Electronic Arts thinks Zynga went too far copying the design of its popular Sims series for Facebook game The Ville, and has filed a copyright infringement suit against the social game giant.
Many have accused Zynga of cloning hit games in the past, but EA says it's taking a stand now to not only protect its own rights, but also defend the rights of smaller studios who might not have the resources to fight the company.
"This is a case of principle," says EA Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw. "Maxis isn't the first studio to claim that Zynga copied its creative product. But we are the studio that has the financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something about it. Infringing a developer's copyright is not an acceptable practice in game development."
In its complaint, EA argues that Zynga willfully and intentionally copied ideas from The Sims Social, the Facebook edition of the EA/Maxis franchise that released in August 2011. When Zynga released The Ville last June, consumers and the press immediately pointed out that the title resembled The Sims more than a little.
Bradshaw says the similarities go well beyond the superficial, venturing into "blatant mimicry." She alleges The Ville's design choices, animations, visual arrangements, and character motions and actions were directly lifted from The Sims Social. The executive goes on to claims the two games seem largely indistinguishable to most observers.
The Ville is currently the most popular game on Facebook with 40.3 million monthly active users, most of whom started playing in just the past couple of weeks. The Sims Social once had even more players than that, but its audience has since shrunk to now 16.5 million users, according to AppData.
Update: Zynga general counsel Reggie Davis has provided the following statement to Gamasutra in response:
"We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy. The Ville is the newest game in our ‘ville’ franchise – it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today. It’s unfortunate that EA thought that this was an appropriate response to our game, and clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic copyright principles. It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game. Nonetheless, we plan to defend our rights to the fullest extent possible and intend to win with players."
Gamasutra has obtained the original court filing, which can be read below: