While preparing for the freemium transition of its flagship game, Whale Trail, Ustwo unexpectedly finds itself in a rather sticky situation. Papa Quash, its latest App Store release, has become embroiled in a cloning controversy. As it turns out, the backlash against Papa Quash has proved so intense that, according to The Appside, Ustwo has already pulled the game from the App Store.
The controversy stems from the apparent similarities between Papa Quash and another “real-world” game called Johann Sebastian Joust, developed by Die Gute Fabrik. Those familiar with Ustwo has no doubt found the current circumstances odd, considering the London-based studio’s reputation as a maker of original and quality apps. In addition, Ustwo co-founder and “Chief Wonka” Mills has made firm declarations about the issue of product imitation in general and cloning in the App Store in particular:
Making games, entertainment, a new design, a product should always be about unearthing something that makes you proud no matter what happens on the financial side … Fakes and copycats quite simply have to absolutely f**k off to another paradigm.
If you can’t see the video embedded above, please click here.
In its defense, Ustwo maintains that it no more than developed and published Papa Quash, whose trailer is shown above. The idea for the game came from former “Big Brother” contender Sam Pepper, who commissioned Ustwo to make the game. As the story goes, after Ustwo brought up Johann Sebastian Joust to Pepper, he said that he’d reached out to Die Gute Fabrik and secured its go-ahead. However, Doug of Die Gute Fabrik begs to differ. In an email to Steve Bittan, Ustwo’s marketing director, Doug said that “he feels that he did not give Sam the permission.” In light of this, Bittan has confirmed the withdrawal of Papa Quash from the App Store.
To be sure, this issue is not as weighty as, say, past cloning controversies involving NimbleBit/Zynga and Vlambeer/Gamenauts. But I’m hoping the forthcoming statements of Pepper and Die Gute Fabrik will be so definitive as to be able to clear the air once and for all.