An 'Unpacking' clone topped the App Store charts before it was pulled

Indie developers have long struggled with copycat versions of their hit games.

Witch Beam Games

Unpacking is a lovely, relaxing puzzle game made by a small team. It's beautifully designed and manages to tell a compelling story with very little text. Unfortunately, its core mechanic — unpacking boxes and placing items in a new home — isn't exactly difficult to copy. One clone quickly found an audience on iOS and Android before it was removed.

Unpacking Master, which was published by a company called SayGames, was said to be a near-identical copy of Witch Beam Games' title. It adopted a freemium model (users could pay a one-time fee to remove ads) and it briefly topped App Store charts less than a week after it was released. As Game Developer notes, Unpacking Master is no longer available on Apple's App Store or the Google Play Store.

Earlier this month, a spate of Wordle clones barged onto the App Store with copycat developers looking to cash in on the success of the viral hit word game. Those apps were removed as well. These incidents highlight a long-running problem that studios behind popular games (particularly indies) have grappled with.

Knockoff games have plagued mobile app stores for years. For instance, the developers of 2048 made some minor changes to the formula of puzzle game Threes and became a hit. In 2018, publisher Voodoo adopted the central idea of the quirky Donut County (players move around a hole in the ground and swallow up objects) with, which soared to the top of App Store and Google Play charts.

In the case of Unpacking, Witch Beam suggested SayGames' clone used almost identical items and very similar level layouts. It said that while other clones failed to find much success, Unpacking Master took off in the wake of an ad campaign on TikTok and Instagram.

"It's demoralizing for a small team like ours to see content we spent literally years planning, refining and handcrafting be hastily reproduced in an opportunistic ad-riddled app a mere 3 months after our launch," the team wrote on Twitter. "We're a tiny indie team and even with the success we have achieved, we still don't have the resources to pursue companies trying to use our game's distinct look and feel to make a quick buck. We have to rely on storefronts like the App Store to better curate their content."

At least for now, the original Unpacking isn't available via mobile app stores, though you can pick it up on PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch and Xbox. It's on Game Pass as well, so you can play over the cloud if you're eager to check it out on a phone or tablet.