Zynga Shamelessly Rips-Off Tiny Tower, Apple’s 2011 iPhone Game Of The Year

Zynga Shamelessly Rips-Off Tiny Tower, Apple’s 2011 iPhone Game Of The Year

Zynga Games is a company that has made most of its many millions on games “inspired” by other titles. And by “inspired,” we mean “shamelessly ripped-off.” Mafia Wars was a rip-off of Mob Wars. Words With Friends is a rip-off of Scrabble. Cafe World is a rip-off of Restaurant City. And so on.

So when Zynga came knocking and wanted to buy up NimbleBits, developers of Tiny Tower (which Apple recently named one of their games of the year), it didn’t take a genius to figure out that if the deal didn’t go through, Zynga would rip-off NimbleBit’s games anyway. And — shocker — it turns out that’s just what happened.

Zynga’s look-alike, play-alike game is called Dream Heights, and except for Tiny Tower‘s retro, 8-bit styling, it looks pretty much identical to NimbleBit’s award-winning game. And guess who’s pretty upset about it?

As word leaked to them about Zynga’s typical but ballsy move, NimbleBit’s David Marsh tweeted:

Even when you refuse to go work for Zynga, sometimes you end up doing work for Zynga anyway.

They did go the honest route and try to acquire us first.

Rebuffed, Zynga wasn’t going to let mere decency get in the way of making Tiny Tower their own though, prompting NimbleBit to try to raise awareness of the blatant swipe by releasing the following graphic to Twitter, showing how blatant the rip-off actually is:

Zynga Shamelessly Rips-Off Tiny Tower, Apple’s 2011 iPhone Game Of The Year

Sadly, my guess is that Zynga’s just going to turn a deaf ear to NimbleBit’s complaints. After all, they got away with stealing the idea of Scrabble; they can probably get away with stealing Tiny Tower, too.

  • OscarAlaniz

    Where is SOPA when you need it?

  • mlahero

    Oh man that is just ridiculous….!

  • mlahero

    What is this I don’t even

  • joewaylo

    Zynga isn’t the only company thief though. Just about any company out there is going to ripoff. Apple is the next biggest SOPA violator. iAds gallery was ripped off of another customer, wireless sync was ripped off of a Cydia customer, and a few other ideas.

    There’s many versions of Scrabble, cross words, boggle, etc. SOPA is going to have a rough time charging every single one of those replicators.

  • Sean Smith

    So Zynga is basically the Samsung of game developers. Zing!

    Seriously though, it’s because of crap like this that I absolutely refuse to play (or pay for) any games developed by Zynga. This article makes me want to go and buy Tiny Tower simply to give Nimblebits some money and stick it to Zynga, even though it’s not my kind of game.

  • Jordan Clay

    This is a shameless rip off.  Hopefully the DreamTower blows and people just go for the real thing.  I hate it every time I see a shameless rip of (Angry ZOMBIE Birds, Cut the Rope Classic)   It is just depressing to see it from a major app developer.

    Not going to support Zynga ever again

  • Al

    Never mind this. Angry Birds (by Rovio) is the world’s most profitable rip-off. It was ‘inspired’ by many games, but most notably the free Flash game, Crush the Castle. Except the premise of Crush the Castle makes sense (catapults firing cannonballs at a castle). Throwing birds at scaffolding does not. The whole “birds” that are “angry” is a stupid, poorly-thought-out, and clumsily tacked-on attempt to avoid being sued.

    So here’s how to make money on the App store:

    1) Find someone else’s idea.
    2) Copy it, don’t worry, it doesn’t even have to be a good copy.
    3) Change a few bits here and there (they don’t have to make sense).
    4) Take the money.

    I guess Zynga learned from the best.

  • djrobsd

    Zynga is the devil.  Not only do they shamelessly rip off their competitors games, but they perform shady business practices on so many  levels, including, but not limited to mining your facebook data, and selling that data to 3rd party companies.

    I am prepared to delete all Zynga apps from my iphone, besides the real Scrabble is so much better then the fake Words With Friends anyway.

  • omgwutsthat

    They spelt “noticed” wrong on their little poster lulz.

  • Roger Ramshit

    The Zynga game is definitely more polished but I detest lazy copiers like MS, Samsung, Google and now Zynga who only want to trample the little guys who come up with big ideas.

  • Howie Isaacks

    Actually, it was New Toy that created Words With Friends, so they’re the ones who “ripped off” Scrabble.  What I hate about Zynga is that they constantly nag you about their other games.  I downloaded the paid versions, so I resent seeing constant advertising.  Zynga needs to tone it down!

  • OrderOfMen

    Isn’t tiny tower a rip-off of SimTower?

  • Shaunathan Sprocket

    I hate to tell you this but nimblebit does the same thing.  playing tiny tower I get prompts about other nimblebit games.

  • Shaunathan Sprocket

    Tiny Tower is a management game where you have to invest ever growing amounts of time, coins, and tower bucks.  Sim Tower is a management game where you manage money, zoning, traffic, population density, and a few other things.  

    The most annoying thing in Tiny Tower is the time management.  In Sim Tower time is not an issue because you can speed up time, and all tasks always take the same amount of time, the amount of time taken doesn’t go up.

    Given these points, I don’t think Tiny Tower is a rip off Sim Tower, unless you think that Mario Kart is a rip off of Atari’s Pole Position…

  • Shaunathan Sprocket

    I hate to tell you this but nimblebit does the same thing.  playing tiny tower I get prompts about other nimblebit games. It sucks :/

  • nmz502

    I think I might go and buy some stuff in tiny tower, just to support nimblebit.

  • baby_Twitty

    Zynga and Gameloft are snakes and rats of the same hole.

  • conartistgames

    I was the artist on Crush the Castle – Angry Birds does piss us off, but we actually borrowed the concept as well from a little known game called Castle Clout. The difference being that we asked permission from it’s original creator and credited him in the game.

    As a solo developer, my game Warfare 1917 was ripped by the now EA published Trenches by Thunder Game Works. After confronting them directly with the fact that my game with the same setting / mechanics and camera angle as well as roughly 30 million views was very similar to theirs, they replied claiming that it was a coincidence. 

    Money lets you do anything you want it seems. Guess I’ll just have to be content with having a conscience.

  • egojab

    You actually fell for that wireless sync sob story nonsense?

  • doug

    and (obviously) talent.

  • superyme

    just by look and feel, as a layman outsider who don’t know the back story, I am fully convinced to buy the zynga version.

    By releasing this comparison image nimblebit is hurting themselves.

    otherwise i would not know how bad their visual feel is like.

    classic unintended consequences case 

    by pointing to this copy they are going to increase sales for zynga

    but come to think of it this is how innovation and value addition moves forward by copying and ripping off. we can deny it in the name of morality and all but the hard fact of life is we as a community need copying and ripping off otherwise nothing will move forward.

    nimblebit should get out of the rage and get working to improve visuals and other UI of their game

    Apple as a company exists solely by improving existing ideas. They present market it in completely opposite way by claiming we did this innovation that novelty etc but when one looks under the carpet the real truth is they just slightly improved already existing ideas and then used their marketing talent to win consumers

    e.g
    1. original window based computing from xerox parc
    2. mouse again from xerox parc
    3. mp3 player to ipod
    4. iphone – a better implementation of smartphone thats it

    and so many other lesser known idea rip offs by apple is a fact

    how many people think apple is a bad company at least its not reflected in the stock price

    just sayin’

  • Christopher Lee

    “By releasing this comparison image nimblebit is hurting themselves.

    otherwise i would not know how bad their visual feel is like.”

    if you really enjoy that visual clusterf*ck compared to the nice 8-bit design language of tiny tower, then by all means, go ahead and blow your money on an inferior product.

    btw, there is a fundamental difference between “improving upon an existing product” and “plagiarism.” what you are arguing is a false equivalency. the zynga-nimblebits is like if someone read a novel and decided to create their “own” version by taking the existing novel and starting it off with ‘Bill picked up a novel and began reading:’

  • Mike Rathjen

    Two Freemium games that require money to speed themselves up. Don’t care who did it first, both suck.

  • Nick Scocchera

    Hello Tower Owner Nick,

    This is Carol your Tower Engineer and I understand that you’re having issue finding your Tower.

    Unfortunately once the tower was overwrttten we don’t have an option to bring it back. More ove regarding the refund that you’re requesting we are unable to grant it back.

    If you need further assistance, do not hesitate to e-mail us. Thank you for your understanding.

    Regards,

    Carol

    Zynga Player Advocacy and Service

  • Nick Scocchera

    Wow Carol,

    So… let me get this straight. you can’t help me get my tower back & refuse to compensate me for the lost money?

    You have done absolutely nothing to help and haven’t even offered any sort of resolution to this. It’s no wonder your year over year profits declined by 95% – enjoy your short lived empire and I’ll enjoy watching it crash down around you. In the mean time, I’ll go find every single webpage I can about you ripping people off and plaster this story on each and every one of them!

    Thanks to the greedy disregard for your customers that you’ve shown here, I hereby BOYCOTT all Zynga products for the rest of my life and will tell everyone I talk to how horrible you were to me.

    This is THE WORST customer service I’ve ever seen in MY WHOLE LIFE! You should be ashamed of yourself, your company and it’s outright theivery!

    Sincerely,

    Nick

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his wife and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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