Monument Valley | Skyward
Voodoo VP of Gaming Gabriel Rivaud explained his company's business model on the App Masters podcast in August 2017. Essentially, developers from around the world send in beta builds or gameplay videos and the folks at Voodoo decide whether they want to help bring that idea to market as a free title (with in-app purchases, ads and a paid ad-free version). It's a fairly quick process, Rivaud said.
"What we will look at is whether the game is well-executed -- if it's good quality, it's not buggy, if the person understands, thinks about the user experience," Rivaud said. "And whether it's innovative. Is it just a copy of a very famous game? Then we won't really consider it. We're looking for teams who are good technically and then who also can twist gameplay."
Rivaud is looking for Innovative ideas, a lot like Esposito's hole mechanic. Scratch that -- to Voodoo, it's Hole.io's mechanic, pitched to the publisher among dozens of other emails that day.
"I guess the part that feels the worst is that Voodoo might not even know that that game copied my game," Esposito said. "They don't have to know, because someone else did it and then pitched it to them. They probably thought it was a really cool, inventive idea, and then they made it. They might be surprised to hear there's another game that's like that." Voodoo didn't respond to Engadget's request for comment.
"Is it just a copy of a very famous game? Then we won't really consider it."
- Gabriel Rivaud
There are few options for cloned developers. Aside from putting the publisher on blast on social media and spreading the word about the original game, there isn't much to be done. Apple and Google are the gatekeepers, but legally they have little power to remove games that look or play like other titles. Game mechanics and ideas aren't protected under copyright law, though unique assets can be -- and this is actually a benefit to the industry. It means Nintendo can't copyright the idea of "jumping" and id Software can't prevent other developers from using "first-person shooting" as a core gameplay method.