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Magic 2014 — Duels of the Planeswalkers

Wizards of the Coast are suing Cryptozoic: "Hex is a nearly identical game to Magic"

Hex: Shards of Fate is a really excellent CCG. That, at least, is not under dispute.

Blatant, willful, and malicious. That’s what Wizards of the Coast think of Cryptozoic’s work on the digital card game Hex. They believe the CCG developers have misappropriated enough particulars of Magic: The Gathering to fill several pages of a patent infringement suit.

“In short, Cryptozoic has produced a nearly identical copy of Magic,” wrote the publishers in their claim.

In March, Wizards contacted Cryptozoic to let them know their opinions on Hex - but despite “earnest negotiations”, the two companies reached an “impasse”.

Now, Wizards of the Coast are looking for a “permanent injunction” restricting Cryptozoic from continuing to appropriate their IP, as they see it. What’s more, they want the cash Cryptozoic have so far made via Hex, which they estimate exceeds $500,000.

The Wizards say Hex not only retains the “look and feel” of Magic, but many of its “mechanics, plot, actions and elements” - which in several cases feature the same names.

Wizards of the Coast say they recognise their own scoring system in Hex, “distinctive Magic playing pieces”, and even an “identical” sequence and flow in the way it is played.

The claim goes into granular detail about the similarities between the two games - placing specific cards side-by-side to demonstrate, and quoting fan podcasts in an attempt to show that players were “confused” about the relationship between the two games.

Wizards of the Coast say that Hex’s visual design is “misleading” enough to suggest a “false association” with Magic - and believe that Cryptozoic are “knowingly and intentionally” attempting to “trade off the goodwill that Wizards has developed”.

“Hex is a nearly identical game,” reads the suit. “Cryptozoic both had access to and had copied Magic.”

Our Jules called Hex a truly brilliant computer CCG - the second time it's been called that on this site. That, at least, is not under dispute. Let's hope we don't lose it.

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toomer34's picture
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To be fair, reading from the suit it was clear that wizards of the coast do in fact have a legitimate claim, of IP, over the mechanics they dispute were stolen from their game. Having not played Hex or seen videos of it's game play I can't say for sure that it's an exact clone but from what I read they do have an astonishing amount of similarities between the card mechanics as well as gameplay and progression.

So far Wizards have thus made a perfectly reasonable argument that their IP was adopted without a reasonable amount of separation and no compensation. I was willing to give Hex the benefit of the doubt thinking that it was just genre wars but honestly there is a line when it comes to creative IP and their reuse and Hex is definitely in the dangerzone.

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Gwathdring's picture
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Having not seen it played or played it you ought not take WotC's word for it. A good legal brief out to be very, very one-sided. That's kinda the point.

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Gwathdring's picture
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This worries me. There are so many card games that rely on so many similar mechanics and so many Magic the Gathering players for whom what were once proprietary terms have now become basic gaming parlance (not to mention all the terms Magic uses that are just ... *obvious* and not in any way claimable such as Instant, half of the ability/trait names, and the use of colors to differentiate between various different kinds of card currencies, the word Mana).

That they have the absolute gall to say the *plot* is the same is hilarious. The number of games about spellcasters and summoners dueling is ... staggering.

My main worry is that their claiming proprietary access to some basic answers to the question "what kinds of special abilities can my cards have?" in this sort of deck-based dueling game. In other words, they're essentially claiming the right to deck-based summoner duel card games. That seem ... wrong. As a game designer that bothers me. It would be like Activision and EA getting into a legal fracas over CoD and Battlefield, citing things like weapon unlocks, capture the flag, death match, elements of the gunplay, etc. Or generic FPS #1 accusing generic FPS #2 of having escort missions, horde-defense missions, linear levels, and so forth. It's crass and it's a gross misunderstanding of what Magic The Gathering is. It's ancient and massive as hell and it's also utterly generic--it has done pretty much everything you can do with cards simply by virtue of existing for an eon and a half. By wielding copyright it's trying to claim ownership of an entire sub-genre.

I think Cryptozoic was very, very foolish though in some of their aesthetic and trivial choices. There are some small changes they could have made without altering the play of the game to help protect themselves form this kind of thing (gaining victory points from dealing damage that goes unblocked, for example). So I'm in the odd position of not feeling very sorry for them at all, but not feeling WotC is right either.

If anything Cryptozoic put WotC in a tight spot. While I don't agree this is in bad-faith or that it's similar enough to merit infringement ... WotC has to be worried about the precedent this will set for the future of their game and future potential infringement cases. So WotC isn't necessarily acting in bad-faith EITHER.

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