Clash of Clones: The Constant Copying Menacing the Mobile Market

Beginning in childhood, we are taught a couple of basic morals; little, simple things such as “don’t hurt others”, “share what you have”, “clean up after yourself”, “say please and thank you”, “treat others how you would want to be treated”, and, “don’t take other’s things”.

Plagiarism, in particular – the stealing of someone else’s information or ideas – is something us students are constantly warned against, considered a despicable act of academic dishonesty. Being caught plagiarizing leaves a permanent scar on a student’s records, something that will continue to haunt them for years to come. Dozens of laws have been created to help protect against the copying of information, and adults who plagiarize or otherwise steal information are ostracized from society.

Despite all the warnings we’re given not to steal things like information, dozens of thefts are appearing in the app stores of Apple and Google play. The sad truth is, no matter how much original or fresh content there is, there are always people who either fail or refuse to put in the effort to do more than simply copy tried and true formulas — and once enough copies have been created, it can be difficult to sift through the frauds to find the original.

The most common games and apps that can be found are carbon copies of some kind of app or game that’s already made its way to the top of the charts. Think of any kind of big-name game that was out on the App Store or Google Play, and you can find ten copies of it without much effort. There are even developers who mostly make copies of apps, like Sunflat and IGG.

Even before Mojang released Minecraft: Pocket Edition for mobile devices, dozens of copies of the sandbox block were making the rounds on the app store. When Clash of Clans came out, the app store became littered with imitations of the famous game – none of them original and none of them any good. We all know of the match-three genre that has appeared throughout the app store, one of the more prominent more ones being Candy Crush. And of course, there are the dozens upon dozens of “endless runner” games out there — Temple Run and Subway Surfers being two notable hits among a sea of endless clones, typically being reskinned to fit whatever movie or TV series is popular at the time.

Of course, not everything must be original to be good. After all, many or even most works of art today are based off of old, familiar premises or ideas — good versus evil, boy meets girl. Most works of fiction consist of the same basic elements – plot, characters, setting, conflict, resolution, and theme – most of which form the same few stories with some differences.

But what separates works of art from ‘clones’ is the effort put into them in an honest attempt to make something new, a purpose — to tell a story, to send a message, or simply to entertain people or oneself. Money, fame, etc.; these desires do not motivate artists, but come as a result of their art.

Sadly, the minimal effort that’s required to make these copies means there are dozens of them in the app stores, and these senseless repeats will always be present no matter what — after all, there’s always a market for even the lowest-quality products. As long as a part of the public, even a small one, clicks on the “Download” button, they’re supporting and encouraging the copycats perpetuating their creation, like a virus perpetuating itself so that it may spread even further.

The only thing that can really be done is to check carefully before downloading anything. If downloading is done without regards to quality, you haven’t only wasted your time, but you’ve also supported shoddy business practices which will continue to plague others. We must act as the immune system of the mobile market by boycotting copycat apps. This may not be possible – there will always be people who don’t realize they’re feeding the beast – but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try. Next time you’re looking for something on the app store, be sure to take the time to make sure the product is worth your time. Your careful decision will help you and everyone around you.