EA says the infringement is so severe, it's hard to distinguish Maxis' The Sims Social and Zynga's The Ville with an untrained eye.
Electronic Arts announced on Friday that it has filed a a lawsuit on behalf of its Maxis Label against Zynga Inc. for infringing EA’s copyrights to its Facebook game, The Sims Social.
According to the publisher, the complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California on August 3, 2012. It alleges that Zynga has willfully and intentionally “copied and misappropriated the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a violation of U.S. copyright laws" with the launch of The Ville on Facebook.
"The similarities go well beyond any superficial resemblance," said Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of EA’s Maxis Label, in a recent blog post. "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."
The Sims Social launched in August 2011, bringing the distinctive Sims universe to Facebook. EA claims that it became an instant hit, rapidly gaining "tens of millions" of users. The Sims Social currently maintains a user base of several million active players on the popular social network alone (the iOS and Android apps are separate). Meanwhile, Zynga's The Ville was introduced in June 2012, and Bradshaw claims the infringement of The Sims Social was "unmistakable to those of us at Maxis" as well as to players and the industry at large.
"This is a case of principle," Bradshaw said. "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," she added.
As of this writing, Zynga has not responded to the lawsuit.