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EA Sues Zynga For Copying Sims Game 197

Social game developer Zynga has been on the receiving end of complaints in the past for releasing games that look a bit too much like games from indie developers, and for other shady business practices. Now, they've run afoul of somebody with sharper teeth. Today Electronic Arts and Maxis filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Zynga claiming that The Ville is "blatant mimicry" of The Sims Social. "'This is a case of principle,' says EA Maxis general manager Lucy Bradshaw. '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.' In its complaint, EA argues that Zynga willfully and intentionally copied ideas from The Sims Social, the Facebook edition of the EA/Maxis franchise that released in August 2011. When Zynga released The Ville last June, consumers and the press immediately pointed out that the title resembled The Sims more than a little."
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EA Sues Zynga For Copying Sims Game

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  • Rules (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:35PM (#40873701) Journal

    Since when could you copyright game rules?

  • Re:Rules (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:44PM (#40873759)

    Erm they didn't just copy the rules. They blatantly ripped off the interface design and artwork too. Go have a look at their various titles. It's not simply a case of copying the concept or the engine. It's basically trying to make a very close clone artwork and all. The Tetris ruling [gametrailers.com] should make it quite clear that they are in violation, and also that the rules aren't the copyrightable bit.

    I hate EA and the copyright laws as much as the next person. But I hate Zynga more and I really hope they get their asses kicked for this.

  • by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @06:48PM (#40873793)

    They're not in trouble for copying the idea. They are mainly in trouble for copying the expression of that idea. I.e. the games look identical. The artwork is similar, the character graphics are similar, everything about the game is designed to be as close as possible to the original. At least their tiny tower game looked very different graphically to the original, however this one almost looks identical to the original. This is indeed copyrightable [gametrailers.com] according to the Tetris ruling.

  • by TheSpoom ( 715771 ) <slashdot@nOSPaM.uberm00.net> on Friday August 03, 2012 @07:33PM (#40874117) Homepage Journal

    Can we declare that they both lose and remove both their apps? They're not games, they're psychological tricks to extract credit card numbers.

  • Re:Prior Art (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Friday August 03, 2012 @07:53PM (#40874237)

    This is copyright, not patent. Prior art is irrelevant.

    Prior art certainly is relevant to show EA is guilty of the very thing they are accusing Zynga of. Or will I suddenly get sued if I write a book involving a young unknown who finds he has mysterious powers and in fact is the son of some very nasty people, gets involved in an epic war and... wait, am I talking about Star Wars or some Greek play? Copyright is just that - you cannot copy the work. Heck if you're a good painter you're more than welcome to paint a very very similar painting to say, the Mona Lisa. You can sell those paintings. You can't claim that they are the Mona Lisa, but you can certainly call them the Mona Laura.

  • Re:Rules (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <bassbeast1968 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday August 03, 2012 @09:08PM (#40874659) Journal

    Bah! You want to show they are evil you pet the kitty. Haven't you ever played Evil genius?

    Lets face it folks, Zynga has been royally buttfucking indie games devs for a loooong while now, and it looks like its time they got screwed back. Zynga doesn't just borrow ideas, they make the most blatant rips they can, copying the characters, icons, I mean we don't allow this in other media as far as i know, you can't take the movie almost word for word and just change the name to "Florist Frump" so why should you be allowed to do that to a game? Hell even the "Mockbusters" only make a sound alike title while changing the characters and situations enough its not the same movie!

    Now don't get me wrong, i think most copyrights ARE bullshit, and there are certain situations where you just can't help it. For example if a game has marines in it? Well everyone knows what marines look like so if you have those characters in your game they are gonna look like just about every other marine in a game because you are basing it on a real life subject. But with these games they aren't just ripping off the gameplay, they are ripping off the characters, the artwork, hell I've seen ROM hacks that are less off a ripoff of the source material than a Zynga game!

    If Zynga wins i could see this seriously hurting indie devs, because who in the hell is gonna want to buy your new iPhone game if the next week Zynga or some other social group has spammed out a copy from the cheap Chinese coder factory? Why should i pay for "Plants VS Zombies" when i can play "Flowers against the undead" for free and it looks and plays the same? Why should I pay for Angry Birds when I can play "ticked off turkeys" for free and side by side shots can't tell the difference between the two?

    Ultimately this doesn't hurt the big guys, who can spam the networks and radio with ads and get people to buy, it hurts the little guys who hope to get enough from their little game to keep their doors open and make the next one, because it is those guys that Zynga has been ripping off hard. The only difference between then and now is Zynga got ballsy and decided to steal from someone that can fight back.

  • Re:Prior Art (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flimflammer ( 956759 ) on Friday August 03, 2012 @10:24PM (#40875083)

    It's not the same thing at all. EA is suing not because of the game idea of a life simulator itself but that the look, feel, and function of the game is virtually identical to their own. The art assets are almost indistinguishable. The characters have basically the same animations, some of the characters look nearly identical, the same colors for things like skin tones (down to exact RGB values), and the list goes on. It's probably Zynga's most blatantly copied game to date. A life simulator can still work if it doesn't look and work identically to EA's game. It would be like rewriting Lord of the Rings, but replacing the names of the main characters and keeping 95% of the story intact. It's like Tetris clones which has been tested in court as copyright infringement even if the graphics aren't identical.

    I do think EA has a case but I don't know what they'll really be able to get out of it. Zynga may have gone too far this time. We'll know seen enough.

  • Re:Rules (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 03, 2012 @10:37PM (#40875143)

    Indie devs have been buttfucking themselves.

    If their games were really good or properly marketed, they would get all the popularity and Zynga's copies wouldn't.
    If their games aren't properly marketed or good, and if Zynga steals the market, then the solution is simple: make a sequel and market it as "the original [insert Zynga game here]". And even feel free to play the victim and say Zynga ripped you off in order to get sympathy and thus customers.
    But don't just sit there, whine, and say you are owed a piece of Zynga's cake.

    Zynga has made all the marketing work for devs of the ripped off games - they took a game that was receiving no attention, they improved it a bit and they marketed it better. Those indie devs can exploit that. About a year ago a developer came forward and said Farmville was a rip off of his game, and he got plenty of public attention and sympathy (I have no idea if he used that to his advantage).
    Would these developers have been happier if Zynga hadn't copied their games? That would not have made their games more popular, they would have remained obscure and only known to a few hundred people due to poor marketing. Also, the game that Farmville ripped off was not even on Facebook... so it's really not like that game had any hope of reaching Farmville's popularity to begin with. Zynga marketed to a completely different market that the original would not touch, and thus Zynga wasn't really competing with the original. But once Zynga made money due to better business decision, the dev of the original wanted his piece of the cake.

    I will add that taking someone's idea and doing it better is beneficial to the public. A developer who makes an awesome game but fails to even tell me his game exists is not helping me at all. But a company who copies his game and tells me it exists is actually doing something good for me.

  • Re:Rules (Score:5, Insightful)

    by makomk ( 752139 ) on Saturday August 04, 2012 @05:04AM (#40876339) Journal

    If you'll recall NimbleBit's whine (http://is.gd/rJwkR7 ), to Zynga about Tiny Tower vs Dream Heights? The response (http://i.imgur.com/ajaYt.jpg ) was to show how NimbleBit had seemingly copied Corporation Inc, which looks itself to be a rip-off Sim Tower, and so on.

    Except that Dream Heights is clearly a copy of Tiny Tower in ways that Tiny Tower isn't a copy of Corporation Inc. The building in Corporation Inc is a very different shape, the kinds of things you can put in the building are different, the user interface layout is very different, the goals of the game and scoring mechanics are completely different... All those things and more are basically identical between Dream Heights and Tiny Tower - really, just compare the original Nimblebit comparison with the one you linked above. As Tiny Tower and Corporation Inc demonstrate, there are many possible ways to create a game that involves building a towering empire of some kind from the ground up, you really don't have to copy your competitors.

    Similarly, if you read EA's complaint which was linked further up, what they're actually suing over isn't the fact that Zynga launched another game which allowed you to create a character based on yourself and have them socialize with your friends' characters, it's that Zynga copied every last detail right down to the height of the walls and the RGB values of the skin tone options.

Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith. - Paul Tillich, German theologian and historian