Updated: Sept 29th 2004
My heart is warmed. I got a call and a sincere apology from a Mr. Evans - the COO of Covenant Communications. He said that he read my letter and that he was extremely sorry, and that they would destroy the several thousand decks of "Search, Ponder, and Play!" that they have left in their warehouse.
We talked for a long time, and it was a good conversation - and I am hopeful that he will come back and say he can pay us a royalty, instead of pulping the decks. (He said he needed to check with his attorney, so please keep your toes crossed!) He mentioned a royalty rate that they have paid on other games before (which was less than I might have asked for but not less than Andy would be willing to accept) so I'm sure we can agree on the number.
I tried to explain how important things like recycling are to us, and how much better we would feel about things if we could just accept their apology and become friends so that they could continue selling the decks and pay us a small royalty for the game design.
If you contacted Covenant Communications in the last few weeks about this issue - please email them again and thank them for not sticking their lawyers on us and trying to claim that it's ok under copyright law to steal our game. The Mormons at Covenant Communications are good people. I'm so very very glad that they got the letter I posted on the web last week, instead of the letter that our lawyer would have written (like lots and lots of people were advising us to do.)
Thank you Covenant Communications for not being the kind of company who would do a thing like this!
We ordered a copy of the game "Search, Ponder, and Play!" last week, after hearing from a fan that it was a direct rip-off of our game Aquarius. We got a copy in the mail this week - and he sure was correct. Needless to say, this makes us very unhappy.
Kristin's response was to write this letter to the publisher, Covenant Communications.
Andy's response was to write the following rant:
It's every game inventor's worst nightmare: another company has stolen and published my idea!
Intellectual property theft has been committed against myself and Looney Labs by a company called Covenant Communications. Their product, entitled "Search, Ponder, and Play!" is an obvious and direct rip-off of my game, Aquarius. The two games differ only in cosmetic and superficial ways. Theirs is dated 2003; mine was first published in 1998.
Covenant Communications seems to believe they can avoid the question of copyright violation by renaming everything and using different artwork (which I might add, they take pains to give credit for). However, it's obvious to anyone who's played Aquarius that alternate artwork doesn't make it a different game. It's still my game design even if you call them Search Cards instead of Goal Cards.
The theft of my design is so complete that even the card counts are exactly the same. There are the same numbers of each type of card and the same 3 copies of each of the 5 actions, which, while renamed, all work exactly the same way as do mine. (click for a larger 100k picture)
It's the exact same game. The only differences, besides the purely cosmetic artwork and name changes, are a starting hand of 4 cards (instead of 3) and the inclusion of a scorepad with an added goal of playing multiple rounds until you've won with all 5 goals.
Needless to say, I'm extremely angry about this. Whereas I'm receiving a handsome royalty from a German company for each copy they sell of the German version of Fluxx, I am not even credited as the creator of the Mormon version of Aquarius.
In Germany, where parlor games are played much more commonly than here, the role of the game designer is held in great regard. The Germans have realized that art and theme are secondary design considerations, and that a game's real measure is in the quality of its gameplay. The designers' names therefore are always placed prominently at the top of the gamebox, so that the consumer can choose a game based in part on their opinion of that designer's track record. Seeing that a game was designed by Reiner Knizia is like seeing that a book was written by Ernest Hemingway.
The Germans understand a simple fact that the Mormons at Covenant Communications are trying hard to ignore: that this is plagiarism, plain and simple. It's equivalent to stealing someone's novel, renaming it, doing a search-and-replace on the main character's names, and then publishing it as your own, using new cover art. It's like they stole my car, repainted it, changed the license plates, and put a "For Sale" sign on the window.
Please boycott this product and consider sending the company a letter telling them that what they are doing is wrong, and that it's particularly hypocritical given the religious theme of their publications.
Also, please consider buying a copy of Aquarius instead - it's printed in America, not China. Aquarius is available in game stores all over the country (check our roster for a store near you) or from our online store. You can even play it online.
Thanks for playing our games!
Sept 23rd 2004