It’s not been the best of weeks for Zynga. First their stock tumbled to around $3 USD per share from a high of $10 USD, and then an insider trading class action lawsuit was brought against CEO Mark Pincus and several other company executives. Now, persistent accusations of plagiarism against the Facebook gaming giant have turned into actual legal action from a fellow publisher.
EA is alleging that Zynga’s The Ville title copies a little bit too much from the EA/Maxis Facebook spin-off from The Sims, The Sims Social. The Maxis title was released in August 2011, with Zynga’s effort following last June.
“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,” says Maxis label general manager Lucy Bradshaw.
At this point, some people may be glancing awkwardly at EA/Maxis’ recent Facebook foray SimCity Social and comparing it to a few of Zynga’s earlier Ville releases. However, Bradshaw is adamant that the copying goes well beyond ‘inspiration’, stating: “Zynga’s design choices, animations, visual arrangements and character motions and actions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social.”
While Zynga has been accused of plagiarism in the past (by the developers of Tiny Tower and Bingo Blitz, amongst others), this is the first time it has had to address a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Update: Zynga’s General Counsel has responded to the claim, stating: “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.”
You can read the full lawsuit document, here.