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EA sues Zynga, alleges 'The Ville' is 'Sims Social' ripoff

Electronic Arts points to the two Facebook games and accuses Zynga of copyright infringement. Zynga denies the allegation.

Screenshot of The Ville from video presentation at Zynga press conference.
Rafe Needleman/CNET

The punches just keep coming for Zynga.

Electronic Arts is suing the social games creator for copyright infringement, alleging that Zynga ripped off EA's "The Sims Social" when it created "The Ville," EA said today in a press release.

The gaming giant filed its lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California today.

The Sims Social is the Facebook version of EA's "The Sims" game. After launching in August 2011, the game has gained "several million active" users on Facebook, according to EA's press release.

Zynga denied the allegation in a statement today, adding a dig at EA by saying that another EA game "SimCity Social" is similar to Zynga's "CityVille" game.

"The Ville is the newest game in our 'ville' franchise -- it builds on every major innovation from our existing invest-and-express games dating back to YoVille and continuing through CityVille and CastleVille, and introduces a number of new social features and game mechanics not seen in social games today," Zynga's General Counsel Reggie Davis said in a statement sent to CNET. "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. 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."

Zynga's "The Ville" was introduced in June 2012, nearly a year after "The Sims Social" was launched by EA's Maxis Label.

Lucy Bradshaw, general manager of EA's Maxis Label, said in an EA blog post that there are "unmistakable" similarities between the two including design choices, animations, visual arrangements, and character motions and action.

"The copying was so comprehensive that the two games are, to an uninitiated observer, largely indistinguishable. Scores of media and bloggers commented on the blatant mimicry," she wrote in the blog."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. 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.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of announcements from several law firms announcing investigations into Zynga for alleged insider trading and with the company reporting a disappointing earnings for the last fiscal quarter.