It wasn't long ago that King.com (hereafter referred to as just King, as this is not 1997) began to rule the casual game universe, having dethroned Zynga as top dog. Apparently their quick rise in popularity has given the company an Electronic Arts-style ego. Let's take a look at what they have done just this week, shall we?
First, the company successfully received a trademark on the term "candy" in regards to similar games. While this may seem odd, the context is the thing that matters here. King is probably just trying to prevent Candy Crush Saga rip-offs, of which there are many, all using the word "candy" in their titles. They have already filed against one app in Apple's App Store titled All Candy Casino Slots - Jewels Craze Connect: Big Blast Mania Land. While this keyword rich title seems to focus little on the candy word, the icon simply says "Candy Slots" which was their undoing.
Following on the trademarking on "candy" comes an attempt to trademark "saga," a feat that will be significantly more difficult for the company. Its current project is trying to defeat the trademark filing for The Banner Saga, a game that has absolutely nothing to do with any of King's own titles. After the inevitable outlast, King responded with a statement,
King has not and is not trying to stop Banner Saga from using its name. We do not have any concerns that Banner Saga is trying build on our brand or our content. However, like any prudent company, we need to take all appropriate steps to protect our IP, both now and in the future.
In this case, that means preserving our ability to enforce our rights in cases where other developers may try to use the Saga mark in a way which infringes our IP rights and causes player confusion. If we had not opposed Banner Saga's trade mark application, it would be much easier for real copy cats to argue that their use of 'Saga' was legitimate.
This is an important issue for King because we already have a series of games where 'Saga' is key to the brand which our players associate with a King game; Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and so on. All of these titles have already faced substantive trademark and copyright issues with clones.
King doesn't want to prevent them from using the name, only from owning it legally? That would prevent them from being able to protect against copycat apps, the very thing that King themselves is doing with their own trademark on "candy." Apparently in England no one has ever heard the term "double standard" - either that or King already owns the trademark on it.
After all of this, you would think King couldn't come up with any more bad ideas, right? Wrong. This bad idea comes from 2009, but came to light this week thanks to a developer that King hired to develop a game titled Pac-Avoid. The game is a blue Pac-Man collecting coins and avoiding ghosts. The coins can be traded for power-ups, and ghosts can be killed after a power pill. While the game sounds a lot like Pac-Man (minus the color), it sounds even more like Scamperghost, a game created by Stolen Goose for MaxGames.com.
In fact, the games are almost identical. If the comments from Scampershost designer Matthew Cox are correct, it was all on purpose.
We were in talks with Lars Jörnow at King.com to license our Scamperghost game. Before the deal was closed - and certainly before any contracts were signed - MaxGames.com made a better offer, so we thanked King for considering our game and politely ended our negotiations.
As the story goes, King was offended and hired Epic Shadow Entertainment to clone the game for a mere $3,000. Epic Shadow shouldn't have done it, but King allegedly lied about the nature of the deal's cancelation, leading to them feeling as if they were in the right. Venture Beat has a complete recounting of the story here. It is definitely worth the read.
The question this brings up is, is it impossible for a game company to see success without losing their minds? Discuss in the comments.