I know that lately I haven’t been blogging a lot, but recently something very notable happened that I feel everybody should learn about. As you know our marble popping game StoneLoops! of Jurassica has been ported to the iPhone platform and proved to be a huge success. It stayed in the global US app top 10 for almost two months and never dropped out of top 100. Until now that is, because today StoneLoops! has been removed from the App Store by Apple on the request of… MumboJumbo.
If you don’t know Mumbo Jumbo, this is the company that creates Luxor marble popping games. In fact Luxor is one of the biggest marble popper franchises in the entire casual games market. When StoneLoops! was released on the PC and MAC it was over 3 years after the first Luxor game and the marble popping genre was almost dead. In result StoneLoops! never reached any serious top-tens and has stayed in the shadow of the giants - Luxor and Zuma. But on the iPhone it was the other way round.
Together with an external company Playcreek we managed to prepare a very solid port of StoneLoops! to the iPhone platform. It was a great success for us that we managed to launch the game sooner than MumboJumbo managed to complete their iPhone port of Luxor. In result the roles for StoneLoops! and Luxor have reversed in the AppStore. Due to an excellent port and good timing our game became the genre leader receiving hundreds of positive user reviews. In the meanwhile Luxor for the iPhone received very little attention and quickly dropped out of the various top100’s. I can imagine that MumboJumbo wasn’t entirely satisfied with this result, but hey – what can you do about it? It seems you can do quite a lot…
About 3 weeks ago we have learned that MumboJumbo supplied Apple with a formal complaint and a request to remove StoneLoops! from the AppStore. The reason? Infringing Luxor copyright, confusing customers, stealing Luxor’s look & feel and even stealing their source code! This might sound absurd to anyone who knows both games but apparently Apple decided otherwise as we’ve been requested to prepare a formal response, which we did. We described how ungrounded each claim is and supplied various materials to back our claims.
Among all the MumboJumbo claims there was a single one which had some merit. The users were able to input “Luxor” in the iTunes search field and StoneLoops! was one of the returned results. Of course Luxor was still the first result. This was because the game description featured several excerpts from game reviews. The one which caused the “problem” was a citation from GameZebo – “more than worthy match for even more established industry goliaths like Zuma and Luxor…”. Our response was that we are willing to remove this part from the game description if Apple decides that this common practice is not appropriate in this situation.
Several weeks have passed since our response and we started thinking that Apple has ruled in favor of our explanations. Unfortunately to our great surprise today we have learned that StoneLoops! had been removed from the AppStore. It was also quite a shock to learn that the final decision was actually made by MumboJumbo as apparently Apple asked them if our response was satisfactory. Of course MumboJumbo replied that they still want StoneLoops! removed. After all if you were to decide whether your direct competition will be allowed to sell products or not, would you allow them? Talk about unfair competition – Luxor is selling, StoneLoops! is not. I wonder what happens when Zuma launches in the AppStore. Will PopCap request to remove Luxor with similar claims? Such case would be identical.
In fact if Apple stands by its decision this will create a dangerous precedence. If you are a developer and have an application in the AppStore you should quickly request Apple to remove the apps of your competition, before someone else requests to remove you! I don’t believe this can get any more absurd, but this is exactly where this reasoning is getting us.
Another funny thing is that MumboJumbo was one of the publishers considered when releasing StoneLoops! They’ve been shown the game before it was launched and never expressed any serious interest in it or any doubts about copyright. This of course changed when our game performed considerably better on the iPhone.
Unfortunately this is all of the story so far, but I hope it’s not the end. We’ll be trying to bring StoneLoops! back into the AppStore and I’ll be writing about new developments as they unfold. In the meantime if you want to play StoneLoops! you can do it on a MAC or a PC. In fact you can get StoneLoops! on almost every casual game portal – the game has been selling right next to Luxor and other marble poppers for years without any problems whatsoever…