EA And Zynga’s Legal Battle Ends With A Whimper

By Nathan Grayson on February 15th, 2013 at 10:05 pm.

Lawsuits are nasty business. Accusations fly like hot lead, and all that’s left afterwards are the coldest of feelings. Oh, and sometimes millions of dollars in legal fees. Those too. I suppose, however, that it helps slightly when both parties involved are regularly accused of being soulless behemoths bereft of all feelings except slobber-soaked money lust. So it was when EA and Zynga came to verbal blows over The Ville’s more-than-passing resemblance to The Sims Social, and oh my, did things ever get heated. EA claimed to be “taking a stand” against Zynga’s allegedly frequent copycatting, and the now-deflating social zeppelin fired back with barbs like this one: “The truth is that despite years of trying to compete, and spending more than a billion dollars on acquisitions, EA has not been able to successfully compete in the social gaming space and was losing talent, particularly to social gaming leader Zynga.”

Now, however, it’s all over. And the fireworks? They are sadly few.

A court filing by the US District Court of Northern California (via All Things Digital) tells the tale, though there’s really very little tale to tell. Seriously. Here’s the whole thing:

“EA and Zynga have resolved their respective claims and have reached a settlement of their litigation in the Northern District of California.”

Which tells us very little, other than the fact that EA and Zynga won’t be taking their war of words to court. If, however, you read between the lines, it’s not hard to surmise that a little (or a whole, whole lot) of money probably changed hands. I doubt, after all, that accusations of blatant theft were easily written off as a simple misunderstanding.

It is a bit strange to consider this whole thing in hindsight, though. A year ago, this would have been positively monumental news. Now it’s just kind of… there. Zynga’s bleeding cash and key employees, and its suspiciously sticky fingers have taken a backseat to, well… hm. You know that moment just before a freshly chopped tree splinters and tips over? That.

I’ve reached out to both EA and Zynga for more info, but – as is typically the case with these things – I doubt we’ll find out much more in the foreseeable future.

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80 Comments »

  1. BlackeyeVuk says:

    I understand nothing about nothing. I’ll just watch all this like cow , colorful door.

    • Doreen_Young says:

      what Robert said I am startled that any body can profit $8822 in 4 weeks on the computer. have you read this website… http://www.snag4.com

      • GeminiathXL says:

        The power of Christ compels thee!!!!

      • Neurotic says:

        Now look Doreen, I’ve told you about this already. You just can’t go around leaving random scam links in everyone’s comment threads. Why don’t you go back to school, finish your education, and get a proper job selling crack at the bus station? Your mother and I are very worried about you.

  2. Joshua Northey says:

    It is nice to see Zynga slowly get its just desserts. The idea that it was slowly going to convert the whole world to playing mafia wars an hour a day was always silly but was actually what was driving its valuation.

    • kwyjibo says:

      Instead, they’re playing some rival Mafia Wars clone on mobile. These games are still raking it in, Zynga lost out because it couldn’t translate its facebook dominance to mobile dominance.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Not really. People saw the move from 5% market penetration to 10%, and said “in 5 years it will be 100%”. Except it really crawled to a halt not long after that. people are constantly overestimating fads.

        it is the same reason people cannot figure out Apples stock price. “It is doing so amazing why is it falling?”. It is falling because of how amazing it is doing, it cannot possibly maintain its current market position and its current market position is baked into the prices.

        • kwyjibo says:

          Yes really. Zynga had unparalleled levels of success on the Facebook platform. As gaming moved away from Facebook, and as Facebook moved away from Desktop – it left Zynga astray.

          Without the Facebook wall virality, Zynga made some big bets on mobile studios – they paid ~$50M for Newtoy, and $180M for OMGPOP. OMGPOP in particular was a massive fail.

          Meanwhile, mobile/tablet first companies like Supercell are raking it in with pay2win – http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2012/11/meet-the-whales/all/

          CSR Racing pulled in $12M of revenue in its first month – http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/176031/NaturalMotions_latest_earns_12M_in_its_debut_month.php#.USBGLvIu8wI CSR Racing is a mobile drag racing game, you can only go in a straight line.

          Investors thought that Zynga were going to own the entire pay2win segment – they didn’t. Their facebook success did not translate onto mobile. Mobile is important, it’s why Instagram went for $1B.

          • TWOpies says:

            I understand the term pay2win is the “insult of the week” for games, but there is absolutely NOTHING about any supercell game that is pay2win.

            Remember, do your homework!

          • kwyjibo says:

            You could have just read the article I linked, here’s the quote – tell me whether it’s pay2win. There’s a difference between free2play and pay2win, this is clearly the latter.

            Uh oh. A rival player had gone aggressive, and one of Lee’s fellow “clan” members was under attack. Lee tapped a few icons, donating dozens of his troops to defend the friend from a brutal assault of archers and barbarians. Then, he pulled up Clash of Clan‘s built-in, real-money shop. While the game is free to download, its maker Supercell profits by selling virtual items to the most engaged players. Tonight, Lee’s iPad questioned him with a blue pop-up window: “Do you want to buy one Chest of Gems for $99.99?”

  3. Premium User Badge Cinek says:

    No war?! Awww…. so disappointing!

  4. diamondmx says:

    It sucks that every time there’s a really interesting lawsuit, it ends in “Don’t talk about Lawsuit Club”.
    Dish the juicy details, you bunch of suit wearing dullards!

    • Vorphalack says:

      But remember the 8th and final rule of Lawsuit Club: ”If this is your first time at Lawsuit Club, you have to settle”.

    • Panda Powered says:

      Suit-wearing lawyer men go into a room. Some time pass and the same men leave the room sweaty with wrinkled suits and some are smiling, some are frowning.

      What happens in the settlement room stays in settlement room.

  5. Eddy9000 says:

    Anyone think EA might have bought them?

    • methodology says:

      I believe zynga’s actually worth alot more than ea, unless their fortunes have reversed that much already.

      • Premium User Badge FriendlyFire says:

        EA: 4.14B revenue, 35M operating income, 5.49B assets.
        Zynga: 1.14B revenue, -406M operating income, 2.52B assets.

        Sorry, Zynga loses. Also, EA would be stupid to buy them.

        • Premium User Badge Wret says:

          Stupid, yes. But maybe they can’t stop. Maybe they’re like Death from Twisted Metal and have become addicted to devouring the souls of smaller companies. They know it will poison them gravely. They don’t care @_@ (At least that’s what I hope for because I’m horrible)

        • frightlever says:

          That negative income is not necessarily a loss, it could be a strategic write-down. Let’s not confuse mathematics with accounting.

      • f1x says:

        Maybe Nexon will buy both, EA and Zynga

        (remember those rumors? :P)

    • Taidan says:

      I find it likely that EA would have taken a pay-off at the very least, while also likely coming to an agreement with Zynga about not ripping off EA’s (But only EA’s) stuff.

      That would be a super win-win for EA, as EA would be able to do their own business without Zynga stepping on their toes, while having Zynga continue to crap all over their other EA’s other competitors.

  6. destroy.all.monsters says:

    I hate to say this because they’re a local employer but the sooner that Zynga takes a dirt nap the better.

    • Premium User Badge jrodman says:

      Short term it won’t be good for SF, but the employees will be fine, there’s so much work available.
      Longer term, SF will never be in a great situation unless they do more to enable affordable living and workspaces. I work for tech in SF (zynga is a customer) and most of employees don’t live in the city for cost reasons. I certainly don’t.

      And it’s not like I’m afraid of cities. Along with many coworkers, I live in Oakland.

      • Andrigaar says:

        You’re part of the majority these days. The cost of living in SF and the spike in rent over the past 18 months is causing droves of people to look elsewhere. Downside of that is Oakland/Berkeley rent is spiking from demand.

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      Zynga has a studio about a mile from my apartment in Austin too, but I wouldn’t mind seeing the talent in there be able to do other things. There are a ton of studios here that would pick up the employees; or they might be able to start their own.

  7. Ninja Foodstuff says:

    I didn’t care who won, now I find myself strangely disappointed.

    • Bhazor says:

      Sigh… remember when EA were the good guys for like 2 years? A steady flow of new IPs and finally taking down Tim Langdell in court.

      Now with always on DRM and in game microtransactions they’re getting worse than Activision.

      I guess it’s true. You either die a hero or live long enough to start charging per bullet in Battlefield of Honour.

      • f1x says:

        Yeap, Activision and Bobby Kotick took so much shit that they changed their PR philosophy to “keep low profile”
        and that was the smartest thing Activision has done, who would’ve thought that EA was so eager to step on the “evil corp, money hungry dudes” role…

        I mean both companys are the same, but now you don’t ever see Activision in the “news” but you see EA every damn time

      • Prime says:

        Sigh… remember when EA were the good guys for like 2 years? A steady flow of new IPs and finally taking down Tim Langdell in court.

        Only idiots believed in EA’s change of heart. The rest of us tried to counsel caution – to the usual deaf ears, of course – but knew that we only had to wait for a bit to see the lie come crashing down again: It was too preposterous to stand for long.

        • El_Emmental says:

          +1, EA’s initial “good” behaviour/people disappeared in the early/mid 90s. Same with Activision.

          All the respectful and smart people left the company, and were replaced by soulless business suits, right when the 2000s kicked in.

          The “we’re good again” PR trick is only for the gullibles kids frustrated with the latest CoD/BF (hated CoD ? join EA ! Hated BF ? join Activision !), when they realize how they’re being milked, humiliated and despised by these publishers.

          It’s the same people who will become “indie games” evangelists a year later, becoming crazy militants for some Kickstarter/Greenlight projects, until they actually see how most of the indie devs scene is a sorry display of unoriginality, lack of basic business sense, with only a handful of decent projects worth supporting.

          And the last pityful stage… playing older “good” games and complaining about how the video game industry changed, and how video games are no longer fun/interesting.

          Then… just… playing games ?

          (ps: no hard feelings, I went through all these stages)

    • The Random One says:

      It’s like watching two girls mudwrestle. You don’t care who wins, you know you shouldn’t even pay attention to it and the whole thing is shameful, but when it ends you feel strangely disappointed, empty, and dirty.

  8. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    This is probably the best outcome we could’ve hoped for given the dangerous precedents a court case could’ve set.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      There is no way this court case would have set precedent, it’s far too specific.

      • HadToLogin says:

        “We, Activision, using EA vs Zynga precedent, are patenting all modern warfare shooters and from now on only we can use US-soldiers in shooters”.

        Not really possible? Well, since robbers wins cases against their victims that decided to defend themselves and Apple patented rectangle with rounded corners and not-even-born kid of some girl known for being knows have followers on Tweeter, I’d say in USA everything is possible.

        • Lanfranc says:

          The case was about copyright infringement, nothing to do with patents.

          • HadToLogin says:

            I knew I shouldn’t use word PATENT. But I hoped people won’t focus of meaning of word and will just look for general intention.

        • drewski says:

          That’s not really how patents, copyright or precedent works.

        • Herkimer says:

          “I’d say in USA everything is possible.”

          No, not really. I’m a lawyer. That’s not how precedent works.

        • El_Emmental says:

          The biggest risk of having a precedent would have been regarding the “clones” war, if they were starting to punish all the clone makers on the facebook/mobile/tablets platforms.

          Small indie devs would be getting sued by bigger clone-makers (who can afford month of very specialized lawyers), giving up on their right, while the big players would set up “no lawsuits” deals between them (like the cross-licensing for patents), forcing the smaller studios out of the market.

  9. Alexander says:

    So, sadly, they didn’t annihilate each other.

    • Shepardus says:

      Not that Zynga needs a whole lot of help in getting annihilated.

  10. Premium User Badge Talon says:

    As someone who works in this field, this is a pretty sensible outcome. Zynga settles with EA (probably to the tune of seven figures, though not eight), and EA is placated. Neither wants to go to court, which would cost them both in the millions, no matter which side wins, and drag things out and go through a protracted discovery process that no one ever wants to go through. I wouldn’t expect anyone but the higher-ups to know what the exact figure is, though, for obvious reasons, and I’m reasonably sure they have nothing to gain by talking.

    The only time lawsuits really go to trial is when both sides stubbornly disagree on the facts (and have the money to burn for that six months to two years), and it feels like Zynga probably some internal discovery, saw that the facts of the case would not go well for them, and quietly moved to settle.

    The only regrettable thing is that this settlement doesn’t help your average developer who is ripped off by Zynga.

    • mooken says:

      I imagine that as an EA or Zynga shareholder, they would have to release the numbers at the end of quarterlies, especially if you were to ask for a detailed financial report.

    • drewski says:

      I suspect the fact Zynga are rapidly going bust probably helped motivate an expedited settlement, also.

  11. ritufayr says:

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  12. kikito says:

    > And the fireworks? They are sadly few.

    There’s plenty of those in a couple Law firms, I guess.

  13. sinister agent says:

    They probably came to an understanding based on their mutual appreciation for bathing in the blood of the innocent. It’s kind of sweet, actually.

  14. drewski says:

    They probably agreed to split all profits from the infringing titles. EA gets free money, Zynga doesn’t have to fight an expensive court battles but still gets to profit from their EA “inspired” games.

    The real losers here are the lawyers and the Lexus dealers.

    • Herkimer says:

      “The real losers here are the lawyers and the Lexus dealers.”

      Their lawyers all did fine. It takes a lot of time to get to the settlement stage, and a lot of time to hammer out a settlement of this size, and that time’s all billable.

  15. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Well, this was certainly exciting news to the court transcriber.

  16. Geen says:

    Dammit, I was rooting for their lawyers.

  17. Zogtee says:

    Basically, this means we will never see any competition when it comes to Sims-style games, because EA will sue you to the back of beyond if you try. I have no love for Zynga, but is this a good thing? Where are all the “competition is vital” people now?

    • GeminiathXL says:

      The question you need to ask yourself is this: “Do I really want more “the sims” kind of games”?

      Seriously though, competition and straight-out copying are 2 different things.

      • Mario Figueiredo says:

        Considering the Sims remains as the top selling game of all times, I think that question answers itself. But if you have any doubts, the answer is yes.

        You may not particularly care about it, or I. But if you are going to ask that you would be in dept trouble if the person turns around and asks you if we need another game like Half-Life, or Skyrim. Because you will have a comparatively much smaller number of people thinking we do.

      • Consumatopia says:

        Of course it would be a good thing if there were more games like The Sims! It’s got too much grinding for my taste, but algorithmic social simulation is a compelling idea that’s weirdly under-explored by game devs, considering how much money the solitary franchise in this area is making.

        However, let’s back up for a moment. We’re not talking about The Sims, we’re talking about The Sims Social. No, we absolutely do not need more of The Sims Social–one of them was too many. (Which is one reason I never get upset about Zynga copying games–if Zynga thinks your game is worth copying, that’s a strong indication that it never should have been made the first time around.)

    • Zogtee says:

      Do I want an alternative to The Sims that isn’t owned by EA? Yes. Do I want someone to actually move the genre forward instead of watching EA barely do anything with it? Yes.

      Competition and copying are not always so different. Every popular genre sees games from different devs, except The Sims, despite it being one of the most popular genres ever. The question everyone needs to ask themselves is, why doesn’t anyone even try?

      Like I said, I don’t care for Zynga, but I think it’s sad that we’re cheering that the only attempt anyone has ever made has been shut down. EA and The Sims needed that boot up the arse.

      • Abbykins says:

        Am I missing something? Isn’t The Sims an RPG? And isn’t the online social Sims an MMORPG?

        There are PLENTY of competitors in the “spend all your free time micromanaging a virtual person” genre.

        • Mario Figueiredo says:

          Your argument is odd. You are saying that WOW is like the Sims.

          Zogtee is right of course. There aren’t many games *like* the Sims.

          • Abbykins says:

            To be sure there are differences, but the similarities are overwhelming. Second Life is more like the Sims than WOW.

            To me, claiming the Sims is a genre unto itself is the odd argument.

        • Zogtee says:

          Start up Origin, go to the store, click on ‘Genres’, and you’ll see that The Sims has a slot all of it’s own. Comparing it to MMO’s and Second Life is frankly absurd. There hasn’t been anything other than The Sims in this genre since Little Computer People and that was an age ago.

          • Premium User Badge Malibu Stacey says:

            Wait you mean to say EA’s own digital distribution client has a whole category just for one of EA’s own games?

            I am shocked.

        • Premium User Badge Malibu Stacey says:

          The Sims is just an RPG but because it doesn’t have a fantastical setting, some people seem to fail to grasp such an obvious fact.

          • Abbykins says:

            The reason there aren’t more games just like The Sims is because, frankly, video games are inherently an escapist pursuit. It’s surprising that The Sims franchise DOES have it’s adherents; given your character gets a job, pays bills, buys and cooks meals, etc. You know, like the stuff you do in real life.

            It seems like a whole lot of grinding for such quotidian banality. At least in other RPGs you spend your money on cool stuff like upgrading a sword, not upgrading your toaster.

          • Consumatopia says:

            It’s not the setting. People don’t want to group it with the other games we call “RPGs” because of it’s focus on social interaction rather than combat, where that interaction is algorithmic rather than scripted.

          • Premium User Badge Malibu Stacey says:

            And there’s the thing. It’s not even actual “social interaction”. It’s increasing a number. They simply inverted the health bars from a regular RPG so now you ‘make people happy/like you’ instead of killing enemies. In any other style of game this shallow nonsense would be called out for what it is.

  18. GeminiathXL says:

    Im deeply saddened that they did not take a stand after all. Not surprised, saddened.

  19. DickSocrates says:

    Zynga’s fridge is nicer.

  20. Greg_Robinson says:

    like Carlos said I am surprised that some people able to make $4016 in 1 month on the computer. have you seen this page… http://www.snag4.com