15 June 2017
Follows Oink Games’ accusations that One Night Ultimate Werewolf publisher cloned its 2016 release Insider
The founder and president of Bezier Games has responded to accusations that the publisher copied the design for upcoming release Werewords from another game.
Writing on Opinionated Gamers, Ted Alspach acknowledged the ‘hubbub’ following Japanese outlet Oink Games’ claims on Twitter earlier this week that Werewords was a clone of its 2016 release Insider, which it had discussed licensing with Bezier last October to no avail.
Alspach confirmed that he had approached Oink about licensing the design for Insider after noticing the similarities between the social deduction word game and a title he had been working on independently beforehand.
“This isn’t a new thing for most game designers: you work on something for a certain period of time only to find out that there’s a published version of a game that’s similar to what you’ve designed that you hadn’t heard of,” he added.
According to Alspach, he sent Oink a message enquiring about the English licensing rights to Insider, explaining his plans to introduce extra roles and app integration – features that eventually made it into Werewords – and pointing out the similar ‘Americanized’ treatment that had been applied to Bezier’s games One Night Ultimate Werewolf and Colony, which had both been based on Japanese-language titles and subsequently licensed by the firm.
“It would essentially be a different game, but since Insider had some similarities and had been on the market already, I approached them,” he explained.
While talking with Oink about the possibility of a deal and the changes that would be made to the game, the designer continued to develop the new Insider-based project, before eventually deciding to return to finishing his original design.
Alspach says that Oink eventually stopped replying to his emails, with no communication after November 2nd last year.
“As Werewords took shape, it was clear that it was substantially different than Insider,” he said. “So much so that while both games have 20 questions at their core, playing either of them was an entirely different experience.”
Alspach lists the gameplay, component and word list differences between the games, pointing out the role-specific mechanics introduced, team-centric format and customisation options and wider list of words available through the app, which is integral to the game.
“For Oink to state that Werewords is a copy of Insider without having played Werewords or even read the rules is an overreach on their part,” he concludes.
“For them to go further and strongly imply that I copied their game, even though they don’t have any firsthand knowledge of Werewords, its rules or how it plays, is irresponsible.”
UPDATE: Oink has now responded to Alspach's comments. Here's the statement in full:
"We just let each of you decide whether a game is copied or not. We all know that the rules of a game are not protected by any copyright. All we can say is that we didn’t agree to the offer from Bezier Games. The offer that they wanted to 'add more special roles', 'integrate it with an app'…
"Acknowledging there is an existing game with some similarity and releasing the game anyway, because one could not receive an 'OK' from the other party: We don’t agree with such a way of publishing. Especially when a much stronger publisher releases the later game.
"If this kind of publishing continues, people who don’t have many distribution channels would have difficulty benefiting from their games. This applies to small companies like ours and/or to individual game designers.
"We have talked with many publishers. This is not the first time we couldn’t reach an agreement. Nearly all the publishers we have talked to showed some respect to our games though. They never released anything that is remotely close to our games, even if we couldn’t reach an agreement. This is one of many wonderful things about the boardgaming world.
"This is also one of the reasons why there are so many game designers who distribute their own games globally. We didn’t imagine that some would think: 'Since we had the same idea before knowing the existing game, we’ll develop it even further and release it!' and then publish a game.
"We now know, this can happen. It can happen right after you released a new game and can be done by a large publisher. Having that in mind, we’ll keep trying to develop unique and great games and act in a way that we can survive."