Indie game developer Matthew Cox has accused social game maker King of copying his game Scamperghost, and also for having double standards in attempting to trademark the word “candy”, as he believes the studio was trying to capitalize on the success of Pac-Man by releasing the game Pac-Avoid.
In a post on his website, Cox has side-by-side screenshots to illustrate the similarities of Scamperghost and King’s Pac-Avoid. Cox states on his website that in 2009, himself and fellow developer Nick Bray were in talks about licensing their flash game Scamperghost. The deal fell through when Cox and Bray decided to go with MaxGames.com instead. Shortly after King launched their game, Pac-Avoid.
Cox has also posted emails that were sent between himself and King representative Lars Jörnow. In an email from February 2010, Jörnow explains that after the Scamperghost deal fell through, King decided to sponsor a similar game. “We’re sorry our deal didn’t turn out with you guys,” the email reads, in part. “You made out with more money and we were left without an avoider game that we had already planned on. We needed an avoider game and sponsored a similar game.”
Cox also shared an email that was sent from Matt Porter, developer from the now-defunct studio EpicShadow, who was commissioned by King to make Pac-Avoid. Porter apologizes for cloning Cox’s game and states that Jörnow came to his indie team and tole them to “clone the game very quickly, and even wanted to beat the release of the original game.”
“When I saw Pac-Avoid, I was shocked that such a big company would retaliate against a couple of small indie developers like us,” Cox told Polygon, in part. “I suspect Laws Jörnow, our contact with King, took personal offense to our backing out of negotiations to go with MaxGames.com, who outbid King on the contract.”
Cox also explained to Polygon that he is bringing this issue back up now because he believes it to be relevant to King’s recent trademark for the word “candy”. “It has become relevant again because King.com is trademarking the word ‘candy’ and is using their trademark to go after smaller competing developers,” Cox continued. “Remember, not only did they blatantly copy Scamperghost with their game Pac-Avoid, but they actually used ‘Pac,’ which by their trademark definition would violate Namco’s trademark for Pac-Man. Their double-standard is why this is relevant now.”
“Copying our game isn’t the issue,” he said. “King.com using their massive financial/legal power to limit the innovations of smaller developers by ‘Trademark Trolling’ is the problem here.”