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Unmasking the Indie Game Burglar: The Story of an Attempted Copyright Heist

By Cecil Gao
Jun. 5, 2023 updated 10:08

On the afternoon of April 23rd, developer Kun had just finished his lunch when he decided to continue working on his unfinished indie game, "N1 Plus: The Unemployment Simulator" However, several messages from various gaming platforms arrived, telling him that his game had been stolen by an indie game burglar.

The reason why these gaming platforms said so is that they had all received a complaint from a supposed "Phoenix Legend Game Studio." This individual claimed that the rights to N1 Plus belonged to them and demanded that the platforms take the games store page down.

Complaint emails Phoenix Legend Game Studio provided to game platforms, even including ample evidence and a preparatory lawsuit letter to be filed with the court.Complaint emails Phoenix Legend Game Studio provided to game platforms, even including ample evidence and a preparatory lawsuit letter to be filed with the court

Kun was astonished to learn that the game he had spent a year developing was suddenly accused of being illegitimate. Since he had single-handedly worked on the game from start to finish, with virtually no possibility of copyright disputes, his shock quickly turned into anger, for he noticed something familiar about the name of the person who sent the complaint email – Mr. Feng.

Kun then recalled his first encounter with Mr. Feng on the TapTap forum. Feng had left a comment on Kun's game, showing a keen interest in the game's publishing details, and claimed to be a representative from a game publishing company. In the hope that having a publisher would be better than having none, Kun decided to chat with him, albeit cautiously.


Right from the start, Feng threw out a series of publishing suggestions: releasing on PC first, then mobile; adopting a buyout model before seeking exclusive contracts with platforms. He appeared to be very professional and experienced. Upon learning that the software copyright for N1 Plus had already been applied for, Feng even took the initiative to offer help with the copyright registration and application for a game license. However, prior to venturing into independent game development, Kun had spent several years in the game industry, working as both a game planner and a publisher. Based on his past experience, he instinctively felt that Feng's proposals and requests were odd. Since they couldn't find common ground, the conversation didn't continue. During this brief interaction, Kun made no commitments and didn't provide any materials. He assumed the matter would end there, so he quickly deleted this mysterious contact. It wasn't until a month later that he received messages from the platforms, which reminded him of that name.

Feng, who reappeared once again, transformed from an enthusiastic publisher to the supposed copyright holder of N1 Plus: The Unemployment Simulator. He filed infringement complaints against Kun on multiple platforms and provided various documents, including the registration certificate for software copyright, demanding the platforms take down the game. It was at this moment that Kun realized Feng had come prepared.

The Computer Software Copyright Registration Certificate Feng applied for N1 Plus.The Computer Software Copyright Registration Certificate Feng applied for N1 Plus

After creating the first demo version of the game, Kun had already applied for the software copyright. However, due to the slow approval process, the certificate had not been issued yet. Initially, Kun thought the copyright certificate provided by Feng was fake. However, after verifying it on the Copyright Protection Center's official website, he discovered that the certificate provided by Feng was genuine.

Although Feng couldn't extract any information from their conversations, upon confirming that Kun's software copyright had not been issued, Feng hastily used unrelated gameplay information and code from a fantasy game, along with publicly available screenshots of N1 Plus, to expedite the process and obtain the copyright before Kun.

The description is for a martial arts game, yet the picture is a night view of modern Guangzhou, China.The description is for a martial arts game, yet the picture is a night view of modern Guangzhou, China.

On another platform, Feng even presented a complete authorization contract, pretending to be an official representative of "Phoenix Legend" and attempted to release N1 Plus under Kun's name.

The authorization letter forged by Feng had a highly consistent penmanship with Kun's and Feng's genuine signatures.The authorization letter forged by Feng had a highly consistent penmanship with Kun's and Feng's genuine signatures

Fortunately, Kunshu had a connection with that particular platform, and upon discovering that the contract and signature were forged, Feng's plan failed. After further communication with multiple platforms, Kunshu learned that he was not the only victim. This "indie game burglar," Feng, had been a notorious scammer on various platforms. In July 2022, the developers of Mileage Racer also revealed that someone claiming to represent Hangzhou Zida Network Technology Co., Ltd. had approached them for collaboration. However, upon uncovering the identity of the habitual offender, the developers quickly cut off their communication with the individual.

The same situation also occurred with several other games such as "Unfearing Journey," "Car X Street," and "Truck Freight." In the statements released by these completely different companies, the name Feng remained the only constant.

Announcement published by Unfearing JourneyAnnouncement published by Unfearing Journe

According to the person in charge of the TapTap platform, this individual, He Fengqi, has been active on domestic game platforms such as TapTap, and 4399 Box since 2021. Before that, he used to roam in the comment section of Bilibili videos, specifically targeting individual developers to deceive and obtain copyrights out from under them. The developer of "Gun Breaks at Dawn" became his target in 2020 and endured intermittent harassment and scam attempts for two years.

Although he deceived people so he could get a copyright for their games, Feng never actually succeeded in taking their games. In the eyes of several platforms, this person was indeed an indie game burglar who was skilled at selecting targets but also an incompetent thief who lacked adaptability, legal understanding, and game knowledge. Feng's actions on the gaming platforms were consistent.

Both the business and operations departments of TapTap were familiar with this bad actor who had persisted for years. When they received his complaints, the platform followed procedures to send an email to the developers but also directly informed them of the scammer's identity, relieving their worries. Whether it was to make the fabricated "agreements" appear more legally binding or for some other reason, this individual consistently operated under the name He Fenqi, which was highly likely to be his real name according to other identification documents. That's why his alter ego IDs kept changing, but the platforms could always recognize him immediately.

However, his "legal acumen" ended there. In the agreements he forged, it often didn't require much legal knowledge to spot the flaws: the signatures of both parties clearly came from the same person, and when using a company's name, there was no official seal, and when using a personal name, there was no fingerprint. Despite two years of scamming, he never learned any lessons from his failures and was unwilling to even change his signing hand.


According to the statistics provided by the TapTap representative, although he targeted numerous victims over the past two years, no developers actually suffered any real losses. This was fortunate in the midst of unfortunate circumstances, but at the same time, it became the reason why no one could effectively deal with him.

Kun's lawyer also informed him that the circumstances of this case were clear, but even if they won the case, there would be almost no benefit—clearly a thankless and losing venture. Later, Kun heard that forging signatures could be prosecuted, so he consulted the police at the local police station. However, due to the reasons the agreement lacked legal effect and the negligible amount involved, the police were unable to take any action.

Most of the developers who were targeted by He Fengqi found themselves in the same predicament as Kun, unable to fight back or drive him away, and could only endure the annoyance of this fly buzzing around their ears. What puzzled everyone was that although He Fengqi didn't actually profit from his series of scamming actions, they were not without costs. For example, to expedite the process of applying for copyright registration before Kun, he had to spend thousands of CNY in actual money. However, copyright registrations can be obtained even if the names are the same, so even if Kun obtained the copyright a few days later, its effectiveness would remain the same. The other party's preemptive registration was not only a nuisance, but it was also useless, and they couldn't even recoup their costs.

But for Kun, these few days meant a halt in the progress of developing his game. His initial anger of wanting Feng to pay some price gradually transformed into a powerless flailing of fists, turning into a resigned "there's nothing I can do." Next, Kun planned to make a video and share how to avoid such risks and then move on from this incident. Unlike the indie game burglar Feng, he still had a life to continue and a game to develop—moving forward with the attitude of "there's nothing I can do" became the only solution he and other harassed developers could find.

Gameplay of N1plusGameplay of N1plus