We’ve all heard the stories of Zynga trying to absorb smaller developers in order to attach their brand sticker to successful games, and if the developer doesn’t comply then they just go ahead and put a clone onto the market to much public outcry. But we’ve never heard of Google being accused of such a thing before. That’s the case when it comes to the release of Google’s Niantic Labs’ Ingress – a location based multiplayer smartphone game.
Ingress has two warring sides fighting over a new source of power. It’s location-based, so you’ll be informed via the game that some power is nearby and that you should embrace it or rid the world of its influence, depending on what side you’re on. The idea is remarkably similar to Shadow Cities in which two sides of mages fight each other through their smartphones and based on their location. In both games you can scan for threats and work with those nearby who are on your team to fight the opposition.
“Right now Ingress only offers me an exciting lore experience embedded in the real world, which is exactly what Shadow Cities offers as well.”
Jenni Saarinen currently works as a 3D artist at EA Maxis but supplied game assets and marketing graphics towards Shadow Cities. She recently wrote on her personal Tumblr blog of how Google had “outrageously plagiarized” Shadow Cities, bringing the matter to our attention.
What seems to have further annoyed Jenni is that media outlets that have covered the launch of Ingress have even made reference to the similarities, but without accusation – check out TechCrunch‘s article, in which they say of Ingress: “The game is like other map-based ones we’ve seen before”.
You can see in the screenshot comparison at the top of this article that there is at least a visual similarity. There are others saying that Ingress is practically the same game as Shadow Cities too. In this video that covers the release of Ingress, it is recognized that the games look very similar, and it is also said that the use of two sides warring with each other within a global MMORPG on a smartphone is practically the same. Instead of having the Invaders and the Architects against each other, Ingress has the Enlightened and the Resistance battling.
A post on mothnode.com further confirms the similarities between the two games, even going so far as to call them “exact” and listing three reasons why:
“1. I have the same ‘scanning’ feeling when I search enemy players via smartphone and battle for and capture areas of my city.
2. I play through a similar resource economy and basic quest system where I gather experience to level up my character.
3. I experience the game through an underlying UI of the game, structures of which look the same – although as Artur Kurasiński notes, the visual side gives off a strong ‘Inception meets Matrix’ vibe and I agree. It’s fresh and vibrant.”
“We haven’t had a chance to play Ingress but if their intention was just to copy Shadow Cities, that would be of course unfortunate.”
Upon contacting Grey Area Games about this, they informed us that they were informed by their community about the similarities in Ingress to their own game:
“Based on the screenshots that we have seen of Ingress the visual style does seem to bear resemblance to Grey Area’s Shadow Cities, which was released two years ago on iTunes App Store. We haven’t had a chance to try out Ingress ourselves, but we have received quite a lot of messages and tweets from Shadow Cities fans commenting the similarities between these two games – based on these comments apparently Ingress does resemble our game to some extent.”
As to matters of taking the accusations any further, Grey Area said: “We don’t see any need at going forward with any kind of legal actions.”
A wise decision, or maybe one that came with choice, as Jenni noted on her Tumblr post, Grey Area are a team of less than 20 people and have no chance of going up against a corporate giant like Google. Clone or coincidence? In this interview with AllThingsD, John Hanke of Niantic Labs lists a number of influences but doesn’t mention Shadow Cities at all, instead pointing towards World of Warcraft when it comes to other games. Below you’ll find the two trailers to compare, it has to be said they are pretty similar.