Summary: Intellectual property is an important issue in the world of game development and publishing. A major concern for companies who want to enter the Chinese gaming market is preventing game IP fraud in China. The right game publishing partner can help you curb this risk.
Rampant piracy and copycatting continue to challenge game developers launching their games in the Chinese market. And even for developers who don’t have their sights set on the APAC region, games are at risk of being copied. With huge value in the intellectual property (IP) associated with video games, a successful clone could end up costing you thousands if you’re not properly protected.
Though specific IP legislation related to video games in China is minimal, there are still laws that protect IP theft of commercial products like movies, music or software that will also apply to your game.
However, completely preventing game IP fraud in China is a difficult task – especially when entering a market with a reputation for brazen copycat companies and rip-off titles that have already replicated so many popular Western games.
The reason theft is so extensive in the gaming industry is the potential profits involved for successful copycats.
When you take a popular game from the West and transfer it to a foreign market on a fraction of the budget it took to make the original, there is huge potential for financial return.
Sometimes it is literally impossible to tell the clone from the original. Notable rip-offs have left gamers shocked and impressed by the level of audacious imitation carried out by some Chinese video game developers.
Controversial titles have included Final Combat – a remarkably similar game to the popular Fortress 2 and Hero Mission, a mobile shooter game that bears more than a passing resemblance to the infamous Overwatch.
Many games are directly inspired by other games, but copycats are considered titles that blatantly use fundamental game mechanics from one game. Usually these games are self-developed with their own code, borrowing concepts, ideas and visual inspiration.
IP is gaming. It’s vital to the success and growth of the gaming industry as a whole as well as the individual titles within it. Without the ability to protect certain ideas, concepts, platforms and software, it can be difficult to accurately measure the development of the industry and the way the market reacts to certain changes.
On a micro level, IP protection is needed for the development of a sustainable brand that can attract, engage and convert users into loyal customers that will form a basis for future developments and allow you to actually monetise your game.
In order for developers to capitalise on their brand, a consistent image and persona need to be conveyed across all its products. IP theft poses a high risk of threatening this and causing brand dilution and misrepresentation – not what you want when you’re working to bring your game to a new market and make an impression.
Intellectual property refers to non-physical assets such as artistic works, brands, inventions or source code.
We’re talking about any items that are protected by law such as patents, copyright and trademarks that enable developers to earn recognition and financial benefit from the things they create.
Online and mobile games are full of copyrightable content such as characters, soundtracks, voices, narrative and even the animation.
Despite this, preventing game IP fraud in China can be a challenging task and it’s a common occurrence for games to be partially or completely replicated – a terrible thing for any developer to deal with.
A clone goes one step further than a copycat and actually uses the original game’s source code in addition to fundamental game mechanics to provide a whole new title. This will usually involve a ‘reskin’ of the game and various modifications to the graphics to add an all too transparent disguise. Sometimes reverse engineering can also take place through gameplay analysis.
The first step in protecting your IP when you launch a mobile game in China is to understand your rights as a game developer. This is no simple task in a new market, especially when you’re not familiar with the language.
To do this effectively requires coordination with a local partner that understands the context of China’s IP law. With added insight, you can then invest in protecting your rights and equip yourself for any potential IP theft in China.
Lawsuits are of course very time consuming as well as costly, so the best method of protection is often deterrence. This can be achieved with a coordinated launch plan where marketing content is distributed across all channels (iOS, Android, HTML5) to boost brand exposure and deter potential copycats.
Also, a trustworthy local partner will be well positioned to assist in protecting the most important aspects of your game with trademarks, copyrights and patents. These items may not guarantee success in a lawsuit, but they will make potential copycats think twice before infringing on your IP.
Finally, make sure you can trust your chosen local publisher to actually support your publication efforts rather than hamper them. There are unfortunately cases where publishers have reskinned the source code of their Western partners following seemingly legitimate deals.
Online and mobile games are full of copyrightable content such as characters, soundtracks, voices, narrative and even the animation. Despite this, it is surprising how often games are partially or completely replicated.
When you launch a mobile game in China with a local partner you have the support of an experienced team to help protect your brand and improve your chances of success in a potentially lucrative territory, for more reasons than one.
The sheer potential in the market makes it a prime target for copycats and rip-offs. Preventing game IP fraud in China involves taking the right precautions around your game that can make all the difference when it comes to securing your market position and protecting your reputation and revenue.
Game Hive’s popular mobile game Tap Titans also suffered the same fate as its user interface (UI), scoring logic and fundamental game mechanics were copied by a Chinese developer.
Supercell’s hit game Clash Royale made a big impact on the world of mobile games when it came out. What was perhaps more impressive though was the speed at which a Chinese game developer produced a clone version offering users an almost identical gaming experience.
It made headlines when Blizzard’s popular Overwatch was transported to mobile by a Chinese game developer using the same game functionality, character design and sound track.
The word brazen doesn’t quite cover it.