If you would’ve asked someone 5 years ago about the scariest game they knew of, they’d probably tell you something like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Fatal Frame, or something else that fits in the traditional horror genre. But today? There’s nothing that terrifies me more than the sheer knowledge that games like Elsa Bone Repair, Ana Bathroom Cleanup, and Minion Pregnancy exist right here right now. To me, there’s no more perplexing idea than the idea that someone–more than likely a small group of people, actually–had to sit down and make these games and think that they looked more than fine for the gaming market–that they’d actually fool people into thinking they’re legit. Moreover, seeing some of the more tame ones–usually Naruto or Pokemon related–on Facebook and Tumblr have become a pretty common sight. Is there no quality control anymore? Have we as a human species in our eternal quest for good games forgotten one of gaming’s most core teachings: If it says it’s a Pokemon game but there’s a picture of Agumon then it’s not really a Pokemon game? Hilarious as these games are though, why do these games keep getting made? And who’s making them? They’re not actually making money…right? As the admin of a certain Facebook and Twitter page devoted to posting hilariously bad bootlegs, I think about these questions all the time. And so, just for you wonderful readers, I’ve taken some time out of my busy schedule of watching high quality cinema, reading the finest literature, and auditioning for the Sense of Right Alliance to do some research on the phenomenon that is bootleg mobile and flash games.
Why do these games keep getting made?
Despite the popular theory that these games are made as a medical tool to keep people awake and alert (after all, after just seeing the thumbnail for this article, you’re probably already feeling like you’ll never sleep again with all the nightmares you’ll be having about it, right?), these games are made for the same reason any bootleg gets made: To attempt to trick people into thinking that your product is legit and buying it. With more and more kids being on the mobile game market it becomes a prime spot to try to sell bootleg games. Kids are gullible–they’re much more likely to believe that Anna Give Birth A Baby is an actual game that Disney actually published. After all, it looks like it’s Anna and it says it’s Anna, right? So it must be Anna and therefore the real deal.
Who’s making them?
In my experience, usually China. Although most of the bootlegs I run into on my social media pages tend to be from Brazil, the games tend to be made in China more often than not. China has the largest online gaming market and some of the laxest copyright laws–so bootlegging mobile and flash games is a no-brainer.
They’re not actually making money…right?
Not only are kids gullible, but they have their parent’s money. After all, I’m sure that most parents would rather buy a cheap mobile game–probably even a handful of them–rather than a triple A console title for their kid: It’s more economical, plain and simple. And that’s just the mobile games–bootleg flash games are almost always completely free. As we can see clearly by the fact that these games still being made at such a fast rate, the devs find them profitable enough to keep making these games as quick as they are. Are they making substantial amounts of money though? It’s impossible to track the exact numbers, but here’s what I can say: Many of these games are removed quickly–even quicker if sellers notice something’s off. Even though these games are certainly making a few dollars, it’s hard to imagine that most of them are making more than just that: A few dollars. If they start making too much money they’re quicker to draw the unwanted gaze of lawyers and copyright holders. Although, some might be selling for the complete opposite reason that the devs were hoping for–I mean, who wouldn’t want Simulator Doctor Freddy Joke on their phone just to laugh at it–but hey, whatever pays the bills, right?
Do these games actually work? What are they like?
In my experience, they either don’t work or they basically have no game play. Granted I haven’t played every bootleg game out there, but out of what I’ve played, it’s usually one of the two aforementioned categories–especially just not having any game play. They usually end up being drag-and-drop games, very basic memory games, or endless runners sometimes with very basic platforming–things that a toddler could do. But to be fair, I imagine toddlers must surely (read: hopefully) make up a large part of these game’s audience. I’m assuming these games are made so basically to speed up productivity? …Or because most of these developers don’t seem to have the skills to make games better than this. That could be it, too.
How do these games make it on the mobile market in the first place?
In the same way that modern and abstract art barged their way into art history and demanded to be put on the same pedestals as Da Vinci and Raphael despite a very obvious decline in technical quality, such is the advent of bootleg mobile and flash games. Quality control on the mobile market just isn’t what it used to be. Put simply (very simply) although there are protective algorithms in place, many times Apple and Microsoft won’t do an extensive legal check on their games. Rather, they wait for the copyright holders to approach them about a legal problem if one arises. With so many of these bootleg games being made so fast, it’s easy to imagine how they can constantly slip through the searches of what I can only imagine are poor, disappointed interns whose job it is to look for these apps all day.
So why are most of these bootleg games Frozen or Minion-related?
Same reason most of the bootleg toys from the late 90’s and early 2000’s were Sailor Moon and Pokemon-related: Those are two really good and incredibly popular IPs right now. It’s clickbait.
And why are a lot of them ear doctor, dentist, foot doctor, and/or brain surgery games?
I honestly have no idea–my best and most scientifically probable guess is that in some kind of alternate dimension we as gamers somehow sinned against ear doctors, dentists, foot docors, and/or brain surgeons really badly and now we’re paying the price.
Are these games really that terrifying?
Absolutely and without question, yes. It is my firmest held belief that by simply existing in the same world at the same time as these bootleg games we’re allowing ourselves as the human species to descend deeper and deeper into the fiery abyss of copyright hell. These games are why the apocalypse will rain down on us by the wrath (read: lawyers) of the four horsemen: Dreamworks, Nintendo, Spongebob, and the merciless reaper of bootleg souls, Disney.