Jan 25, 2022 - Technology

Another copycat game dropped from iOS, Android stores

Two video game screenshots, both showing a scene of a bathroom and a cardboard box that needs to be unpacked
On the left: the original Unpacking; on the right: the now delisted Unpacking Master. Screenshot: @UnpackingALife

A video game that copied the title, gameplay concept and design of 2021 indie hit Unpacking is no longer listed on Apple and Google’s mobile app stores, an apparent delisting a day after it topped the iOS charts.

Why it matters: For all of the talk of content curation by app giants like Apple, game developers regularly see clones rocket to app store success.

Details: Both the original Unpacking and the mobile game Unpacking Master task players with opening moving boxes and placing items in rooms.

  • For those who have played both (or just look at the screenshots tweeted by Brisbane-based Unpacking studio Witch Beam), the similarities are glaring.
  • The biggest difference: Unpacking (which was nominated for best indie game at multiple 2021 awards shows) has been out since November on PC and consoles; Unpacking Master just popped up on mobile and yesterday ranked as the top free game in Apple’s app store.
  • “We're a tiny indie team and even with the success we have achieved, we still don't have the resources to pursue companies trying to use our game's distinct look and feel to make a quick buck,” the Witch Beam team wrote on twitter last night.
  • Within hours of that tweet, Unpacking Master was removed from mobile storefronts.

Between the lines: This is the second time in two weeks that a copycat game surged in popularity, only to be removed once developers, media and fans called foul.

  • Just two weeks ago, an army of clones of the viral web game Wordle swept through Apple’s app store, before the company deleted them. (A similar game, Wordus, remains a top performer.)
  • Apple’s store review guidelines warn against copycats, though seemingly anticipates them passing review: “In addition to risking an intellectual property infringement claim, it makes the App Store harder to navigate and just isn’t fair to your fellow developers.”
  • Apple did not reply to a request for comment about the Unpacking situation.

What they’re saying: “This is a very intentional imitation that directly copied items and environments from our game, not an accident or misunderstanding,” Witch Beam developer Wren Brier told Axios.

  • She said her studio saw no point in reaching out to Unpacking Master’s developers or publisher, “as we don’t feel that would achieve anything.”
  • Instead, she said: “We think it is the app stores’ responsibility to better curate their stores."
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