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EA didn't mince words, either. "The copying was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable," said Lucy Bradshaw, General Manager of Maxis (the EA subsidiary that produces all Sims games). "Zynga's design choices, animations, visual arrangements and character motions and actions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social ... scores of media and bloggers have commented on the blatant mimicry." (Indeed, we have.)
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We've heard from sources inside Zynga that the mimicry was obvious to all there when The Ville was launched, too, and led to something of a crisis of confidence within the company. Still, Zynga put its game face on.
"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," said Zynga general counsel Reggie Davis in a statement. And for an audacious encore, he added: "It's also ironic that EA brings this suit shortly after launching SimCity Social which bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga's CityVille game."
Cue howls of laughter from anyone with basic knowledge of gaming history. Sim City is one of the oldest franchises in the world of digital games. The original, by industry legend Will Wright, dates back to 1989 -- when Zynga CEO Mark Pincus was just entering business school.
Indeed, it's going to be a breeze for EA's lawyers to show a longstanding pattern of game-copying behavior on Zynga's part. Several former Zynga employees have stated in the past that the company's breakout hit -- FarmVille -- was a blatant copy of a game called Farm Town. Mafia Wars is Mob Wars, Ruby Blast is Bejeweled, Pioneer Trail is Oregon Trail ... and the list goes on. (Check the similarities out in our gallery below.)
It's also not hard to see why EA made this move now. Zynga is under siege: its share price is plummeting; the company has no clear road map; it's also been hit by another lawsuit charging senior management with insider trading, for dumping their stock right before a poor earnings report.
EA is hardly the darling of gamers, either. The Redwood Shores, Calif.-based giant is often criticized for increasingly bloated games, expensive expansions, multiplayer server shut-downs and poor customer service.
Here, at least, it gets to look like the hero.
As Bradshaw said: "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 ... 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."
What do you make of this lawsuit? Give us your take in the comments.
1. Bejeweled vs. Ruby Blast
The genre of "match three" games is largely uninventive — plenty of games have tried to put various spins on the same puzzle concept. But Zynga's Ruby Blast (right) borrows very heavily from one gameplay mode in PopCap's popular game, Bejeweled. In Bejewled's "Diamond Mine" mode, you need to match groups of three or more gems to dig deeper into a mine to explore for buried treasure. The further you dig successfully, more time is added to your clock. Ruby Blast, released just two weeks ago, employs this same gameplay technique: Players search for buried treasure to increase their experience, and race against the clock to dig deeper into a mine.
This story originally published on Mashable here.