News Article

Nintendo's Battles With Clones and Copycat Smart Device Games Continue in the Far East

Posted by Thomas Whitehead

Issues in the Chinese market, among others

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.


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User Comments (36)



Emblem said:

"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."

Nope, this doesn't make sense and isn't true as despite numerous other developers like Sega & Sony etc being on smartphones there are Sonic, Crash Bandicoot clones all over the place.

As much as i like the freedom IOS and Play afford, i do believe there should be some kind of quality control and responsibility by the Apple and Google.



unrandomsam said:

Nintendo don't seem to be doing anything about counterfeit games. (Used to just be on Ebay from overseas but it is getting much worse now it is on Amazon UK and Ebay (UK Sellers)).

I think reproduction cartridges are almost as bad. (It is one thing if somebody does it for themselves quite another when they are selling the result).



ThomasBW84 said:

@Undead_terror I think the issue's often between clones and copycats. I imagine it's a tricky one, but if a game is pretty much a clone (as this Super Mario one in China seems to be) perhaps there's greater scope to force a takedown. The defence of the other company is often on how much is 'unique', so in the case of mole kart it had plenty that was different, even though we could see it had obviously lifted much from Mario Kart Wii.

It's a complicated business, though, and lawyers get paid plenty of money to figure it out!



unrandomsam said:

@Emblem Apple reviews everything before it is added. It is not the same as Google.

Google is in the business of showing ad's. (They won't do more than the absolute minimum legally required if that means more ad's get shown).



unrandomsam said:

Nintendo didn't do anything about stopping those 50 in 1 Games Systems with everything built into an n64 style controller. (In Shopping Centres all over the country. Always shown playing Super Mario Bros which was the only decent game on them.)

But Nintendo themselves made a 100% pong clone so in an ideal world they would say if we did something than somebody else doing what we did should be ok.



ToastyYogurt said:

@unrandomsam: ....The Color TV Game (that Pong clone) was made in the 70s, before the NES and before they were actually a game company. Don't use something they did 40 years ago as an example for hypocrisy. If I was a jerk 5 years ago, that doesn't necessarily mean I am a jerk today.

And I believe they did try to stop sale of those 50 in 1s, it's just harder than you think to tell every mall in the world to stop selling them after they shut down the company manufacturing them.



Squiggle55 said:

Can anyone explain to me with facts why in the world this sort of stuff always seems to come from China, and why, like Mr. Pachter said, "Misappropriation of intellectual property is hard to prevent in China"?



BooJoh said:

"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."

This is just terrible logic. Nintendo has absolutely no obligation to make smartphone apps or games and if they don't choose to do so, that simply does not excuse IP theft.



rjejr said:

China is a lost cause. It will probably get better as it opens up but for the time being its a lost cause.

Anybody making a copycat game and stupid enough to use the name Mario should be arrested. Mole Kart sounds a better way to go. Not sure if Nintenfo is immune to copying from others, unless they invented the underlying premise of Dr. Mario which always looked like a Tetris clone to me, though I suppose they could have licensed it.

I do think they'll have a bigger problem with quiz type games though as those seem to be all the rage these days. That sounds like a difficult fight as it doesnt take any skill to make one of those.

Does Serebii have a licensing agreement with Nintendo?



unrandomsam said:

@ToastyYogurt Nintendo became what they are today by all the actions they took. (Including the clone Lego they tried to make that wasn't any good). Maybe in 40 years time one of these cloners will be in a similar position to Nintendo. They did it therefore they shouldn't tell anybody else not to. (It is not really a problem anyway the genuine product is the superior one. Counterfeiting however is a real problem).

China will be the main superpower as well at some point by doing exactly the same with IP as the US did to Britain when it was formed. The only question is when it will happen.



ToastyYogurt said:

@unrandomsam Nintendo's not doing it now. That's the thing. They did "cloning" a lot when they were trying to branch out from being a playing card company, but that was a long time ago, and those were just generic clones. It's one thing to make a game that plays identically to Mario, but branding it a Mario game without licensing is another. Nintendo is trying to protect their IPs. You can't fault them for doing that. You don't seem to understand that because you're too busy finding one loose claim to prove everyone wrong. That's a stupid way to live, and you're not going to get many people to like you if you keep at life like that.



justlink said:

I am not surprised. People can be hogs and pigs and will do about anything for money. Just because "Super Mario" is free, it still harms Nintendo. They lose sales due to people believing theres a free version elsewhere than VC lists for 4.99 or however they measure money there



unrandomsam said:

@ToastyYogurt All I know is in 40 years time if there is something that I did around now. (Say have this conversation). Just saying even though I did something you shouldn't I don't think will ever work for me. (Doesn't matter whether is a person or a company). If it did change and it came up I would be up front about it.

It was a long time ago is not a good enough excuse. (See the SS guy in Italy who recently died).



ToastyYogurt said:

@unrandomsam Look, yes, it happened a long time ago. I'm sticking with that. Nintendo is not the same as they were 40 years ago. 40 years ago Nintendo was trying to tap into other markets. After they found their foot in games, they've been trying their own innovative ideas. They no longer make clones. If they made clones now and told people not to make clones, that would be hypocrissy. But since that is way in the past for them, it's not. If a bully decides to change his ways and become a nice guy, then later call someone else a bully, is he a hypocrite? No, because the situation no longer applies to him. Therefore, Nintendo is not in the wrong.



Trikeboy said:

@rjejr Serebii doesn't have a license with Nintendo but they play it safe when reporting on rumors. For example, when the 3 unlockables Pokemon were hacked in X and Y, Serebii didn't report it. They didn't want to get on Nintendo's bad side.



Artwark said:

There are always clones from not only Nintendo games but from other games as well. Most of them are free and do not make any profit out of it.

While I can agree that this can possibly ruin Nintendo's business, I don't think its really doing that much of damage because those clones can be a sort of a way to educate those who don't know like Mario for instance? One of the first Mario games that I played was a PC Mario game that it was called which only had around 6 levels and it was free.

Sure Nintendo may lose a lot from this, but the fact is every dev is losing a lot of money on this so don't think Nintendo's the only one that's struggling because this thing can't be stopped.



ChessboardMan said:

@ThomasBW84 surely it's more a case of blatant use of their IPs, as in Their Characters, rather than how closely similar it is to their original game?
As in, if Mario is stamped over the whole thing, without Nintendo's permission, then they should have a case to remove it.
Or is something is an exact copy of Super Mario World, but completely resprited and with new Music/Sound, then it may be Harder to make a case?
It's like if someone mass produced and marketed Marvel figures without Marvel's permission. It might be entirely different from already existing official figures, but they could still have them pulled off the market faster than you could say "excelsior"…



Einherjar said:

@Trikeboy People who fall for stuff like that wouldnt buy the real deal anyways, but youre definitly not wrong. I know many people, many "smartphone drones" who boast themself with "also being into pokemon" when they reffer zo smartphone rippoffs. Most of them arent even aware of the fact, that nintendo isnt making these. They just see the title and assume its the real deal most of the time.
Stuff like that just reflects the overall quality of the so called "mobile gaming market". Its mostly all smoke and mirrors, quickly cashing in on conditioned, mindless drones by the oh so attractive low prices. Why buy an expansive dedicated handheld gaming system and an expansive game, when you can have "the same experience" for basicly nothing on your phone.
Since most of these people wouldnt even try a real gaming device, they simply dont know the difference. Ignorance is bliss afterall.



Trikeboy said:

Many people try to clone Nintendo games but they are rarely as good as the original. I downloaded Mole Kart to see what it was like. They may have ripped of the tracks but they didn't take the tight controls. It plays terribly and is actually a good case for Nintendo to stay clear of releasing their games on idevices.



MysticX said:

@Squiggle55 Because basically, when things go to court, the chinese guy tends to win (Protectionism wins... Fatality...), and quite honestly i doubt the chinese have had an original idea in decades, they just knock off good ideas by other people...

The only things i ever see about chinese industry on any news outlet involve either a knockoff-scandal, or a shipping container filled with hazardous chemicals/toxic toys



FullbringIchigo said:

no matter how much they change it, if it has mario in it and they didn't have nintendo's permission then it's illegal



unrandomsam said:

@MysticX Just like America did when it first started. (Industrial Machinery designs / Books it was all ripped off from the British). If they didn't do that then things could have turned out very differently. Japan started off copying stuff then got better. (Japanese Hi-Fi stuff was pretty awful when they started).



element187 said:

@Emblem Apple does enforce copyright, and puts actual effort in policing the iOS store. it's google play that barely moves a muscle to police anything.... Play even allows developers to stick spyware/adware in software, which I find beyond the pale. Having to clean out my wife's samsung every month because it starts pop up advertising to her without her consent (yeah I know they hide that in the EULA) is annoying. I'm going to switch her to ios, so I don't have to play wack a mole with spyware.



Yorumi said:

I really hope this isn't news to anyone. In the words of Top Gear "Lets just say the words 'copyright infringement' don't translate well to madarin."



ICHIkatakuri said:

@Senario I'm amazed he still has a job! I couldn't care less what his opinions are on Nintendo consoles, I'm not some angry Nintendo fan going on a rant here. As I see it, he says something slightly different every couple of weeks so if something anywhere near one of his claims comes true then he's justified his pay cheque?! The man is a pillock of fortune teller or psychic medium proportions. Maybe one day he will get the sack and end up on Living Tv with Derek Acorah looking for ghosts in electrical appliances. I wonder how many people were killed by Nintendo Virtual Boys?



ToastyYogurt said:

I'm not arguing about whether it's a fact or not. Yes, it's a fact, they did that. But is it relevant to this situation? No. Since then, Nintendo's redeemed themselves with innovation upon innovation, avoiding copying the competition to the point that the media often ridicules them for it. Needless to say, they're not the desperately branching, desperately following company they were 40 years ago. If Nintendo was shamelessly copying ideas from Microsoft and Sony, then yeah, it could be a relevant fact. But as far as I see, they're content with finding their own audience with their own ideas and own visions.

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