Can Windows Phone avoid the app clone wars?

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As more people start to buy into the Windows Phone system, more app developers will be looking at the platform and wondering how to make best use of the opportunities on offer. One route I personally hope that they ignore is 'cloning' popular applications from other platforms and dropping them into Microsoft's mobile machines.

You might recall on Friday that I reviewed a game called 'Dots'. Coded by B.B. Ape, it's incredibly reminiscent of the game 'Dots - A Game About Connecting' released on iOS by Betaworks and Nerdy Octopus.

Dots (iOS)

The game has just picked up an updated version, and as well as picking up on some of the issues in the AAWP review, it's also made a change to the one of the power-ups you can purchase using the in game currency. And the wording of this change is almost identical to the original... "dots to balance gameplay".

Then Rafe pointed out another version of 'Dots' to me. Using almost the same icon as the B.B. Ape version, this version looks even closer to the Betaworks original in terms of graphic, but the smoothness of the iOS version is simply not present. 

Various Dots on Windows Phone

Various Dots on Windows Phone

As long as there have been applications, there have been clones, and in some cases the clone game is actually better than the original - Arkanoid was another bat and ball game that itself was a clone of Breakout, and cloned itself by many other tiles (such as the wonderful Batty).

The long story around the ownership of Tetris is always interesting, but the number of games that were Tetris in name, but not in ownership is legion. The lawsuits around Tetris have made a direct clone of the game a rather tricky area to program around, but the 'Tetris style' game is about to make my point.

What I want to see in clone games is not a slavish reproduction of the original, but building on the appeal of the original, adding a new ingredient, and making the resulting title stronger that the influence.

Take 'Loops' on Android. It's very much a 'Dots' based clone, but it adds something new to the mix - you get bonus points for longer chains of dots, and when you complete a loop in the game, not only do all the dots of that colour disappear, but you also get two seconds of time added to the sixty second counter.

Dots clone 'Loops' on Android

As the Windows Phone ecosystem continues to grow, more developers are going to look at the Windows Phone Store and realise there are still gaps in the market that they can develop and profit from. Most applications and utilities will always have their own spin, but the lifting of gaming concepts starts to get into very grey areas.

So, dear developers, by all means if there is something missing from Windows Phone, then please consider filling that gap. But please build on what has gone before, take what attracted you to an app or game, and improve on that when you release your masterpiece.

Simply lifting idea one from another platform and labelling it as idea two when you release it for Windows Phone is not on. As much as any other Windows Phone supporter, I want to see the apps I love on other smartphones make their way to Windows Phone. But I don't want poor quality pirated versions, I want the real deal. If that means waiting for the original developer to make the port, while a third party app with similar functionality but its own character serves my needs, so be it.

Windows Phone is a platform that deserves more than a clone.