WeChat, China’s most used social media app, released a new feature last December that allows users to play “mini-games” inside the messaging app. The games are specifically created to work only within WeChat without any downloading or installing. One game, in particular, went viral—Tiao yi tiao (跳一跳), a simple but addictive game in which users press down on figure to hop from one platform to another—the more successful hops you make, the higher the score. The scores are listed on a leaderboard allowing users to compare scores of with friends on WeChat. In the first three days of its release, Tiao yi tiao was played by over 400 million users.
The game went viral overnight, but very few seem to notice the uncanny resemblance to another mobile app game developed by French app developer Ketchapp called Bottle Flip.
Tencent, the Chinese tech giant who owned WeChat, has acknowledged the seminaries between the two mobile games. In a statement, Tencent’s mini-game team stated, “WeChat’s mini-games are developed by Tencent’s internal teams… From the beginning, WeChat has paid respect to classic works, innovation, and habits of technology. For example, WeChat version 5.0 added an airplane game that paid homage to a classic game, likewise, Tiao yi tiao lets everyone get familiar with the mini-games feature, and reminds everyone to seek a sense of play and happiness.”
For a country that has long been regarded as a copycat and consistently crosses the line when it comes to intellectual property and fair use, instances of such are not unusual. In October, Blizzard filed lawsuit against 4399 Network, a Chinese game maker, for ripping off its hit game, Overwatch.
Gaming has become one of the largest and fastest-growing industries in China, inevitably, at the same time, it turned into the breeding ground for knockoff products—many of which have become even more popular than the original products.