updated 09:45 pm EDT, Fri August 3, 2012
Zynga 'blatant mimic', make games 'nearly indistinguishable'
Electronic Arts (EA) has filed a lawsuit against Zynga, claiming the social games developer has violated copyright law. The complaint focuses on Facebook game The Ville, where Zynga is accused of infringing on The Sims Social, EAs own casual gaming endeavor. EA believes The Ville "blatantly mimic[s] the entire framework and style of gameplay," making the two games "nearly indistinguishable."
The court filing notes many examples of where the two are extremely similar. Unique audio-visual elements, animation sequences, character motions, and actions such as taking a photo of animals or a sequence for sending a character to sleep are pointed out as being copied. One of the potentially more egregious examples listed is the character creation system, listing the blue background, character rotation arrows, and green exit buttons as copied. It is asserted that both games use eight identical skin-tone options, down to the exact RGB values for each color.
Lucy Bradshaw, general manager at original SimCity creators Maxis, claimed it was a "case of principle." Referring to when NimbleBit, the indie team behind iOS game Tiny Tower, claimed Zynga's Dream Heights was a direct clone of its own game at the start of this year, Bradshaw says that in contrast EA is a studio that has the "financial and corporate resources to stand up" against the copying. The lawsuit itself directly claims that the motto "steal someone else's game, change its name," was in Zynga's "well known competitive playbook."
General Counsel for Zynga Reggie Davies has fought back against the claims, suggesting EA "clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles." Davies also points out the apparent irony of EA launching the suit shortly after launching SimCity Social, which he believes "bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga's CityVille game."
EA has asked for the court to serve Zynga with a preliminary or permanent injunction from violating its copyright, unspecified damages and attorney fees.
Recently, Zynga has been dealing with the fallout from its quarterly results, with sales far below analysts' expectations. The drop in share price has sparked a pair of lawsuits from investors for not being warned about financial problems, and an investigation into the fact that a number of senior executives and investors sold 32.5 million shares for $400 million shortly before the share price drop. [via Joystiq]