The past few weeks have been rough for Zynga to say the least. After their stocks took a massive nose dive, the top brass was accused of insider trading. All of this had led to an investigation and the company stripping some top executives of their power. Now they face the largest threat yet - a massive copyright infringement lawsuit from EA.
Now, it's no secret that Zynga blatantly copies games. Even the CEO, Mark Pincus, has admitted that his company takes whatever is popular and just makes it "better." By better, of course, he means monetize the hell out of it. So far, Zynga has only copied small indie games that can't fight back. By producing The Ville, a copy of The Sims Social, they have invited a legal fight that they might not be able to win.
EA sent a statement to Kotaku that's kind of strange. While they list all the supposed wrongs that Zynga has done, they act like they're the savior of all those small indie studios that were copied because they have "the financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something." Here's the statement in full:
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. Scores of media and bloggers commented on the blatant mimicry.
This is a case of principle. 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. By calling Zynga out on this illegal practice, we hope to have a secondary effect of protecting the rights of other creative studios who don't have the resources to protect themselves.
Today, we hope to be taking a stand that helps the industry protect the value of original creative works and those that work tirelessly to create them.
In their defense, Zynga says the claims are absolutely untrue. They claim that The Ville is just an extension of their "ville" franchise. Zynga also points out EA's hypocrisy by saying that SimCity Social is just a clone of the company's CityVille game.
I've seen a lot of lawsuits in gaming and this one might just be the biggest. A lot is at stake here whether you like it or not. If Zynga is publicly called out in a court of law, then they can no longer deny that their entire business is built upon copying competitors. EA is probably going to push this into the public as much as they can. With Zynga and EA's stocks both slipping and players becoming increasingly unhappy with both products, things could turn really ugly really fast.
While you're here, check out EA's lawsuit. It has a lot of reference pictures between The Sims Social and The Ville alongside some other comparison shots to prove that Zynga copies other developers' work.