On August 3, 2012, Electronic Arts filed a copyright infringement complaint against Zynga, Inc. for infringing its copyrights in the Sims franchise, specifically for infringing on the game The Sims Social with Zynga’s The Ville.
As the complaint details, The Sims Social launched in August 2011 on Facebook. The Sims Social allows players to create “Sims” who can interact with the “Sims” of their friends on Facebook. The Sims Social quickly gained a large following on Facebook, receiving numerous awards and has become the second most popular game on Facebook–coincidentally passing Zynga’s own Farmville for second place.
Zynga launched its own game, The Ville, on Facebook in June 2012. Electronic Arts alleges that Zynga’s game “copies the original, creative expression and distinctive audio-visual elements of The Sims Social, i.e., the game’s animation sequences, visual arrangements, characters’ motions and actions, and other unique audio-visual elements.” The complaint contains numerous side-by-side photos of both The Ville and The Sims Social to bolster Electronic Arts’ claim that its copyright has been infringed.
The Electronic Arts’ complaint does not stop there however. EA further makes the allegation that Zynga’s has a history of infringing on the copyrights of other game developers, listing several examples including Mob Wars, Farm Town, Pet Society (later acquired by Electronic Arts), Restaurant City, Social City, and the Gen-X favorite The Oregon Trail, among others.
Electronic Arts’ complaint is another example of the increasingly litigious game developing world, especially in the social media arena. With the fickle attention span of casual gamers, game developers are increasingly resorting to the courts to protect their copyrights from alleged copycats that can spring up lightning fast in the digital age. Electronic Arts, with its deep coffers can clearly afford to prosecute alleged infringement, but game developers of all types should remain vigilant in the quicksilver world of online gaming.