I have been hearing a lot about Zynga in the news lately. While I am not a big fan of the company, who to me seem to be far more interested in extracting money from their players than in actually creating compelling games, I actually have taken their side on some of the issues. Yes, they may be an evil company that clones other peoples game, copyright does not protect ideas just the implementation of the ideas. I can make a clone of Asteroids if I want to as long as my version of the game has some new and unique elements to it. People may complain about this, but in reality it is far easier to sell a game that is 10% unique and 90% similar to other games people have played than it is to create a game that is 90% unique. Far too often people want a new game that is "just like the game I just finished except different".
When I heard that EA was suing Zynga over copyright infringement I was ready to take Zynga's side but when researching the EA versus Zynga lawsuit I came across the following article: http://dlr-law.com/3/post/2012/08/zynga-slammed-again.html . It seems that there actually may be something to EA's lawsuit. When you hire people away from a company in order to produce a game that is similar to the one that they are producing, you are only asking for trouble.
There are actually a few game ideas that I have abandoned due to people I have done consulting work for planning a similar game. My thoughts are that even though my version of the game may be 100% mine, it would be easy for the company to claim otherwise and they tend to have far more resources than I have when it comes to lawyers. It is best to avoid potential legal entanglements, especially since I happen to be the type of person who would not back down if it came to legal action and so would end up having to spend way too much money on my legal defence.
Perhaps one of the reasons I am not as successful as companies like Zynga isn't my total and complete lack of marketing skill, but the fact that I actually have ethics. To me, making money isn't the important thing. I created Blazing Games because I wanted to create games. I think that far too many of the successful game companies are successful for the wrong reasons. Worse, these companies have a tendency to buy the companies who exist to make great games. Bioware is just the first example to come to my mind.
The sad reality is, despite my claims to be ethical, if Zynga came to me and offered to buy me out I would jump on the opportunity if there were enough zeros in front of the first non-zero digit. I would make up excuses such as "They will properly market my games" and "It would be nice to actually have a budget." Yes, those excuses would actually be true, but the reality is that everybody has their price. In my case that price is probably not as high as I would like to believe, especially in this economy.