Look, there is a real and indisputable problem with mobile gaming- the storefronts through which these games are sold are hardly curated, meaning all sorts of crap eventually manages to make its way through to consumers. And while quality control is something we can debate all day long, the larger issue is when obvious knock offs, which are in clear violation of copyright law, and which generally mislead customers and exist to scam them out of their money, manage to make their way to the storefronts too.
Such a thing has happened right now. If you visit the App Store from an iOS device, you will find a listing for Minecraft: Pocket Edition 2 (adding insult to injury is the fact that it is currently charting high on the Paid Apps list). The title of the app would suggest that it is a sequel to the first Minecraft game’s mobile version- and indeed, the description of the game would suggest that too:
“Minecraft is a game about breaking and placing blocks. Minecraft II is taking those activities to a whole new level of excellence and uniqueness. At first, people built structures to protect against nocturnal monsters, but as the game grew players worked together to create wonderful, imaginative things.
“Explore randomly generated worlds and build amazing things from the simplest of homes to the grandest of castles. Play in creative mode with unlimited resources or mine deep into the world in survival mode, crafting weapons and armor to fend off the dangerous mobs.
“Craft, create, and explore alone, or with friends on mobile devices or Windows 10.”
It’s a well written blurb, unlike so many other scam or knock off products, and the mention of other copyrighted properties like Windows 10 would probably allay any fears you may have had. Unfortunately, Minecraft: Pocket Edition 2 is not an official product. It’s a scam made by someone called Viktor Todorov (though on the game’s official page, the developer is listed as Scott Cawthorn, possibly in an attempt to mislead customers into associating the game with the developer of the Five Nights at Freddy’s series, Scott Cawthon).
Worse than the copyright infringement, however, is the nature of the product itself. The game advertises itself using screenshots from Minecraft, misleading players into thinking that the game will play like that. Unfortunately, the actual game is nothing like Minecraft– according to Eurogamer, who have discovered this knock off via Reddit, it is a “terrible top-down swipe game” which eventually crashes your phone.
You want to know what somehow manages to make it even worse? Worse than the fact that it infringes upon multiple copyrights, worse than the fact that it misleads customers, worse than the fact that it is a terrible product? It’s the fact that it costs £5 (or $11)- it’s a terrible product that doesn’t even have the decency to be free, or cheap.
Eurogamer has gotten in touch with Mojang, and received an official statement.
“It’s great that Minecraft has inspired people to create amazing things, but when a product attempts to dupe our community or exploit their enthusiasm for the game, it’s our responsibility to step in,” Mojang’s Owen Hill said.
“Our dedicated enforcement team are extremely busy!”
Meanwhile, of course, we are all left wondering if this is truly what mobile gaming has become- exploitative and scammy at the best of times, but at the worst, an uncurated wild west where games that are buggy, misleading, and illegal end up somehow rising to the top of the charts.
The last time something like this happened, there was a video games crash- that may be the direction that mobile gaming is headed in itself.