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They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this may be stretching the expression a bit too far. Cut the Birds, a game released five days ago in the Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) App Store, has copied the birds from Rovio’s Angry Birds and the gameplay from Halfbrick’s Fruit Ninja. The resulting app — a “blatant rip-off,” in the words of Rovio’s Mighty Eagle Peter Vesterbacka — is currently ranks as the most popular free app in the Apple App Store.
A version of the game was also released for the Android Market on October 16. It is also free.
The idea of Cut the Birds is very basic: the player chops birds flying across the screen with a swiping motion before they “hit” the glass, avoiding bombs that look a lot like the birds. The game, at least in the current version, increases in difficulty with more and faster birds. No advertising or any other revenue options are available in the current iteration.
There are many other apps and games that play on and borrow from the fame of Rovio’s original creation, which itself has spawned many of its own official games, and a very large merchandising franchise to boot (the latest: a cookbook).
The difference here is that the birds look like they’ve been lifted directly from the original Rovio game, and the challenge itself from Halfbrick’s original. And you could even argue that the name borrows from the best-selling Cut the Rope, made by a third developer, Chillingo.
As the blog GamePro points out, copying is fairly common in the world of gaming apps. Still, it’s not often that the product of that copying goes straight to the top of the charts.
Solverlabs is a Ukraine-based software developer that has created other games — including at least one other that lifts from Fruit Ninja, the Fruits and Ninja app for BlackBerry App World. That is selling for $0.99. The company also works on enterprise services, listing three different U.S.-based companies among their clients.
Vesterbacka tells paidContent that the app is a “blatant rip-off” but it’s not clear whether Rovio can or will do any more than say that.
We have reached out to both Rovio and Halfbrick, as well as Solverlabs, for further response, but for now, the biggest outcry seems to have come from customers. Even though the game is getting downloaded by the masses, a fair number of of them are also getting fairly loud in their copying accusations, too, via the comments on the App Store page for the app.
It may be that it’s too difficult to try to chase the developer down, but as Om Malik points out, it’s surprising that the games got published in the stores to begin with, and haven’t yet been removed.
We’ll update this post as we learn more.