Following accusations of knowingly cloning the game Scamperghost, King CEO Riccardo Zacconi has issued an open letter to the community addressing the issue of the publisher cloning games, as well as being a trademark troll.
"The details of the situation are complex, but the bottom line is that we should never have published Pac-Avoid. We have taken the game down from our site, and we apologise for having published it in the first place," the publisher said of its 2009 Scamperghost clone. "Let me be clear: This unfortunate situation is an exception to the rule. King does not clone games, and we do not want anyone cloning our games."
Regarding the trademark issue, Zacconi stated that this is a common practice and less devious than the general populace believes. "There is nothing very unusual about trademarking a common word for specific uses. Think of 'Time', 'Money' 'Fortune', 'Apple', and 'Sun', to name a few. We are not trying to control the world's use of the word 'Candy;' having a trade mark doesn't allow us to do that anyway. We're just trying to prevent others from creating games that unfairly capitalise on our success."
Despite this level-headed explanation of things, Zacconi remained adamant that its legal filings against The Banner Saga was not overstepping its reach. "We have opposed the game developer, Stoic's application to trademark 'Banner Saga.' We don't believe that Banner Saga resembles any of our games but we already have a series of games where 'Saga' is key to the brand which our players associate with King, such as Candy Crush Saga, Bubble Witch Saga, Pet Rescue Saga, Farm Heroes Saga and so on. All of these titles have already faced substantive trademark and copyright issues with clones."
"We're not trying to stop Stoic from using the word Saga but we had to oppose their application to preserve our own ability to protect our own games. Otherwise, it would be much easier for future copycats to argue that use of the word 'Saga' when related to games, was fair play.
As it turns out, Scamperghost clone Pac-Avoid's developer Matt Porter isn't buying King's apology and has further explained the story of how he was deceived by the Candy Crush publisher five years ago in a recent blog post.
"During this time  I was an extremely active member of FlashGameLicense and had regular contact with Lars Jörnow who was games acquisition manager for King at that the time," Porter explained. "Lars messaged us and asked us if we wanted a small job. He then told us that he was working with another developer to secure a sponsorship for the game Scamperghost and that the developer had backed out of the deal."
"King wasn't too pleased with that, and so Lars requested that we clone the game for them. I had a good working relationship with King then and was quite upset that someone would break the FGL [FlashGameLicense] terms and conditions. I initially thought the job was a little immoral, and a bit sketchy, but we had worked with King before, talked regularly, and Lars made these other developers seem like some really unprofessional jerks."
Porter went on the explain that the publisher "requested that we name the game 'Pac-Avoid', as King felt that would be best for marketing." He then added, "we thought the name was stupid (both because it didn't sound good and because it ripped off Pac-Man)." The developer said that he then "made a deal that the Epic Shadow branding not be placed in the game, as we found the entire project to be sketchy."
Scamperghost developer Matthew Cox was still able to deduce the cloning culprit, but the devs' eventually realised they were pretty much on the same page and that King was to blame for its deception. "In the end, the Scamper Ghost team had ample evidence that we were indeed contracted to clone the game, and that we were mislead to believe they had made some very unethical business decisions to pull away from King and go with Max games," Porter said. "They were still pissed at the entire situation, but the overall conclusion was that we were forgiven, and King was to blame."
In light of King's recent removal of Pac-Avoid and its statement that it does "a thorough search of other games in the marketplace," Porter is calling bulls***. "No further input or instructions were given beyond 'clone the game,'" Porter explained.
"I find it pathetic that a company such as King would throw the blame around in this situation while hypocritically attacking others," he railed. "Trademarking common words such as 'Candy' is just ridiculous. Bullying indie developers is even worse. The company is sitting on billions of dollars and everyone already knows about Candy Crush; I don't think they need to worry about getting ripped off, especially not by the people they're targeting."
"Based on their response to the recent allegations, I now know that the company is both deceitful and hypocritical. I was contracted to make Pac-Avoid, a direct clone of Scamperghost, and I did just that - why King would try to lie about the obvious proven truth is beyond me. I understand that they have a lot to lose by admitting to something from so long ago, but the truth is clear, and they're just digging a deeper whole by lying about it."
"I'm sorry I took on such an immoral contract job, and I've learned from my past, it's a shame King can't fess up and do the same."