By Rob Beschizza at 7:19 pm Fri, Aug 3, 2012
“In space, no one can hear you scream. On Earth, it won’t matter.”
I don’t know how I feel about this one. As vile as Zynga is, the principle that “You can’t copyright the rules of a game” is an important one that should not be dislodged by the bad faith actions of one company.
They might be going for a look-and-feel lawsuit instead, but that’s just as bad. Witness Apple vs. Samsung.
Find some other razor blade to cut them with.
In fact, the more I think about it, the more I’m sure there are other razor blades to cut them with.
You don’t create Zynga without being an unethical monster. If they are this obvious about quasi-legal wrongdoing, then there is probably plenty in there that’s flat out illegal:
Insider trading. Legitimate patent violations. Labor laws being violated. Etc.
The complaint can be read here, and states:
“The Ville was not an attempt to innovate on a game concept–it was an intentional effort to copy EA’s creative work.”
Looks like the case they’re making is what everybody pretty much knows: Zynga copies other people’s games almost verbatim. The question I have is if EA will give Zynga the asskicking it so richly deserves or will just settle out of court.
It’s EA. There will be blood.
“They might be going for a look-and-feel lawsuit instead, but that’s just as bad. Witness Apple vs. Samsung.”
It’s only bad if you center your business model around copying your competitors.
Forcing a little innovation here and there isn’t a bad thing, IMO.
But in technology, all business models are based around copying your competitors. Innovation in computing works because we keep learning from everyone else’s designs and code at a rapid rate. (Remember when certain companies wanted patents on mice? Toolbars? Windows and icons?)
Common look-and-feel lawsuits tends to discourage innovation, not force it. (It’s both difficult and unnecessary to force innovation; all you can do is not retrict it.)
I’m not saying Zynga aren’t vile scum, because we know they are. (In the post-Tamagotchi era, there really ought to be a criminal offence of “abusing game design techniques to demand constant attention from the human mind”, but I can’t figure out how to make that happen safely.)
For me there’s a big distinction between being inspired by something (good) and copying something (bad). I’m in the design industry myself and naturally trends form and similarities in look and feel occur – this isn’t a problem. The same goes for fashion, art and design (product, graphic, interaction, you name it).
There are some things that I think should be more open; touch screen gestures for example. It doesn’t harm Apple to create a standard. UI familiarity is important for usability so I think trying to make interactions proprietary is a bad thing (there’s already enough variation on iOS alone, let alone across other platforms). But Samsung have a very bad habit of mimicking Apple as closely as humanly possible, which is naturally exacerbated by the OS they’ve chosen which is, in appearance, a pretty close facsimile of iOS (maybe slightly less so now). You only have to look at the Nokia Lumia running Windows to see how to not rip people off and to further innovation within the industry – both from a software and hardware perspective. This is why claims of ‘you can’t patent a rectangle’ rile me, even if they are normally made by lawyers or people with absolutely no aesthetic appreciation. I don’t see what’s innovative about 4 years worth of iPhone facsimiles.
But I’m drifting slightly off topic. With Zynga I’d argue it’s less about look/feel and more about the content. In some ways it’s harder to call them out for copying gameplay, as if this were universally unacceptable there’d only be one first person shooter (etc.). But some lines probably need to be drawn – as otherwise why bother innovating when Zynga are just going to replicate your product and push it out for free? Especially if you’re a small developer – and they’re who matter the most.
The history of American innovation is a history of copying and making small incremental changes.
As is the history of Apple.
As noted a few hundred pixels below your reply; there’s a difference between being inspired by something, and copying it.
If our innovative history was the result of copying then we wouldn’t have made it past a stone wheel.
The Consumerist website’s “Worst Company in America 2012″ vs. Zynga, a company which is arguably even worse. Oooh boy.
The only thing to root for in this case is that the judge finds both sides in contempt, and throws them in jail. They certainly are contemptible…
“You’re BOTH guilty!”
I hold out hope that the lawsuit is so long and drawn out that neither one of them wins.
“Whoever loses, we win,” I think it was.
“Whoever wins… we lose.” If you are referring to “Alien vs. Predator.”
Edit: Upon actually reading what Rob wrote, I see that you are.
Ah, but EA is famous for running a gaming sweatshop; Zynga rips off other peoples’ games and deliberately tries to make their games blatantly addictive. Someone’s going to get hit in this one, but either way it’s a good outcome.
Unfortunately, if the Alien vs. Predator reference holds, I’m pretty sure that a terrifying EA/Zynga hybrid gets created during one of the appeals…
Not having been much of a gamer in the last 20 years, I missed the part where EA became such an evil company. Electronic Arts to me is Trip Hawkins, Deluxe Paint and Pinball Construction Set.
So, naturally, there’s no question I want to see Zynga DIAF.
Deluxe Paint was awesome.
But this famous post from 2004 gives you a much better idea what they’ve become since. Zynga may actually be slightly less evil; at least they’re open about their intent to steal.
In EA’s defense they did a great job of porting NBA Jam to the iPad – they didn’t even turn it into some horrible micro-transaction FB game.
They deserve at least a few points for that.
However, they did such an abysmal job on the commentary for Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’12 on the iPad that they lose those points again. Whether I nudge the ball off the tee, or drop it 2 inches from the hole, I’m required to take an ‘aggressive approach for the next shot’. Those commentators have some serious aggression problems.
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