Tobold's Blog
Friday, July 20, 2012
 
Does EA have lawyers?

I just had a short look at Zynga's latest Facebook game: The Ville. It is an utter and complete rip-off of EA's The Sims Social. Even the user interface looks like a Sims game. Now Zynga got away in the past with ripping off small indie game companies. But that was because Zynga was the big guys with the big lawyers. I can only assume that EA has somewhat more muscular defenses if some upstart is attacking one of their most valuable brands.

Comments:
Don't forget that Zynga is now quite a large company themselves. They've been buying up smaller studios for sometime, and while they may not be the behemoth that EA is, their lawyers are likely to come in very expensive suits.
 
Bigorc beat me to it: A "look and feel" lawsuit is a great way to take down someone who can't afford to shovel money at the lawyers, but a waste otherwise. Zynga's probably immune simply by being rich enough to match EA brief for brief.

--Dave
 
Objection!

(couldn't resist :p)
If only court settlements were made via digital avatars. People would line up in droves.
 
Zynga also regularly steals pieces from individual artists. They count on people either not affording to sue or not caring. They've gotten away with it so far.
 
(my browser failed - so this might be a double post).

The reason why Zynga can put out a clone of the game is because there is no law that prevents them to. The thing in games is that you cannot copyright a game mechanic or gamerules. You cannot copyright "roll a die and proceed the number of squares that corresponds the die roll".
What you can copyright is the art, sound and story. Noone can prevent you from creating a platformer featuring a fat plumber. Unless the fat plumber has signature red overalls, red hat and a big mustache. That's where you enter the area of intelectual property of Nintendo (the area where "people can mistake the character for Mario"- see the Samsung vs Apple case about the Galaxy Tab could be mistaken by the public for an iPad).

But what about the famous Great Giana Sisters case? It is a classic example where Rainbow Arts buckled when Nintendo threatened them with a lawsuit (this was never taken to court). Rainbow Arts later realized that Nintendo couldn't sue them (GGS had original art, music and storyline) so then they made Hard'n'Heavy which is basically Metroid. Also so years later they rereleased Giana Sisters (it's even available for iPad today).

Zynga simply knows this. They are not afraid of letters sent by EA. As long as they make their own artwork, sound and write their own texts. The only reason EA could sue them is to file a case similar to the Apple vs Samsung case; if people aren't able to tell the difference which might harm EA. Those lawsuits will drag out a long time with possibly different rulings in each country.

The best judge is the public. The Tiny Towers rippoff generated a lot of publicity. Too bad that most of that bad publicity was wasted on the people already hating Zynga. The general public is probably oblivious to the existance of Tiny Tower. My guess is that it created more sympathy for the Tiny Towers developers so people bought their game and the Planes sequel.

I myself am happy that the indie scene seems to be quite alive with plenty of people trying to create very original ideas and are not limited by "potential sale numbers".
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Marc Pincus has managed to turn Zynga into an amazing company and by amazing I mean they can amaze even EA stealing the Sims, one of the most iconic games ever.

Of course, there's no patent that can protect you when it comes to entertainment. You could retell Lord of the Rings with Aramorn instead of Aragon and if your sentances dont match word for word, you're OK. Hell you'll hardly be the first to do it either (if a 16-year old Italian boy did it).

You have two options as an indie: stay out of Facebook (and let Zynga have it all), create a game so hardcore that Zynga won't touch it.
 
Maybe EA doesn't want to stir up trouble since they're making SimCity Social and marketing it pretty hard against CityVille.
 
@Bigorc - you are right
@Dave Rickey - you are right too

@Felsir - you are awesome, and wrote the kind of detailed post I wish could have the time to write
@Krasmir - I hate Marc, but good point


@Tobold, could you mention EA and Lawyers in all future posts... the comments on this post alone are the best quality and most informed you have ever had.


FYI - The EA Lawyers have been kinda busy with this little issue below ---

http://www.examiner.com/article/ea-sports-will-not-renew-ncaa-football-license-as-part-of-lawsuit-settlement

So no I don't think they will tempt fate with Zynga.
 
It's a pity that there's not some way to get rid of all this shovelware art-assets-ripoff crap that floods itunes app store. Seriously, I played one game which ripped all its weapon and armour art directly from WoW. Your 'rogue' character starts out in a set of Bloodfang armour.

I can guarantee that if navigating the store wasn't an exercise in torture, and that if I didn't have to sort through five thousand shitty clones of an OK original, I would go looking for and buy more apps.

I think Apple knows that, but they also know the number I'd buy more doesn't equal or better the cost they'd have to spend in policing that nightmarish hellscape that is the itunes games section.

It'd be nice for a few more filters, at least. Such as: No in-app purchases. Online-only. Demo version. Tower Defence. PVP kingdom-building strength-in-numbers gankfest with deceptively pretty ads.
...These are things I need to know.
 
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