UPDATE: Zynga responds to The Ville copyright lawsuit, accuses EA of violating anti-trust laws
Update: EA has released a statement. “This is a subterfuge aimed at diverting attention from Zynga’s persistent plagiarism of other artists and studios. Zynga would be better served trying to hold onto the shrinking number of employees they’ve got, rather than suing to acquire more.” The original article is below.
Zynga today has officially responded to last month’s lawsuit from Electronic Arts over The Ville. Until now, Zynga’s been relatively quiet about the lawsuit, while EA’s been making several public comments. Aside from countering the claims of copyright infringement, Zynga accuses EA of violating anti-trust laws in the state of California.
The response is broken into three parts: a motion to strike strike certain language from the initial claim, Zynga’s direct answer to the allegations of copyright infringement and a counterclaim against EA.
The motion to strike seeks to get parts of EA’s language in its lawsuit dropped, as well as the public statements made by EA executives (like Peter Moore and Lucy Bradshaw) and third-party developers who have publicly spoke out against Zynga for its “fast follow” practices.
According to the motion, “EA alleges that companies known as Nimblebit and Buffalo Studios ‘publicly accused’ and “alleged” that Zynga copied their games. EA does not aver that it has any relationship to those companies or their games, or that those ‘accusations’ and ‘allegations’ were ever proven – or that either company even brought a formal claim with respect to them, let alone that Zynga was adjudicated to be in the wrong. Saying something in public does not make it true.”
Zynga is especially seeking to discredit the claim that EA established the lifestyle genre of computer games; Zynga points out the first such game was Activision’s 1985 title Little Computer People, pointing out, “fifteen years before EA released its first life simulation console game, The Sims, Activision released Little Computer People. It was followed by Tenshitachi no gogo, Girls Garden, and others, all released years before The Sims. Will Wright, creator of The Sims, acknowledged that he had played Little Computer People and been influenced by it.”
According to Zynga, EA’s claims of copyright infringement are baseless. Aside from bringing lifestyle games to Facebook with YoVille (which was released three years before The Sims Social), the developer also claims The Ville continues the visual style evident in all of the various “Ville” games that Zynga’s published over the years. Zynga also accuses EA of hypocrisy, since the publisher launched SimCity Social the same week The Ville appeared on Facebook and Zynga has called EA out before of copying the visual style of CityVille in SimCity Social.
Finally, the counterclaim reveals “EA’s true motivation” for its lawsuit, accusing the company of unlawful actions in violation of antitrust laws, including baseless legal threats and attempts to prevent Zynga from hiring former EA workers. According to Zynga, the company’s received over 3,000 unsolicited résumés from EA employees.
According to the counterclaim, this exodus of workers caused EA CEO John Riccitiello to send an email to Zynga COO John Schappert (who came over to Zynga from EA), stating, “Some of our people will always leave. But they are leaving for one place — Zynga. … I get that they can reach out. The question is what happens when they do. Listen and send them back to me, or their boss at EA. Or, listen, nod and lend a hand…. We are crossing into a place I don’t think we want to be… But I believe you can and should find more talent outside of EA.”
Zynga is informed and believes that EA was aware that Zynga filed its S-11 baseless sham litigation if it hired any more EA employees in the future.