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Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Do Copy-Cat Developers Damage The Casual Games Market?
6:00 AM | Cord Kruse | 4 comments

In a recent interview with, PopCap Games' founder Jason Kapalka discussed the state of the casual gaming industry. The interview covered the impact of big developers like EA moving into casual games, bringing titles to the XBox Live audience, and the detrimental effect copy-cat developers have on creativity in the industry.

A criticism of casual games is that many are a variation on one theme. There are multiple clones and copies of one puzzle mechanic and developers are churning out the same titles over and over. How many version of Tetris or Zuma do we need? Is there a concern that developers are cannibalising their own content?

The truth is that very few games are developed without reference to past games. There's always going to be titles that build on a previous mechanic or game. But there's a fine line between that and very bold-faced rip-offs that aren't adding anything to the game and are just trying to make a quick buck. There's games like that in the hardcore gaming market of course, but the problem in the casual space is that the investment in resources can be a lot less. So a three person studio isn't going to build a knock-off of Warcraft. But they could crank out a clone of Bejewelled in a few months. The barrier to entry is a lot lower so you get a lot more of it.

Do you see these types games damaging the PopCap business model?

It's a worry about the overall creative state of the industry. From our point of view it doesn't do anything bad to our own financial prospects. There's a thousand Bejeweled clones out there but by virtue of its brand Bejeweled is the one people refer to. There are a couple of Bejeweled variants like Jewel Quest that have carved out there own niche but it hasn't caused a huge problem for us.

The worry is that it encourages a lot of independent developers to churn out these cheap clones instead of original projects. They think they can do a quick knock-off to help pay the bills and then they can work on their big magnum opus but that rarely happens. Once they start down that road of making rip-off games you never make a huge fortune off it and you end up working hand to mouth. They don't have time to work on larger projects that take a risk. And that has a negative effect on the industry as a whole. It should be a really creative opportunity to have a small team that has the luxury of creating whatever it wants and getting to market without the usual cumbersome problems that come from publishers and other factors. The casual space should be encouraging a huge amount of creative design but there's a lot of imitation and that's a shame.
To read the rest of the interview follow the link below. Pop Idol Interview
PopCap Games

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