Zynga, which has made its fortune on Farmville, has released an app in Canada (not on the American App Store yet) called Dream Heights, which bears much more than a passing resemblance to Tiny Tower, a terrific and very successful freemium game from NimbleBit (the brothers-run company that we’ve posted about a few times before). By the looks of things, it seems that Zynga saw NimbleBit’s success and decided to borrow most of the game’s mechanics.
NimbleBit is pretty genial about the whole thing, but co-founders David and Ian Marsh haven’t been completely kind on their Twitter accounts. Both have called out Zynga and posted a big infographic that compares the two games and their extreme similarities. They’ve also needled Zynga, with 2700 more employees than NimbleBit’s three person staff, for not making anything better than a pretty blatant clone of Tiny Tower. Other developers have jumped to NimbleBit’s defense on Twitter. It’s possible that Zynga may decide not to release Dream Heights due to the pressure from developers; more likely Zynga will release it, and the game will perform decently, but not nearly as well as Tiny Tower has done.
I have asked NimbleBit about getting acquired before. The brothers seem like prime candidates for a larger company to come along and buy them out, and indeed Ian Marsh says during this whole affair that Zynga has offered to purchase NimbleBit and its games before. But as they told me, these guys aren’t in it for the money. Certainly their games are very lucrative, but the Marsh brothers have said that they just like making great games on their own and will continue to do that for as long as they can.
It’s a shame that Zynga has so blatantly imitated the Marshes’ hard work, but you know what they say about imitation and flattery.