The name Zynga should be familiar to anyone who has played games on Facebook, and even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, their roster of properties most definitely will. Cityville, Hidden Chronicles and the ubiquitous Farmville are among their top earners. Their most recent game, The Ville, is a social media game in which you must build your home and interact with your neighbours. It shares many similarities with The Sims Social, a popular game by Maxis, a subsidiary of Electronic Arts (EA). Unfortunately, EA feels that it shares too many similarities and have now filed against Zynga for copyright infringement.
While most lawsuits of this nature point out some specific areas where it’s believed a company has plagiarized their work, EA has gone on record to say that the entire game copies heavily from The Sims Social. In an official statement by Lucy Bradshaw, general manager of Maxis, she outlined how The Ville holds “unmistakable” similarities to their game, going further to say that core design, animation and visual arrangements have been directly copied from The Sims Social. While it’s one thing to hear it form the company, it’s another to hear it directly from gamers. Bradshaw points out that many gamers and bloggers have noticed the similarities as well, and to those unaware, the two games could look almost identical.
The amount of the damages being sought is not immediately known, however Bradshaw emphasized that the lawsuit is based mainly on principle. She points out that other companies have accused Zynga of copying their material before, noting that they have a history of “illegal practices”. However, EA and Maxis have committed to putting time and resources into stopping it. The lawsuit also touches upon emotional factor of the creative team having their work copied for profit, so the lawsuit is fully merited in their opinion.
In response to the lawsuit, Zynga has refuted EA’s claims that The Ville is infringing on any copyrighted material that EA owns. In a statement issued by General Counsel Reggie Davis, he points out that most of the core features are carried over from previous “Ville” games issued by Zynga. Elements of CityVille and CastleVille are present, as well as some new features that David emphasizes are not currently present in other social games. As such, Davis feels that this lawsuit demonstrates a lack of understand of ”basic copyright principles” on EA’s part. He goes further to point out that The Sims Social bears a strong resemblance to CityVille, which is ironic considering the nature of the lawsuit.