- By Region
Electronic Arts has filed suit against Zynga for allegedly copying its game The Sims Social, in a case that highlights their bitter rivalry and the practice of “cloning” in social gaming.
Zynga released The Ville in June and it has quickly become the most popular game on Facebook’s social network, with 40m monthly active users, according to AppData.com.
But in a blog post on Friday, EA said it was filing a lawsuit because “Zynga’s design choices, animations, visual arrangements and character motions and directions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social “.
Alleged copying of the game, which launched last August and currently has 16.5m monthly active users, “was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable”, said Lucy Bradshaw, general manager of EA’s Maxis label, which developed The Sims franchise.
The practice of “cloning” the successful ideas of other game developers has been common practice in social gaming but has generally not led to legal action.
“Some will say The Ville simply iterates; some will tell us to get over it and move on,” admits Ms Bradshaw.
The two companies have sparred before. EA, once the biggest video game publisher, made barbed comments about Zynga as the young company poached its executives and overtook it in market capitalisation when it went public last year.
The new complaint, filed in northern California’s district court, alleged Zynga had access to confidential information about the development of The Sims Social through hiring three of EA’s top executives: John Schappert, chief operating officer, and the heads of the company’s casual games and interactive divisions.
The Sims allows players to build their own characters and communities and EA alleges six of the nine personality types in The Sims Social are copied by The Ville and given a different name. So instead of athlete, creative, romantic, socialite, tycoon and villain, The Ville has jock, artist, charmer, partier, mogul and scoundrel.
Reggie Davis, Zynga general counsel, responded in a statement that The Ville built on Zynga innovations and introduced a number of new social features.
“It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social, which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game,” he said.
Zynga is believed to have settled out of court a 2009 case where the developer of the Mob Wars gangster social game alleged Zynga’s Mafia Wars was a close copy.
In 2010, Disney settled a case in which Zynga alleged its games were being “cloned” by Playdom, which had been bought by Disney. Zynga alleged Playdom induced former Zynga employees to reveal trade secrets, including the contents of its “playbook” containing the ingredients for creating a successful social game.