Recently, SGN released its Mafia title on the iPhone after months of legal battles between the company and David Maestri, the creator of Mob Wars, over the game’s rights. At the time of development, Maestri had been working for SGN, but in the end the two settled, and Maestri was granted the rights to Mob Wars while SGN won a full license to develop similar titles.
(Ironically, based on last month‘s numbers, Mafia Wars had around 700,000 more active users on Facebook than Mob Wars did.)
Anyone that has been involved in social gaming for a while could tell you that the two games play in a very similar, text-based, RPG fashion, as do many other “Mob Wars clones.” However, what a lot of social gaming people could also tell you, is that the majority of RPGs on Facebook play in virtually the same way as either of these mobster titles, and the only real difference is context and a few name/image swaps.
Precedents in IP around social gaming are sure to be an interesting trend this year. How far does copyright extend in these cases? The outcome of this and similar cases will have important effects on similar games across every major social network as well as the iPhone in the months ahead.
The court docket, “Psycho Monkey, LLC v. Zynga Game Network, Inc.,” can be found here.