C. Custer
C. Custer
9:00 am on Aug 17, 2012

China has made great strides away from its reputation as the home of all things fake and copied over the past few years, which makes an incident like this all the more depressing. According to a post made several hours ago on Reddit, Tencent’s gaming platform Pengyou as well as the Tencent app store contains what is an almost exact copy of the Redditor’s indie game, Cloudstone.

Reddit user Fragsworth (who we have confirmed is indeed a developer of Cloudstone) writes of the copycat game, which is called QQ Sky City and Warriors’:

It’s pretty clear that they blatantly, seriously ripped us off. They took our files, reverse-engineered the server, and hosted the game themselves with Chinese translations. They stole years of our hard work. We have no idea how many users they have or how much money they’re making, but they have a pretty high rating on that site and they might be profiting off the stolen game more than we are.

[UPDATE 2: Added quote from Tencent’s international head of PR, who tells us]:

Our legal department is monitoring the situation and, if found to be a case of infringement, will act on it.

Tencent’s rep also pointed out that their own brand “QQ” is not in the pirate game’s title, as we had stated above.

As for whether or not the game is copied, well, look for yourself at this image Fragsworth posted:

Lest you think Fragsworth has cooked this up as promotion for his own game, it’s pretty clear when you compare Cloudstone’s site with the Chinese copy’s that this is a very real case of pretty blatant copying.

That’s a shame, because this isn’t a case of stealing from some multi-billion dollar company; Chinese “developers” Baofeng Dongman are stealing from indie developers who, to hear Fragsworth tell it, slaved away on this game for two years without pay, and still aren’t making much money off of it. That’s lame. [UPDATE 1: Added quote]. Speaking to Tech in Asia, Fragsworth said:

I’m not happy that there are people who do this. It’s not like they even attempted to re-make the game, they just made a direct fucking copy. As in they dragged and dropped the files from our website to their own servers so they could make money off of it. I always heard about how companies would do this kind of crap but never thought it’d happen to us.

Redditors are already suggesting ways the original developers might deal with this issue, like leaving lots of Chinese comments about how the game is a fraud. Fragsworth told Tech in Asia that the Cloudstone team has talked to lawyers — though no lawyers in China yet — but that the attention his post is getting on Reddit might help lead to some kind of resolution.

We have contacted Tencent and Baofeng Dongman for comment, and will update this story once we hear back.

[via Reddit]

[UPDATE 1: 3 hours after posting, added comments given to us by Fragsworth. It was updated again shortly after to correct the name of the developer, which is actually Baofeng Dongman].

[UPDATE 2: 10 hours after publishing we have an official response from Tencent to TiA, added above].

  • Vencenzo

    Nothing is off limits (Maybe we should start copying their creations) Wait they don’t create, only manufacturing our creations and bootleg! I need a new submariner!

  • http://www.entercrews.net Bobio

    What a dip. The fact that they think they can get away with this makes the blood boil. You must either have the mind of a criminal or be seriously deluded to even attempt something like this. I hope Tencent exercises sufficient action. Looking forward to your update.

  • weirdHK

    Knowing Tencent/QQ as I do and many others, nothing short of hiring a shanghai/bj/sz based chinese lawyer and issuing a notice of infringment. However since I doubt the original programmers filed a copyright TM within china, (Im sure Tencent did citing original works) hey have little or no chance of
    fighting copycat games. Making it public that its a copy of western and trying to raise the SHAME level is the best option and avenue of fighting back… still good luck with that.

    IP theft is the number one reason I moved my company out of china this year and to HK, I did not want to take the risk anymore. Still the foreign company had it done to them is criminal in their own country, morally wrong world wide, and just plain hurtful in so many personal ways..

    If they do hire a lawyer, the only thing they can do I try to scare Tencent in withdrawing the game. IF the game is popular and making money for them, I am doubtful this will happen. Hell even if TT/QQ are unaware the game is stolen IP (possible as lots of sub-contractors) they might simply not have a simple method of dealing with it.

    Good Luck…

  • http://www.matthunter.com Matt Hunter

    This isn’t a case of “copying”; this is piracy.

    IP law itself in China is not so weak as some people have suggested; but the enforcement is weak. That said, this seems to me pretty clear. Websites hosting pirated material are able to be held responsible. Tencent is a large enough company to be a worthwhile target. Micking up a diplomatic stink about Tencent harbouring piracy could impact their future prospects for expansions. A good local law firm is going to be needed though.

  • CopyThis

    @Weird HK – “raise the SHAME level” ???? Oh please. Tell that to the Renren and Mail.ru guys who are laughing all the way to the bank with billions of US dollars. We can throw in Kim Dotcom and MegaUpload in that group too.

    @Matt Hunter – before everyone goes Anti-China here @Vencenzo, what about Zynga? Zynga has been notorious for copying. Just ask EA. How is Tencent different than YouTube as a host? Shouldn’t there be a take down notice and some period of response first?

    If you really want to go after someone using the US courts, go after the money backing these guys. These pirates are backed by US dollars from US fund managers.


  • Frank

    This is usual in China and there isn’t a need to go into why they do it as it is imbedded in their culture and history. As an international corporate attorney here in China I have seen this too many times over my ten year tenure and without even asking my client or future client why?, they tell me they thought they could trust their Chinese partner. So, with all the information that is available on the web and in books concerning Chinese piracy, I still wonder why anyone would trust the Chinese. As I write on my blog http://www.caruso-associates.com/blog/ don’t trust anyone and make sure you have agreements with anyone you are even considering partnering with. This is true anywhere in the world, not just China. While I feel bad for the people who put years of money and effort into developing this and I salute their entrepreneurial efforts, this should be just another lesson for aspiring developers and entrepreneurs who want to enter the China or any other foreign market.

  • http://www.techinasia.com C. Custer

    @ Frank: No one “trusted” anyone in this situation. Please read the original post. The foreign developers had no interest in entering China or partnering with any Chinese company; they just happened to stumble across a wholesale copy of their game.

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