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Devolver Digital says one of its indies was plagiarized by a self-care app

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The victim is the evocative, award-winning platformer called Gris

Nomada Studio/Devolver Digital

Gris is a moving game about working through trauma. The debut effort from Nomada Studio, a small team in Barcelona, Spain, it ranks among our top 50 games of 2018. One of the things that pushed it to the fore was its remarkable art style and unique animations. Now, publisher Devolver Digital says, those features have been plagiarized by the makers of a health and fitness app.

“The Fabulous app (@GetTheFabulous) ripped off GRIS,” Devolver tweeted this morning, “and is a reminder to all devs to be mindful of big companies and brands stealing creative work from smaller studios.”

The video evidence Devolver provides is fairly damning. It the uncanny similarities between The Fabulous’ animations and the main character in Gris. Both have a flowing gown that billows around them; both sit in the palm of a similarly massive hand; both move with remarkable grace in exactly the same ways. Devolver’s attempt at publicly shaming the makers of the app has so far been retweeted more than 750 times, including by the team at Nomada.

According to TechCrunch, The Fabulous was founded in 2013 and is based in Paris, France. It’s designed to help users build healthy habits, including tracking sleep schedules and reminding them to drink more water. In 2018 it was included in the Apple App Store’s Best Apps of 2018, and was a finalist in the Google Play Awards. Gris is available on Nintendo Switch and Windows PC via Steam.

Update: Reached for comment, Fabulous CEO Sami Ben Hassine said in an email that their team has pulled down the video in question. “Any wrongdoing from our side is not intentional,” they wrote.

While they say the issue is still under investigation internally, Hassine speculated that “it might be that one of our artists or freelancers got inspired by a game that they liked.” Hassine also characterized the team behind Fabulous as very small and unlike the “big companies” mentioned in Devolver’s tweet.

Update (Nov. 7): Fabulous CEO Sami Ben Hassine issued a blog post yesterday with the results of their company’s internal investigation. In the statement, they say that the plagiarized animations were the work of a single designer, who they wish to keep anonymous “as we don’t want them to take the toll of this all on their own.”

“We consider this a mistake,” Hassine said, “that we proceeded to fix as soon as we heard rather than something we did with the goal of hurting.”

Hassine’s post includes an additional statement from the anonymous designer.

“I took the word ‘inspired’ way too far,” they say. “As a content creator, I am ashamed that I ended up copying someone else’s hard work, and believe me this is the first time that I know of this has happened to me.”

In a follow-up email to Polygon, Hassine says that his company’s reputation has been “destroyed” by this incident. He says that following Devolver’s tweet, Fabulous has become the victim of abuse on social media. They believe that Devolver’s public shaming was a step too far, and they would have preferred to have kept the incident private.

“The continual push to cut budgets means companies in all sectors are using agencies who hire the cheapest possible artists and designers to create their content to protect their bottom line,” Hassine wrote us, “so you can hardly be surprised when the agency finds and contracts a recently graduated freelancer with zero legal knowledge, zero experience and zero industrial awareness who does a thing like this.”