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Not So Cheap Imitation

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When a work or product is successful, the natural response by competitors is to imitate it. More often than not, these works are panned for that very reason. But then, there comes that one imitator that manages to exceed the expectations of the viewers. Not only are they considered good, but they actually manage to be more popular than the work they were imitating.

Causes of this include:

  1. The imitator improving on the flaws of the original.
  2. The original being divisive at best.
  3. For foreign works, it can be because one got more attention than the other due to No Export for You.
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A Sub-Trope of Follow the Leader. Compare From Clones to Genre and Dueling Works. Contrast They Copied It, Now It Sucks. For In-Universe examples, see Effective Knockoff. For when a parody gets more popular than the original, see The Weird Al Effect. It can sometimes cause cases of "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny. This is also the first step From Clones to Genre.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Naruto has some notable similarities to Hunter × Hunter, mostly due to Masashi Kishimoto being friends with Yoshihiro Togashi. However, Naruto ended up being the more popular work (particularly in America) for a multitude of reasons. One was that Naruto didn't suffer from the same frequent Schedule Slip that plagued Hunter x Hunter. Another was because the first Hunter x Hunter anime from 1999 didn't reach American shores until nine years later, which was at the height of Naruto's popularity by then. The third possible reason was that the 1999 anime was Cut Short due to overtaking the manga rather quickly, and it didn't get a more proper adaptation until 2011.
  • My Hero Academia was primarily influenced by Naruto. However, many critics prefer My Hero Academia to Naruto for deconstructing the many cliches the latter played straight.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure was heavily influenced by Fist of the North Star, especially in its early arcs. While JoJo was a niche series for a while, it exploded in popularity in America with the start of the 2012 anime, whereas Fist of the North Star is at best a Cult Classic in America.

     Comic Books 
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     Food 
  • Sunshine Bakery introduced its chocolate sandwich cookie, Hydrox, several years before Nabisco's Oreos. However, mostly due to an unappetizing name and poor marketing, Hydrox was soon overtaken by Oreos in popularity and became so dominant, Hydrox were eventually viewed by the public as an inferior imitator.
  • This trope led to the creation of New Coke. During The '80s, Pepsi was out-selling Coca-Cola, despite the former being introduced a decade later. In order to compete, the recipe for Coke was changed so that it would taste more like Pepsi, but that was about as effective as you might think. By pure irony, Coca-Cola sales skyrocketed when they brought back the original recipe.

     Film 
  • X-Men (made by 20th Century Fox) and Spider-Man (made by Sony Pictures) sparked the Comic Book Movie Boom of the 2000s. However, after Marvel made their own film studio, Fox and Sony refused to sell the film rights to the X-Men and Spider-Man back to them for the longest time, leading to the Marvel Cinematic Universe being started without them. However, the Marvel Cinematic Universe ended up being a huge success, usurping the box office records set by the X-Men and Spider-Man movies.

     Literature 
  • The Hunger Games was published in a period where Young Adult Romance novels were all the rage after being sparked by Twilight. However, The Hunger Games ended up being more acclaimed because of having better writing and characters, and ended up starting its own trend of young adult romances being within a Dystopian setting.
  • More than four centuries after it was first published, Don Quixote is considered a seminal work of world literature and remains widely read, almost completely eclipsing the Chivalric Romance novels it parodied.

     Live-Action TV 
  • Stranger Things was heavily influenced by the works of Stephen King, particularly It. In fact, this was because the Duffer Brothers were originally going to direct It (2017). Not wanting to let their vision go to waste, they reworked the concept into their own. While the 2017 It movie was highly successful, Stranger Things ended up being a huge Killer App for Netflix.
    • This influence was so strong that the 2017 It faced a lot of comparisons to Stranger Things upon its release (and it didn't help that the two productions shared an actor).

     Music 
  • Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain admitted to being heavily influenced by The Pixies, even mentioning in an interview that "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was his attempt at writing a song like theirs. Today, Nirvana are one of the most renowned bands of all time, whereas The Pixies - while not exactly obscure - are considerably less famous.
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     Video Games 
  • Not long after the release of Fortnite, the game released a free to play Battle Royale mode as a response to the popularity of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. However, not only did the Battle Royale mode boost downloads for Fortnite, it even surpassed PUBG in popularity, much to Blue Hole's dismay. Jim Sterling addressed the possible causes including Fortnite being free to play, lacking the bugs that affected PUBG, and having a style that gave it more of an identity.
  • Dragon Ball Fighter Z follows the success of tag-team Fighting Games like the Marvel vs. Capcom series (and in particular, the third game, some of the mechanics of which are also used in DBFZ), but is also critically acclaimed, has 2+ million sales and is often deemed as a new contender against the MVC series, especially in the wake of the disappointments aimed at Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite's problems.
  • DICE Studios created Battlefield 1942 in 2002, a well-received game featuring large-scale combat, the option to use vehicles and planes, and so on, all to capture command points to control the battlefield. The game was far from a flop, but then along came Pandemic Studios and Lucas Arts, who took the same concept, slapped a Star Wars skin on it, and named it Star Wars Battlefront, which completely eclipsed 1942 in popularity. DICE did go on to grow Battlefield into a shooter that rivaled Halo and Call Of Duty for several years as well. And when Electronic Arts acquired the Battlefront license, everything came full circle, as DICE were the studio chosen to develop Star Wars Battlefront (2015) and its sequel.
  • Depending on whom you ask, Stardew Valley is this to Harvest Moon. It started out as a fan-game aimed specifically at Harvest Moon fans but became a Sleeper Hit upon release. This is largely because it has a PC release (thus allowing for modding) and because it's on more consoles than the mainly Nintendo Harvest Moon franchise.
  • Blizzard Entertainment has three such properties that can be considered this; Taking the original ideas, sanding down the flaws for smoother gameplay, adding a certain flair and making it their own.
  • Guitar Hero looks an awful lot like GuitarFreaks before it, due to having the same core gameplay: Both games give the player a guitar controller and they must tilt the strum bar while holding down the corresponding fret buttons to hit notes that scroll vertically. But it soon became the catalyst for Rhythm Games as a mainstream genre in the West, featuring a lot of nuances to make the game appeal to a wide range of Western fans such as popular licensed songs, vivid background animations and characters, and full-length songs. While GuitarFreaks is by no means a crappy game, it's clear that both games are designed for different audiences.
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