In which EA does a good deed

It hasn’t been a good week for Zynga, what with their stock going through the floor, their veteran COO (chief operations officer) having been ‘restructured’ away from creative duties, and now they’ve been hit by a lawsuit from Electronic Arts around copyright infringement.

I predict EA will win this case, if it gets as far as court. The formal complaint document is very thorough, very readable, and pretty much sums up every accusation everyone has ever made about Zynga and copying games, as well as specific claims about how The Ville ripped off Sims Social, including poaching EA executives who had inside information about the game pre-launch.

There is one thing you need to know about patent suits. (This is also true of other lawsuits but sometimes people do it anyway to make a point.)

1. There is no point pursuing a defendent who doesn’t have much money with which to pay large fines.

Zynga is now a large public company. They have assets. That makes them worth suing. EA has genuine commercial interest in protecting The Sims, one of their tentpole IPs, and they’ve clearly decided to make some solid PR out of the whole affair.

Much as EA garners a lot of hate from gamers – they are after all an investment company whose main goals are to monetise their games into the ground – I always felt that Riccitello was speaking from the heart when he talked about promoting new IPs, even if he does close studios down swiftly when they underperform. They have also shown some desire to foster the independent gaming ecosphere, some of which fell wide of the mark, and others may have shown genuine appreciation for crowd sourcing and indie developers who can grow their own fanbase.

So yeah, I think this is a positive development and I wouldn’t be too quick to cry doom or foresee EA and Activision suing all and sundry for games with similar looks and feels if this is successful. Zynga will deserve what comes from this. Indie and social gaming devs will only benefit from the protection against having their ideas stolen by more unscrupulous dev houses.

Nimblebit (the devs who made Tiny Towers, which Zynga then notoriously ripped off) seem to agree.

Gaming News: First PS3 MMO?, Cataclysm Alpha, Lucasarts Execs resign, and Games Workshop sue Fan Site

The local news of course is that our election on Thursday produced a hung parliament. I was practically in the news myself when our demo for electoral reform made the front pages. I still think, “What do we want? Electoral reform. When do we want it? Now!” is not very catchy.

Free Realms for the PS3

Free Realms, Sony’s kid friendly MMO, will be demoed on the PS3 at next month’s E3 convention. It’s a fun, colourful game with plenty to do and see and also does not rely heavily on in game communication, so that might just be a very good fit indeed.

SOE have said a lot in the past about their goals to get MMOs onto consoles but this is the first game in their stable to actually make the leap.

I’m intrigued to see how this might work and how they’ll handle the pricing, but it’s a fun little game for all that and I’ll certainly be trying out the PS3 port. For research purposes only, you understand and not at all because I want a calico pet cat in every game which allows it. (You can train your cat to do tricks in FR.)

Cataclysm Alpha Test Begins

Friends and family alpha test began this week of Blizzard’s new WoW expansion. The client was leaked and fully data-mined and posted all over the web approximately 2s later.

The wow.com editors attempt to justify this by explaining that it’s all Blizzard’s fault for not paying attention to employee’s concerns (but we don’t know what these mysterious concerns might be). Or Blizzard could just sack anyone who leaks information that is clearly marked company confidential, like any other business would do. Assuming that it came from an employee, of course.

I’ll come back to this topic later. But it’s clear that either Blizzard fansites make too much money from printing leaked info to stop doing it, or else Blizzard just doesn’t have the goodwill from the playerbase which is what mostly keeps other NDAs under wraps.

Someone has managed to run WoW on an iPad

Gaikai have shown off their vaunted streaming gaming technology by demonstrating that it can be used to run WoW on an iPad.

But they don’t answer the most important question that this raises: is finger-turning worse than keypad turning?

Lucasarts President Resigns

This week several executives resigned from Lucasarts along with the company’s president. There is always a story behind mass senior resignations but in this case we don’t have much information on what is going on behind the scenes. It isn’t necessarily bad news for the developer, per se.

Lucasarts say that no current game development (such as Star Wars) will be affected, but they would say that, wouldn’t they? The fact that the company announced that they are searching for a replacement implies that he actually did resign rather than being pushed (when someone is fired, there is usually already a replacement lined up.)

Games Workshop sue Warhammer Online fansite

This was one of the more unexpected news stories of the week, and really should have all fansites on their toes.

The main fan-run bboard and community for Warhammer Online is called Warhammer Alliance. It has been up for months (maybe even years) before Mythic’s Warhammer MMO went live, and was bought out by Curse to be part of their fansite stable. Yes, that’s the same curse.com who host a lot of WoW addons.

And now, Games Workshop are suing Curse for trademark infringement among a host of other issues. The issue is the name of the fansite. They claim that Warhammer Alliance implies that the site is formally associated with Games Workshop.

Or in other words, Curse is in profit and GW wants a cut. It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit goes, if Curse even attempt to fight it rather than just settling out of court. I suspect that Curse et al have a good case, but that the costs of legal action against GW could be prohibitive.

However, if I was involved with a fansite that had gleefully picked a game specific name without asking permission first from the trademark holders, I would be watching this one with interest. Anyone else think Blizzard might have a case to claim that wow.com infringed their trademarks if they get pissed off by  … for example … consistent leaks about new expansions?