We've highlighted multiple examples in the past of smart device games that are either direct or exceptionally close clones of Nintendo titles. In one sense a form a flattery, it's an ongoing concern for Nintendo that its content is presented without license and, in many cases, with a lack of quality that can in principle damage the company's brand. Often these clones sport enough differences to argue a case that they can't be taken down, but Bloomberg has highlighted the ongoing presence of copycat games in the far east, particularly China.
Bloomberg highlights the case of a "Super Mario" game by Beijing Flyfish Technology Co, which was available on the Baidu Inc.’s 91 Wireless online application store in China as well as the Samsung equivalent. Despite the fact the game was even advertised as a reproduction of the iconic Super NES game, the publisher's co-founder Zhu Jinbiao argued that as it was free — with earnings from adverts — and that there was enough original content, his company did not need permission or a licensing agreement from Nintendo.
There were already some similar kinds of PC-based games using flash technology. Our game is similar to those. Some parts are like the original. Some parts we’ve changed.
Nintendo's spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa stated last week that Nintendo was looking into apps that had been raised by Bloomberg. Notably, the Super Mario title from Beijing Flyfish is no longer available on the applicable Samsung store, with the device manufacturer providing the following statement.
The service of the application that was reported to have violated the intellectual right has been halted based on the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Samsung has informed the issue to the application seller.
The official website of Beijing Flyfish Technology Co still has a thumbnail image of what appears to be the Super Mario World clone, but the title has — like on the Samsung store — disappeared from the company's list of current games. While that appears to be a battle Nintendo is winning, another highlighted title called Super Mario Quiz remains live on the Samsung service at the time of writing; as the name suggests it's a quiz app that tests the player's knowledge.
Bloomberg sought comment from well-known Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, who said the following.
Misappropriation of intellectual property is hard to prevent in China. [Nintendo] should be exploiting their IP on their own instead of letting others do so.
Nintendo, for its part, made clear in January that it will deliver smartphone services and content in 2014, while resisting giving any notable details beyond the fact a dedicated team has been assigned to the task. The company is also seeking to expand its licensing activities, not ruling out "win-win" digital realms; naturally, these unofficial clones and usage of Nintendo IPs aren't part of that plan.
It seems restricting the appearance of Mario and others to Nintendo products remains a challenge worldwide; the Kyoto company's lawyers are likely to remain busy.