Update: EA taking Zynga to court over The Ville

Electronic Arts today announced it’s filing a copyright infringement lawsuit against social game giant Zynga.

The suit alleges when Zynga launched The Ville, it “copied and misappropriated the original and distinctive expressive elements of The Sims Social in a violation of U.S. copyright laws.”

The Sims Social launched in August 2011 and had peak traffic levels of 11.3 million daily active users. When Zynga announced The Ville during its Zynga Unleashed event, comparisons between the two games were immediate. Since then, the game’s become the top game on Facebook by monthly active users and the No. 2 game by daily active users.

Although The Ville is seeing a high amount of traffic, the game’s launch doesn’t seem to have noticeably affected The Sims Social’s traffic, even after Zynga turned on cross-promotion in late July. Our AppData traffic-tracking service shows the latter’s MAU numbers are continuing to increase, though DAU is down from 3.2 million to 2.9 million.

Lucy Bradshaw, GM of EA’s Maxis Label, wrote about the lawsuit in a blog post on EA’s site, claiming, “[The Ville’s] similarities go well beyond any superficial resemblance. Zynga’s design choices, animations, visual arrangments and character motions and actions have been directly lifted from The Sims Social.”

EA claims that by calling Zynga out for this practice of cloning games, it’s also protecting the rights of other (smaller) studios who don’t have the resources to protect their assets.

Update: Zynga has responded to the lawsuit. Zynga’s General Counsel Reggie Davis released the following statement: “We are committed to creating the most fun, innovative, social and engaging games in every major genre that our players enjoy. 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. 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.”