The Rise Of ‘Scam Games’ And ‘Keyword Bingo’ Firms Flooding Switch eShop

“My first encounter with a scam game was with Midnight Works’ Cop Car Police Simulator Chase – Car games simulator & driving in January 2022,” Wild tells us via email. “I noted right away that the screenshots appeared too good to be true and after playing the game, I found the description to be highly embellished and had for the most part just been copied and pasted from a Steam game called Police Simulator: Patrol Duty. After a spot of investigative work, I found that the screenshots were mock-ups and one of them was taken directly from a unity asset.”

An eShop screenshot from Cop Car Police Simulator Chase – Car games simulator & driving — Image: Midnight Works

Thanks to his videos, Wild recently found himself on the receiving end of a copyright claim from that game’s prolific publisher. Midnight Works is a Moldovan company and purveyor of such snappily titled releases as Street Drag Racing Car Driving Simulator 2022 Games, Zombies Killer Machine – Car Games,Driving,Dead Mechanic Simulator, and Crypto Mining Simulator – Ultimate Trading Strategy Tycoon Craft & Idle Game 3D.

What constitutes a ‘scam’ game?

Terms such as ‘clone’, ‘shovelware’, and ‘asset flip’ can carry different meanings for different people, so it’s worth getting on the same page about what exactly a ‘scam’ game is. ‘Zelda-clone’, for example, can be used affectionately (as we do). Likewise, the term ‘shovelware’ is often thrown around carelessly. We may disagree, but one person’s Elves Christmas Hentai Puzzle is another person’s Puzzle & Dragons.

“Scam games are a whole other kettle of fish,” says Wild. “As with asset flips, these games are usually created using store-bought assets but some amount of effort has been put into modifying them beyond their original design (though usually minimal). Their eShop listings, more often than not, feature fake screenshots – either pre-rendered mock-ups taken from another platform or, in many instances, stolen from other games, as was the case with Instamarketingandgame’s Motorcycle Driving Simulator which featured screenshots stolen from GTA 5 and Cyberpunk 2077.”

The game descriptions can also be misleading. “They embellish the content and mechanics and often include a plethora of features that are not actually present in the game. [With scam games] we are receiving a product which does not match its screenshots or description, like buying a burger only to receive some chicken nuggets.”

Bottom of the barrel

Looking at publishers like Instamarketingandgame’s software catalogue, it doesn’t make for encouraging reading. Having surveyed the eShop, Wild has plumbed the depths of around 25 ‘scam’ titles so far on his channel. We asked if any struck him as particularly egregious.

“Demolish Derby Nitro-Battle Driving Car Games 2022 Deluxe Driver stands out as being one of the worst examples. Being a huge fan of Destruction Derby I had expected at least a passing resemblance to that game given the screenshots and description. The game is little more than a series of straight jump or point-to-point races, with zero opportunity to ‘demolish’ as the single level which features another vehicle results in a game over if you crash into it.”

Demolition Derby Nitro-Battle

“The screenshots are all completely fake, the description weighs in heavily on the simulated destructive elements and realistic physics despite there being none, and about the only genuine line in it was ‘Experience realistic vehicle physics in a mobile game!’ – not for the realistic vehicle physics, but the fact they forgot to remove the ‘mobile game’ part.”

Where are these games coming from?

Midnight Works is a holding comapny
A screenshot from Midnight Works’ website (June 2023)

While it seems there are several publishers flooding the eShop with similarly suspect games, Wild believes that many of them are linked, with “five main players” operating, including the aforementioned Midnight Works. Previously describing itself as a holding company with investments in firms such as INSTAshop (which specialises in selling Instagram Likes, followers, and comments), other companies such as INSTAMARKETINGANDGAME and VG GAMES appear to be linked.

“Instamarketing & Game S.R.L. has the same listed address on their company profile as Midnight Works. VG Games (West Connection Limited in the US) — Virtual Global Games S.R.L — [is also] linked to Midnight Works as one of the studios they have invested in [and is] also based in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.”

GoGame Console Publisher West Connection Ltd Websites 9th August 2023
“Our motto is the ability to listen to each other!”

GOGAME CONSOLE PUBLISHER is apparently headquartered in London but with possible links to West Connection: “Their single employee and CEO is listed as Romanian-born Mrs. Maria Caraus. Their website contains text copied and pasted from VG Games West Connection Limited website.”

Romania-based Dezvolt Games is also on Wild’s list of potentially affiliated companies. We’ve contacted Midnight Works for clarification regarding its exact relationship with these seemingly satellite firms. We’ll update this article should we receive a response.

The only communication Wild has had with these companies came indirectly via the complaint submitted to YouTube. The platform reviewed Wild’s videos and judged in his favour, and he documented the entire episode in a recent video (below).

It seems like a cut-and-dry case to any sensible onlooker, but we wondered if this lingering threat of claims against him affected his approach to producing videos on his channel in a sustainable way.

“In the past, I have had smaller developers comment on my videos, so taking on a bigger dog it was inevitable that sooner or later there would be a response. From a legal standpoint, there are three primary defences against slander, those being Truth, Honest Opinion and Public Interest, all of which I believe apply here in one form or another.”

Potential demonetisation of his videos isn’t something he’s too worried about. “I’m covered by fair usage on the content I produce unless they somehow try to get me for using their trailers, but they can have the cash, as long as word still gets out. These lingering threats only spur me on. I don’t like being threatened or coerced, especially when I believe I’m doing the right thing and operating for the greater good.”

eShop visibility tricks

Publishers have struggled for visibility as the eShop ballooned in size since 2017, and many have employed various tactics to ‘game’ the system, including steep, near-permanent discounts, releasing multiple versions of essentially the same game, or ‘bundles’ of several games. It’s loopholes like this which result in separate listings for some 37 versions of RedDeer’s AAA Clock and its sequel.

AAA (Clock) gaming
AAA gaming — Image: Nintendo Life

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