8th aug, 2012

EA and Zynga square off over Sims

Zynga introduced their new game The Ville some time ago. It’s a game that lets players create a personalized avatar, build a home and live out virtual relationships. Sounds familiar? EA thinks so and are suing Zynga over copyright infringement. EA claims that Zynga is too close to The Sims.

Looking at the two games you could understand why EA are a bit put off, especially since they have launched their own “the sims social” game. In their lawsuit there are many examples on how the games look and feel is nearly identical.

I decided to do a test – What would a teenage game player say? I have a teenager playing a lot of online games – including the Sims. So I decided to let her have a look at the screen shots. The verdict is: Zynga is a copycat. She noted that especially the character design is very much alike. She even came up with a nice quote “I can see how some elements can’t be avoided – the character types – but why are they so identical in character design?…that’s odd”

The case is interesting because it is taking place in the greyer area of copyright. It is clear that EA can’t claim copyright on the idea of a life simulation game. But it is also clear that there are elements in the game that are copyrightable including the look and feel. The recent Tetris case shows where part of that line goes.

My prediction is that Zynga will get their hands slapped, but probably not as hard as EA wished. If I was Zynga I would let the design department start re designing the elements described in the lawsuit.

Below an example of similarities in character generation.

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