Zynga versus EA Games (and Maxis)

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Currently there is a lot going on around the game company Zynga. Zynga is the creator (or buyer) of several apps on mainly Facebook. The most famous title of them is probably Farmville. But recently they are in the press because of their latest game CityVille.

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Recently Zynga was in the press for not telling the real news about their companies financial results. They sold also a lot of their shares, because they knew about this loss, while nobody else in the world did know about it. Zynga is getting lawsuits for this alone already, and is now getting lawsuits from EA Games as well.

The story goes that Zynga has mostly been copying other peoples games. In this case we talk about Zynga’s newly created CityVille, which, according to many, is a direct copy of the Sims Social by Maxis/EA.

I do not really get the whole deal here. People have always been copying cool concepts that work out well. And that is not only in the gaming world, but really everywhere. Whether we talk about a food concept for a restaurant (McDonalds vs Burger King) or a bottle of soda (Coca cola vs Pepsi Cola) or a website application. China is a good example of a country continuously creating copies of good running western concepts.

It always has been depending here on how strong your brand is and how well you can market your game. Or how much money you can spend on marketing itself for that matter. Zynga has loads of money and has used that well. EA has also loads of money but apparently didn’t use it all that much on marketing.

Zynga is and was here a clear winner! There wouldn’t have been so much fighting if EA had made a huge amount of money with their game and Zynga would have created a game that didn’t win the competition.

But since Zynga is getting away with copying a game and getting it also popularly used, it becomes a big deal. Of course it isn’t nice that Zynga has been copying and in this case they really have been copying it nearly to the pixel.

If I would copy a design I would actually take only the essential idea of it.. and make it MUCH better. Not make it look the exact same. One would nearly think they have been actively stripping the flash files and decoding them to encode them with own graphics and code, or to put it simple.. copy and paste it into their own format. And that particularly thing is an illegal act. Also using copyrighted material (especially by not displaying a source) or trademarked material can be a copyright infringement.

Zynga would have had enough money to hire some creative people for a while to design different looking, similar games with new and better functionality.

(top = CityVille, bottom = Sims Social)
But Zynga is too lazy to do so. Instead they buy successful applications and games from other developers and when they fail to do so, they clone it.

FarmVille from Zynga is such a game. There was a game named Farm Town, by developer SlashKey, which didn’t want to be bought. The result is that Zynga copied his game.
EA Games’ Sims Social was though released long before Zyngas’ CityVille.

I am not quite sure how far EA Games can go with this lawsuit. Certain design elements in a game cannot be copyrighted because they are too general of usage. Everybody should be able to use these elements for their own creations. So there is a chance that EA Games is going to push for more cases than that they are obliged to.

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