Trouble in The Ville: EA Sues Zynga for Copyright Infringement

Credit: Kotaku

Electronic Arts has sued Zynga for copyright infringement, according to a statement released by the publisher earlier today.

In a lengthy complaint made public just hours ago, EA states that in development of Zynga’s upcoming The Ville, the developer “copied and misappropriated the original and distinctive expressive elements” from The Sims Social, which EA and Maxis released on Facebook last August. In its statement, EA directly compares visual and thematic elements of The Sims Social with the beta version of The Ville and several other ‘ville’ games currently available from Zynga.

In this year alone, Zynga has been accused of copying elements from Nimblebit’s Tiny Tower in the making of Dream Heights and from Buffalo Studios’ Bingo Blitz for Zynga Bingo.

EA’s Lucy Bradshaw issued a statement regarding the complaint, an excerpt of which is transcribed here:

As outlined in our complaint, when The Ville was introduced in June 2012, 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.

Zynga’s Reggie Davis has since issued a direct response to EA’s complaint:

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.

Even before today’s news, EA and Zynga were both grappling with problems of their own. Zynga already has a class-action lawsuit on its hands and recently saw its stock drop 41 percent. Meanwhile, EA is cutting back on AAA game development and hit a 52-week low on the stock market last month.

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