David vs. Goliath: Indie Dev NimbleBit Calls Out Zynga

Tiny Tower vs Dream Heights

Controversy is brewing online in the past 24 hours, as users and developers respond to the latest iOS release from casual gaming giant Zynga, which users claim is a blatant copy of an already released game from small independent studio NimbleBit. 

Zynga’s game “Dream Heights,” released last week in the Canadian iTunes App Store, has been identified by many in the iOS community as a nearly identical copy of NimbleBit’s “Tiny Tower,” released last year. 

While the games have different graphical styles, the basic gameplay and strategic elements are identical, and that’s drawn the ire of many users who took to blogs and Twitter to voice their displeasure. 

NimbleBit employee Ian Marsh tweeted his own reply yesterday evening, a comical and sarcastic comparison of the two games (reproduced below) with gratitude from the small company that they were able to “inspire” their larger competitor.

David Marsh, another NimbleBit employee, provided his thoughtful response via Twitter as well: “Even when you refuse to go work for Zynga, sometimes you end up doing work for Zynga anyway,” referencing Zynga’s previous failed attempt to purchase the company.

Although there are many apps on the App Store that duplicate (partially or entirely) preexisting apps, Apple does have the ability to remove or reject apps for this reason (see App Store Review Guidelines, Section 2.11). It is possible that this provision or copyright complaints may have an impact on “Dream Heights” future, especially considering that “Tiny Tower” was chosen by Apple as the 2011 iPhone Game of the Year.

For now, Zynga’s app remains available in the Canadian App Store, although there is no shortage of consumer displeasure regarding this fact. In the end it may be consumer choice that makes or breaks the title in this iOS “David versus Goliath” tale.

NimbleBit's Response to Zynga