Mafia Wars vs. Mob Wars Battle To Take Place In Court Rather Than Online

from the take-it-to-the-matresses dept

Apparently the creator behind the Facebook game Mob Wars is suing the creator of the similar game Mafia Wars for copyright infringement. Zynga, the makers of Mafia Wars have basically built a pretty good business around making copies of other (sometimes well-known, sometimes not) games for platforms like Facebook, MySpace and other sites. But that’s fine. Both Mob Wars and Mafia Wars are popular — and having the two compete with each other shouldn’t be a bad thing. It drives both developers to keep improving the overall experience. Besides, both games are based on concepts that have been popular in games for ages — since well before either came into existence. Could you imagine if only one software company could produce a Texas Hold ‘Em app? Or only one company could produce a baseball video game? That would be silly. So why should only one company be able to produce a text-based game about mobsters? Just focus on competing online, rather than in the courtroom.

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Companies: zynga

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Comments on “Mafia Wars vs. Mob Wars Battle To Take Place In Court Rather Than Online”

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34 Comments
skyrider (profile) says:

Here it comes....

Lawsuits by the estates of Mario Puzo, Al Capone, The Five Families…

“I want him dead! I want his whole family dead! I want his house burned to the ground! And god help anybody that tries to make a video game about me!”

Prior art, lots of it, get over the fact that somebody had the same idea as you and make yours better. Or, conversely, whack the opposition. It would be interesting to see a copyright infringement lawsuit fought out on the streets of LA by the Gangs of New York.

skyrider (profile) says:

Here it comes....

Sorry, got distracted by something and hit submit before I was ready.

The point I was trying to make with my pointless diatribe was that there are only so many things you can call Mafia-based video games.

“The Italian Whack-Job?”
“Families settle a score?”
“The Favor Game?”
“Elliot Ness and His Band of Merry Fellows?”
“La Familia?”
“Omerta?” I like that one, but probably already taken.
“Scarface?” Copyrighted. “Scar?” Character in a disney movie so protected by overeager teams of mouse-ear wearing lawyers.
“War of the Five Families and Anyone Else Who Wants to Join In?” Good, but probably too long of a title for whatever IM apps are in use today.
“Capo?” Good, but easily mistaken for a nice, hot coffee brand and get sued by Starbucks.
“Capo de tutti Capi?” Good, but when abbreviated it sounds like a bio-war game.

See my point? We have THE MOB, and THE MAFIA. Based on actual case files and good old fiction. There really isn’t anything else to call a good-old-going-to-the-mattresses game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Maybe, but probably not

In this case, it looks like it is a direct rip off… They have identical menu systems, fighting works the same, jobs work the same, properties work the same. It looks like the only things Mafia Wars changed was the graphics and some of the names.

To me (and I ain’t no laywer) it looks like a violation of copying one’s intellectual property. Mafia Wars needs to at least change the experience slightly to make it their own, but right now its just way too similar.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: but what if......

Ok so what if, lets say need for speed was the only one racing game, theres tons of racing games that are almost the same and there not all sueing eachother but then thats mayb kind of a bad example, so how about like a soccer game, they have the same gameplay and almost identical, they just change a few things here and there like graphics and things like that, which is what mafia wars did, your not going to change the whole game of soccer just because theres already a game like it, thats the game and you cant do much to change it without screwin it up comletely

Tim says:

I can't see it either way

There are other such games too, Mobsters and Mafia Life for instance, but here’s the thing: These are free games where there’s no cost to the user so playing one doesn’t prevent a user from playing another. Many people play two or more – everyone I personally know that plays one plays at least two.

Stupid lawsuit, but then again most are.

John says:

Re: I can't see it either way

Free my ass I don’t know about Mobsters because I dont play it but on Mafia wars Free is a LONGGGGGGGGGG SLOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW Option and Zynga even employs users or themselves to police the site and make it difficult for users to climb in rank which is a conflict of intrest, as for Zynga copying Mafia Wars 100% true same point system same graphics..

If Zynga wants to say it’s a free game in court so why sue any Rep from Mobsters can contact me i’d be glad to show them my invoices.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I can't see it either way

Old article and a stupid comment that’s not even legible. I personally don’t know anyone who regularly pays to play these games, I dropped $10 more as a donation before I realized they were raking in cash.

Looks as though you’re like so many other people that want a shortcut to flaunt your e-penis so you spend money.

W4RM4N (profile) says:

That Would be Silly

Could you imagine if only one software company could produce a Texas Hold ‘Em app? Or only one company could produce a baseball video game? That would be silly.

What if only one company could produce a football video game? Oh yeah, Electronic Arts solely releases the same crappy football video game every year!

Video games prosper with competition, and I believe it is good. 2K Sports gave Madden a run for their money, if not eclipsing them one year. Now, after the NFL Player’s INC exclusive rights were sold to EA, we are left with one crappy game.

You could easily say that 2K Sports copied Madden to get where they were and to be a competetor. So to have Mafia Wars take a model that Mob Wars had a chance to act on doesn’t really bother me.

Cr4nf0rd says:

Re: That Would be Silly

I was going to say the same thing. Madden is just terrible and I’ve refused to buy any of them since ’07 (which I was still very apprehensive on then). I can’t wait for EA’s NFL license to run out because the competition makes for better effort on the developer’s part and therefore a better experience for the consumer. Today, each Madden is last years version with a facelift, updated roster and a few pointless features

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Mob Wars v. Mafia Wars

Completely agree with your comment BUT completely disagree with Techdirt which seems to be the norm the past 6+ months. I’m all for innovation and think the way to get the best product is through competition but Mike’s comparisons are completely off the mark. Zynga has built their company by being hacks of other peoples work, their latest being the “farm” craze on FB.

Mafia Wars was a direct rip of Mob Wars plain and simple. Maybe you didn’t take the time to play them, Mike. They’ve both changed to different degrees since this article but it doesn’t change the fact they used identical statistical data and the same layout. I’m for innovation but completely against this socialistic world that TechDirt seems to push these days.

Learn Law Idiots says:

Have you played both games?

The owner of Mob Wars isn’t suing because Mafia Wars is a mafia game; if you’ve played both you know that they are essentially carbon copies of one another. You choose a boss from one of 3 exact types, do similar jobs for experience, buy similar items, etc. The layouts and game theory are practically identical. The most glaring ripoff is definitely the idea of having a hitlisting system.

It isn’t the same as being two separate games from the same genre, i.e., football, nor are mobwars games based off a pre-existing game either where the rules would be very rigid and there would only be so many ways to create games from that genre. It definitely was a calculated move on Zynga’s part to take the success of MobWars to their own servers. Further, poker isn’t under the same copyright issues as MobWars since poker is old enough to be public domain.

And to those complete assclowns that think it doesn’t matter because the games are free. It is called advertising, donations and a “spare change” system.

Seriously, before commenting on this at least have a shred of knowledge of how the law works and what both games are like.

Jonathan Stevens (user link) says:

Mafia Wars deserves to lose

Gotta say your argument that ripping off people’s ideas improves competition is ridiculous.

If Zynga wanted to compete with Mob Wars then they could have just made a totally different game and seen who played what.

If Zynga do not have the imagination to come up with a new game and would like to use Mob Wars’ idea, then they owe Mob Wars, they don’t actually have the right to ‘compete with’ and potentially steal their business.

I work in Graphic Design – an industry that relies heavily on copyright law. If I want to use a photograph, an illustration, a font, a logo, I would pay for it, or at least get permission to use it.

If someone comes up with a cool idea, you give them credit for it, you do not steal it and pass it off as your own.

Alex says:

Unless source code from Mob Wars has been used in Mafia Wars then it would be very hard to prove your case. Lets face it, every type of game has numerous but slightly different variants. Football, snooker, pool, management style games, and textual based adventures are just about identical apart from graphics and the code in the background. This does not mean you can make a case in court for infringement.

Added to this, are the constraints imposed by the playing enviroment facebook imposes. This by definition dictate largely that games will have a similar feel to them. A defence would just need to show how there are numerous games out there already that Mob Wars owes itself to. This would just call into question any claim to originality and ownership of the concept they think they own. It would be be like one football game developer claiming the other ripped them off. There are only so many ways to play football as indeed turn based limited graphical games. Yeah, Mafia Wars is simalar but I assume they were clever enough to avoid using any source code from Mob Wars and clever enogh to have checked thoroughly how much Mafia Wars needed changing not leave them likely to loose in court.

Web Gamer says:

Mob Wars isn't original

Guys, I understand it isn’t about just making a mafia-themed game. But even the menu system, having a certain amount of energy and HP that gets filled over time, a bunch of clickable “jobs” and being able to attack other players has been around in a TON of web-based games before mob wars OR mafia wars. Prior art is definitely a concern. The only claim they might have is that Mob Wars got their app on facebook first, and the appearance is too similar. IP is joke, and my opinion is anti-capitalist. Mob Wars suing Mafia Wars is like the publisher of cheesy romance novels suing another publisher of cheesy romance novels for stealing “their” idea. Think if only person could make medical dramas for TV, or legal dramas or crime dramas. Granted, I think there are too many as there is, but its the same concept. The creators of Mob Wars didn’t really do anything original. Besides, Mafia Wars is clearly the superior game.

Web Gamer says:

Alex, I agree. Software copyright is largely dependent upon the code, not the output. Almost all the conventions of first person shooters were based on the original wolfenstein and doom games to one degree or another, and that is how it became a genre. Saints Row is basically the same as Grand Theft Auto 3 San Andreas in many respects with a few tweaks to make gameplay smoother. If you look at all the video games out there, you can find tons of examples of this. I think the people who need to learn something about copyrights are the ones crying foul.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's IP fraud

Zynga ripped off Mob Wars, without a doubt. It’s not even a matter of being *similar* in the way that football games must be similar. Graphics, gameplay, game elements, game mechanics… all copied. And don’t even try to say that it’s just the nature of Facebook’s limitations… that’s a completely bogus argument.

Joe says:

WTF?

So you’re saying there’s no such thing as intellectual property then? If someone writes a book, everyone should be able to publish it and profit from it, right? If someone makes a film, then the characters and plot can be freely exploited by other people, right? This is why we have copyright, patent, and trademark law, to ensure that the holders of those rights are respected and get their due when someone else tries to profit from their work. I’ll bet you download a lot of files from bit torrent, don’t you?

Oh, and if you want to complain about only one company producing something, look at Electronic Arts sometime. Madden is the ONLY football game. Period. Nobody else can make any game using real players or stadiums but EA.

Go peddle your communist crap about property belonging to everybody someplace they’ll appreciate it. Like China, where they regularly violate intellectual property without fear of punishment.

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