Disputes over game copying in the social space has gone to a new level. EA is suing Zynga.
The firm’s Maxis studio has initiated legal proceedings over The Ville, a new Zynga game which it says is an "unmistakable copy" of its successful The Sims Social.
The Ville asks players to manage the life and homes of virtual avatars.
The Sims Social – as The Sims did before it – asks players to manage the life and homes of virtual avatars.
The complaint was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California today, August 3, 2012.
EA says Zynga has "wilfully and intentionally copied and misappropriated the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a violation of U.S. copyright laws."
Lucy Bradshaw, head of EA Maxis, said in a comment on the EA blog: "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."
But EA says there’s a bigger play here beyond protecting its own game.
Zynga has often been accused of copying game concepts and then turning them into its own popular franchises.
But until now, it has only incurred grumbles and accusations or litigation from smaller businesses.
EA says it is making a pointed stand against the social games giant, which recently went public to mixed results.
Bradshaw said: "This is a case of principle. 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."