Are bedroom programmers being intimidated out of free market competition against big publishers in the iPhone market?

I am Pyrofer, author of Rockfall for the iPhone. It has been for sale on iTunes since early July.

I am not a professional developer, just a fan of Boulder Dash(r), who has a full time job and a family to support. I made a game in my spare time that is admittedly inspired by Boulder Dash(r), as I am a huge fan of that game. I had no idea that this would cause any problems, as I have used no code or graphics from Boulder Dash(r). but merely made a game of similar style. The video game industry is full of games that are quite similar in style and appearance. Also there are many imitations of Boulder Dash(r) freely available on almost every system. Most of them are much more similar to Boulder Dash(r) than my Rockfall game is.

First Star Software have demanded that I cease all distribution of Rockfall. They have not stated exactly how my game is infringing their copyrights, and what I would need to change to avoid infringement. They insist they are legally obliged to behave in this way. It seems an unreasonable request to remove the game totally without knowing which elements are at fault. However to avoid any costly legal action I will respect their request and remove the game from iTunes.

I heard that other Boulder Dash(r) inspired games have been removed from iTunes due to pressure from First Star. They mentioned that they are preparing an official Boulder Dash(r) game for the iPhone but it is not finished yet.

I wonder what other readers think of this situation. I am not aware of other video games companies that take such an extreme view of their copyrght. If they did, I think 99% of games in existence would be illegal. Do you think First Star are using their financial strength and legal resources to bully legitimate competitors into withdrawing from open market competition? Or do you think that they are legally justified to do this, and that other video game companies should do the same? Or perhaps you think current copyright law is in need of reform to enable legitimate competition? How can bedroom programmers know what is safe and what is not when writing games?

Note that Boulder Dash(r) is a registered trademark of First Star Software. Any other registered trademarks that may have been accidentally mentioned in this message are fully acknowlegded as beinging to their respective owners.

Comments are closed.