Casual games publisher Zynga has a murky history when it comes to "borrowing" other people's ideas. There's been a number of cases over the years where the studio seems to have lifted concepts directly, ranging from images and animations to gaming concepts and even titles. Typically though, the San Francisco-based company picks on little companies, independent studios, and businesses without much ability to fight back. Now though, Zynga may have bitten off more than it can chew, with EA taking offence to the recent release of The Ville.
Citing what it calls "clear violation" of copyright laws, EA claims the new game looks awfully similar to its own The Sims Social, and has taken Zynga to court, and released a number of documents (PDF) to back up its arguments. Here are some highlights:
Zynga's The Ville, released on June 26, 2012, is an unmistakable copy of EA's The Sims Social. Not only does The Ville blatantly mimic the entire framework and style of gameplay in The Sims Social, but it so closely copies the original, creative expression and unique elements of The Sims Social - i.e., the animation sequences, visual arrangements, characters' motions and actions, and other unique audio-visual elements - that the two games are nearly indistinguishable.
...to illustrate just how indistinguishable, the documents themselves - provided by EA's legal team - confuses at least one pair of screenshots by reversing the labels.
At the time, Nimblebit commented that it had found evidence of its own code tucked away inside Dream Heights, which Zynga argued was a totally different game. The similarities between The Sims Social and The Ville don't even try to hide it:
...The Ville even copies the exact same 8 skin tone options from The Sims Social.
The skin tones in both games have a corresponding RGB (red-green-blue) value, which is represented visually and numerically. RGB values range from 0 to 255, resulting in more than 16 million different color combinations. As demonstrated in the chart below, The Ville uses the same precise RGB values for its skin tones as does The Sims Social. There is an infinitesimally small chance that the use of the same RGB values for skin tone in The Ville as The Sims Social is mere coincidence.
It's understandable that in any two house-building life-simulation games, there will be some similarities: Just like there are similarities between my house and yours. What makes them different is the personal touches, the "unique, fanciful objects" I choose to place on my shelves, which you don't have - and vice versa. While it would be understandable that both The Sims Social and The Ville would have an in-game refrigerator, it's more interesting that both games also feature bright green yoga mats with white tree designs.
In the lawsuit, EA is reportedly asking for unspecified damages and legal costs, plus a "preliminary and/or permanent injunction" against Zynga, in an attempt to stop the company from violating EA's rights under the copyright act.
Zynga has also turned around and accused EA of stealing its ideas and intellectual property, thanks to the recent release of SimCity Social, which Zynga believes is a little too close to CityVille. (We don't know where they got that idea from...)
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Jimmy the Geek