21 February 2012

Tiny Tower vs. Dream Heights

One perennial topic of discussion in the casual gaming press is companies copying each other's games. A company that has been accused of this more than once is Zynga, and they have come under fire again for the similarity of their new game Dream Heights to a game by NimbleBit called Tiny Tower. I have embedded two YouTube videos so you can see for yourself how much the games are alike.

I downloaded Tiny Tower for my iPhone before Dream Heights was even released. It was one of those games that I download because I've heard it mentioned in passing by several people as a fun game. I didn't really know what the game was about, but I figured I would suss it out as I played. Once I tried it, however, I had trouble understanding what to do. The 8-bit graphics that other players found charming were grainy to my poor old eyes and difficult for me to decipher. The pop-ups at the start of the game gave minimal instruction. Although I prefer my tutorial to be provided in-game, I would have welcomed a separate how-to page, but I couldn't find one in the game's menu. I ended up deleting Tiny Tower after a couple days.

Zynga has a pretty good cross-promotional strategy. If an ad for a new Zynga pops up while I'm playing Scramble with Friends, I will most likely download it and give it a try. That's how I ended up with Dream Heights, and like other Zynga titles, I had no trouble jumping right into the gameplay. The graphics were clear and the opening tutorial was easier for me to understand. Playing Dream Heights actually made me want to download Tiny Tower again. This time I was able to understand a lot of the stuff I couldn't figure out before, especially the ratings that help you match the right person to the right job.

As for Zynga copying NimbleBit's game, I have conflicting thoughts on that. I know that it isn't fair for a multimillion dollar company with over 2500 employees to steal the ideas of a little indie company that amount to three guys in the den. However, for me, Dream Heights is an improvement on the original concept and the one I would pick if I could only keep one. I still feel guilty about siding with the game world's robber baron, though.

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