Zynga has been pretty well known for taking their ideas from other social games. In fact, their CEO Mark Pincus allegedly told his employees “I don’t fucking want innovation … You’re not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.” However, nobody seems to have taken any action, perhaps out of the fear of taking on a such a large company, or perhaps because Zynga’s versions of the games are just different enough that a copyright infringement suit wouldn’t turn out successfully.
That all changed this weekend, as EA has announced they’re taking Zynga to court for allegedly ripping of The Sims Social with their game The Ville.
Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of EA’s Maxis label, outlined the suit in a post on EA’s official website.
The infringement of The Sims Social was unmistakable to those of us at Maxis as well as to players and the industry at large. The similarities go well beyond any superficial resemblance. Zynga’s design choices, animations, visual arrangements and character motions and actions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social. The copying was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable.
In the same post she also mentioned that “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.” which makes my first hypothesis seem a bit more accurate. However, the final decision on whether or not that’s true is ultimately up to the courts.
Of course, Zynga wasn’t going to sit back and let this happen. They’ve responded, saying that “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.” Strangely, Zynga fails to elaborate on this particular defense.
Finally, Zynga decided to try and turn the tables on EA, stating “It’s also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille game”. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with either game, but isn’t SimCity Social based on the SimCity franchise? Y’know, the one that started in 1989?
Anyway, the public perception of this suit seems to be mostly in EA’s favor. It seems that, even after voting them the worst company in America, the community can still come together in its defense. It’s odd, but it says much more about the popular opinion of Zynga than it does anything else, a company that’s been releasing games suspiciously similar to its competition for years now. However, since they’re targeted to the Facebook mom demographic, people who’d likely know nothing about the source material, there hasn’t been a huge amount of backlash on the company itself. Now it seems that Zynga has very possibly reached the last stop on the “Homage” Express.