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EA slaps Zynga with a copyright infringement suit over Facebook game The Ville 

EA has filed a lawsuit against Zynga over its Facebook game The Ville over copyright infringement. The firm said the causal game maker has "copied the original and distinctive expressive elements," of The Sims Social.

"A case of principle"

According to Maxis GM Lucy Bradshaw, The Ville is in clear violation of US copyright laws.

"The legal reasons are solid," she said on EA's The Beat. "But for creative teams who feel that their hard work and imaginations have been ripped off, there’s obviously an emotional element too.

"When we launched The Sims Social in August 2011, Maxis brought the distinctive universe of our world-renowned franchise, The Sims, to Facebook. We created a game that allowed players to create Sims that can interact with the Sims of their Facebook friends. It was an instant hit, gaining tens of millions of users, many of whom continue to play the game after nearly a year since launch.

"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."

Bradshaw said the lawsuit is "a case of principle," as Maxis isn’t the first studio to claim Zynga copied its creative product.

"We are the studio that has the financial and corporate resources to stand up and do something about it," she said. "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.

"We are confident in our position, and that we will prevail, but even if we do not, we will have made a point."

Zynga has been accusing of copying games before, and you can get a good idea of how deep the firm's inspiration goes over on GamesNews.

An "ironic" lawsuit

Zynga general counsel Reggie Davis has responded to EA Maxis' lawsuit against the firm as "ironic" and the firm plans to defend its rights "to the fullest extent possible."

Speaking with Game Informer, Davis issued the following statement:

"We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy," he said. "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."

The Ville has been called similar to Sims Social by many reviewers, IndieSocialGames for one called it "very similar...[but] not a complete clone," however, the reviewer felt the two were similar enough "to be worthy of mention" in the review.

We'll definitely be keeping an eye on this to see how it plays out.

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