Like the movie business, video games can be incredibly insular, lots of the same kind of thing coming out at the same time. But these games — all from the same game maker — go a little beyond that.
Yesterday, Michel Guillemot — founder of Gameloft and brother of Ubisoft boss Yves Guillemot — tried to defend his company's reputation as a "borrower" of game ideas.
"The video game industry has always played around a limited number of themes" he tells IGN. "There is maybe one new idea a year."
In many ways, he's correct. The industry is saturated with shooters and action titles, many of its top developers unable to come up with anything that doesn't involve soldiers, space or monsters.
But the criticisms of Gameloft aren't that it's failing to innovate. Or that it's releasing the same kind of game as everyone else. It's that the company is looking at the biggest game series in the world, realising they don't appear on mobile phones then shamelessly ripping them off.
Not borrowing ideas, not being spiritually inspired, but coming within shouting distance of plagiarism. If you're unfamiliar with what we're talking about, take a look at the examples below.
Halo (Bungie) vs N.O.V.A. (Gameloft)
StarCraft (Blizzard) vs Starfront (Gameloft)
Uncharted (Naughty Dog) vs Shadow Guardian (Gameloft)
Grand Theft Auto (Rockstar) vs Gangstar (Gameloft)
Burnout (Criterion) vs Asphalt (Gameloft)
Final Fantasy (Square Enix) vs Eternal Legacy (Gameloft)
That many similarities are not the result of "a limited number of themes". They're the result of a game company whose modus operandi (ports of Ubisoft franchises aside) is to get as close as they can to stealing an existing franchise without picking up a lawsuit.
Before we go any further, this isn't entirely a bad thing! Gameloft is smart for identifying a market for these titles on mobile platforms, has been hugely successful in doing so and, most importantly, has won itself a large fanbase of people who appreciate the fact these clones let them play some semblance of a franchise that would otherwise not be available on a phone.
But there are classier ways to accomplish that goal, not to mention more creative ones.
The rest of the industry gets by crafting new and relatively unique worlds around that "one new idea a year", so Gameloft, it might be easier to defend your "borrowing" if you at least gave that a try. If only so history will remember you as a pioneer of "proper" games on phones, and not just a bunch of rip-off artists.