want to bring their products to market as quickly as possible. Therefore, instead of searching and testing new ideas, companies take ready-made and proven working solutions. This allows them to save resources and risks.

According to Kroon, there is nothing wrong with borrowing best practices. For example, why not take a few mechanics from Gardenscapes when developing your own match-3? But here it is important to draw a line between using proven mechanics in the original project and creating a complete clone.

Why do most clones fail?

According to AppMagic, dishonest clones usually fail to succeed in the market. For example, a couple of years ago, the market was covered by a wave of Archero clones. Dozens of games copied the original to the decimal point, trying to snatch a piece of the pie. However, as a result, all together they earned less than 5% of the revenue of the original game.

Important: the simpler a hit basically looks, the more companies are trying to copy it. That’s why cloning is so common in casual and hyper-casual niches. In turn, there are no people willing to tilt this or that 4X strategy on the market. It’s too complicated a genre,” Minasov believes.

Developers often forget that even creating a 100% clone requires solid experience in game development. This is one of the reasons why many clones fail. You need to be a very cool specialist not to mess up when setting up key elements taken from another game. Otherwise, you can easily ruin the project.

Of course, there is an exception to any rule. For example, Gossip Harbor, although it looks made according to the patterns of Love & Pies, however, monetization was better configured at the launch, and its events are much more complex. As a result, the clone’s installation revenue turned out to be more than that of Love & Pies.

A working approach to copying ideas is to create a product designed for a completely different audience compared to the original. A good case here is the history of Medieval Merge. As a rule, merge titles focus primarily on women. However, Pixodust Games, the developer studio of Medieval Merge, created it with the expectation of men. Accordingly, the advertising campaign of the game was not devoted to cooking and decorating, but to fighting monsters and managing the kingdom. Thanks to this, the game, which basically did not differ from other merge titles, managed to find a new audience for the genre.

Is cloning an absolutely unacceptable practice?

Kroon believes that the term “clone” has quite a clear and negative connotation. It is usually used when describing a situation in which a developer is trying to parasitize the success of a particular game, hastily copying the entire gaming experience.

At the same time, the guest of Games and Names does not see a problem when companies like Habby (publisher Archero and Survivor.io ), combine unexpectedly proven mechanics. This approach is part of the creative process. Sometimes it leads to innovations and new ideas.

This is how we move the industry forward. At least that’s what happened in the past. I like it in the industry: at the same time, we are all working together to make the best possible gaming experience, while competing with each other. The market determines which approach users like the most. Then everything goes in a circle. I don’t see this as a problem. And calling it cloning, thereby giving it a negative connotation, is a bad idea,” concludes Kroon.


More about cloning is in the one—hour edition of Games and Names.