'Tiny Tower' creator NimbleBit blasts Zynga clone 'Dream Heights'

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Mobile game developer NimbleBit has issued an open letter alleging social gaming giant Zynga's new Dream Heights copies its blockbuster Tiny Tower, recently named the top iPhone game of 2011 by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL).

tiny tower vs dream heights

NimbleBit accuses Zynga of copying its game, Tiny Tower.

Tiny Tower enables gamers to build their own skyscraper and manage the businesses and tenants that dwell within--screenshots comparing the title to Dream Heights indicate remarkably similar gameplay experiences. "Dear Zynga, (all 2,789 of you)," NimbleBit writes in the letter. "We noticed you are about to launch a new iPhone game called Dream Heights! Congratulations! We wanted to thank all you guys for being such big fans of our iPhone game of the year Tiny Tower! Good luck with your game, we are looking forward to inspiring you with our future games! Sincerely, (all 3 of us), NimbleBit."

NimbleBit co-founders David and Ian Marsh subsequently revealed via Twitter that Zynga made an unsuccessful attempt to acquire their company. "Even when you refuse to go work for Zynga, sometimes you end up doing work for Zynga anyway," David Marsh tweeted, with Ian Marsh responding "They did go the honest route and try to acquire us first."

Late last year, Zynga--the company behind smashes like FarmVille and Words with Friends--settled a copyright infringement dispute with Brazilian rival Vostu. Zynga first filed suit against Vostu in June 2011, claiming the company infringed Zynga copyrights by duplicating game design layouts, mechanics, objects and storylines. Weeks later Vostu filed a countersuit contending that Zynga itself copied game designs from other publishers including Playfish--the suit also alleged that in 2010, Zynga entered negotiations to partner with or even acquire Vostu, but a deal never materialized.

Zynga remains the target of a separate patent infringement lawsuit alleging titles including Mafia Wars and Zynga Poker violate intellectual properties owned by Texas-based Agincourt Gaming. The suit, filed in August 2011, claims Agincourt--which operates the online game Pantheon--owns foundational patents dating back to 1996 that cover the processes for credits-based online gaming and a prize redemption system based on the game's outcome. The lawsuit also alleges that Zynga has a history of copying concepts and ideas for inclusion in its games.

Last month, Zynga raised $1 billion in its initial public offering, selling 100 million shares at $10.00 each to generate the largest offering by a U.S. technology firm since Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) raised $1.9 billion in 2004. The IPO values Zynga at as much as $7 billion.

For more:
- read this TechCrunch article
- view the open letter

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