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EA sues Zynga over ripping off Sims Social

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Electronic Arts has launched a legal crusade against troubled online games company Zynga, claiming that The Ville is a direct rip-off of the game Sims Social by EA subsidiary Maxis.

"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," said Maxis boss Lucy Bradshaw in a blog post.

"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."

Bradshaw says that Maxis launched Sim Social in August 2011, while Zynga brought out The Ville in June 2012. She claims they not only stole the theme of the game, but also design choices, animations, visual arrangements, and character motions and actions.

"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," Zynga’s general counsel, Reggie Davis, told the LA Times in a statement. (El Reg got no response.)

"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," Davis said.

It's not the first time Zynga has inspired legal action over games copying. In 2009 David Maestri, creator of Mob Wars, sued Zynga over similarities in its game Mafia Wars, eventually settling out of court for a rumored few million dollars. One of Zynga's most popular games, Farmville, also looks very similar to the earlier game Farm Town from software firm Slashkey, although the former has millions more users.

Several former Zynga employees told SF Weekly that they were encouraged to copy the games of competitors directly by CEO Mark Pincus. "I don't fucking want innovation," one ex-employee recalls Pincus saying. "You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers." ®

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