Reddit users have rallied to support an independent studio in Brisbane - Minimega - whose art was shamelessly stolen for a Chinese knock-off. Downloads of the game have since spiked, and we spoke with Studio Founder Ben Huxter, about turning a potential negative into a massive positive.
In January of 2012, Minimega released SLAP! on iOS and Android. In May, SLAP! HD was released in China, reaching the #1 overall spot on the iPad. But later that December, a clone would come out on the Google Play store that Huxter would only find out about in March of this year.
"I was doing searches on the game to see what game up," says Huxter, "and when I saw it I first thought 'Isn't that cute', and just let it go. Then after a while, I realised this guy is getting 5k-10k downloads, and I should probably say something to him.
"So I sent an email, got a response in broken English, saying 'Really sorry this has happened, really happy to give you the source files, and if you have a job that'd be great' He said he'd take it down.
"It's a bit of an odd way to ask for a job!" laughs Huxter.
It can be very hard for independent studios to protect themselves from copyright infringement. But Huxter isn't so much concerned about that.
"I don't feel like I need to be protected," he says. "I think I'd be more pissed if he came out with a better game than me. I don't think he's gunna make any serious money out of it. He's diluting my brand, but I think I heard some people say once all these Chinese copyright dudes making money selling angry birds T-shirts and stuff, they're supporting the franchise. I'm kind of okay with it."
Nine days after the initial contact, the game still hadn't been taken down. Huxter sent another email, this time with a DMCA takedown notice through Google Play. He also posted a comparison image on Reddit's indiegaming subsection, with the message, "So someone stole the artwork from my game and made a dodgy copy version. Not sure how I should feel."
The post blew up. After 1000 upvotes, he cross posted it to Reddit gaming. The story was picked up by Indiestatik. It was promoted to the front page of Reddit, getting over 1000 comments - and more importantly, comments like this:
Along with the Reddit interest, website traffic and downloads of the game spiked. In fact, spiked seems like understating it. It's more like skyrocketed:
The two lower graphs represent iOS and Android downloads. Such games have a small percentage of downloads converted into income, but undoubtedly there will be some there, especially with Redditors making a point of it. This morning, the knock-off was taken down, its developer again offering his services with the additional message, "And I hope we can make friends:)"
So what has Huxter taken from the whole story?
"In the end Reddit has helped turn what could potentially be a negative experience into an amazing expression of solidarity. The community has shown a huge amount of support that and for that I am massively grateful.
"Throughout the event I was contacted by international legal professionals, media representatives and developers offering to help. Countless Redditors pledged to download the game and help support the cause. Some Redditors thought it was an elaborate marketing plan and wondered if I had made up the story to get more downloads. Somehow I think Reddit has a way of sniffing out a genuine story when they see it."
"Evidently there's a demand for this game in the Chinese market, I'm currently working on a Chinese localisation of the game due for release in the next few weeks."
Minimega is also close to releasing their new word puzzle game, Bonza Word Puzzle, which you can check out here.