EA levels copyright lawsuit against Zynga

Steven Loeb · August 4, 2012 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/290b

EA alleging that The Ville is a blatant rip-off of The Sims Social

Not to put words in anyone's mouth. But the Electronic Arts' folks are probably saying to themselves:

"Let's kick 'em while they're down."

I think it’s fair to say that if there was one thing that game developer Zynga did not need right now it was yet another lawsuit. And yet, here Zynga finds itself, once again being accused of shady practices.

Electronic Arts, the creators of The Sims Social, announced this week that it is suing Zynga, alleging that Zynga violated copyright infringement with its new game, called The Ville.

The Sims Social, a spin-off from the long running Sims franchise was released in August 2011; it allows players to produce characters and interact with their friends. The Ville followed nearly a year later in June 2012. It is the latest in the series of “ville” games released by Zynga, which have included FarmVille, CityVille and CastleVille.

Lucy Bradshaw, head of Maxis, the EA-owned studio that created The Sims Social, wrote a blog post in which she accused Zynga of lifting parts of The Sim Social wholesale for The Ville.

“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,” Brdawshaw wrote.

She also accused Zynga of ripping off other game developers as well, and said she hopes this lawsuit will put an end to the practice.

“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.”

Zynga's General Counsel, Reggie Davis, has released a statement to the media denying the allegations, and accusing EA of not even understanding what a copyright is.

“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,” he said.

Bad times for Zynga

Zynga is having a rough go of it lately.

First it missed its Q2 estimates, reporting a loss of 3 cents a share, on revenue of that grew 19% to $332 million, far short of analysts' expectations of 5 cents a share on revenue of $345 million. As a result, Zynga stock dropped 40% in a single day.

And, if that was not bad enough, it then came out that Zynga executives, including CEO Mark Pincus, CFO David Wehner, COO John Schappert, and general counsel Reginald Davis, as well as many heavy investors, such as Google, Venture Partners, Union Square Ventures, Reid Hoffman and others, all cashed out part of their stock in April, months before the stock cratered on the disappointing earnings report.

In total, 43 million shares were sold for $516 million.  Pincus alone sold 16.5 million shares for $200 million.

It only took one day for at least five law firms, Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe, Newman Ferrara, Johnson & Weaver, Wohl & Fruchter, and Levi & Korsinsky, to declare their intentions to investigate if any insider trading had taken place.

Zynga stock was up 0.74% on Friday, closing at $2.72.

EA and Zynga were not available for comment.

You can see EA's complaint against Zynga below

EA v Zynga Complaint Final

(Image source: aislepass.wordpress.com)

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Zynga is the largest social gaming company with 8.5 million daily users and 45 million monthly users.  Zynga’s games are available on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, Friendster, Yahoo! and the iPhone, and include Texas Hold’Em Poker, Mafia Wars, YoVille, Vampires, Street Racing, Scramble and Word Twist.  The company is funded by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, IVP, Union Square Ventures, Foundry Group, Avalon Ventures, Pilot Group, Reid Hoffman and Peter Thiel.  Zynga is headquartered at the Chip Factory in San Francisco.  For more information, please visit www.zynga.com.