War has been declared not only on your smart phone but in the courtroom as well. The company behind the successful Game of War app has accused another game, Empire Z, of being an unauthorized copycat and has commenced a copyright infringement action.
Game of War: Fire Age was released in July 2013 by Machine Zone, Inc. Besides being at the top of the iTunes App Store, the television commercials feature Kate Upton in medieval style dress. In total, tens of millions of copies of the game have been downloaded worldwide and the game reportedly made over $600 million in 2014. The game, set in a medieval empire, consists of both city building and gathering resources to create buildings, produce troops and defend a kingdom. Similar to other mobile games, much of the gameplay consists of selecting an action and then either waiting a preset amount of time for completion or expediting the task by making a payment. (Like growing crops in other mobile games.) While the game is free to download, that is where the real money is made.
In May 2014, Ember Entertainment, Inc. released Empire Z which features similar gameplay but is set in modern times with zombies being the main antagonist. Machine Zone claims the game is just a “re-skin” of its game and is merely a “clone”. In fact, Machine Zone spends 26 pages of the complaint highlighting the similarities between the two games. For instance, the goals of the games are the same; each game features a “hero” who becomes more powerful as more of the game is played; each game requires players to produce and use commodities like food, wood, and metal; each game rewards players who play more; and in each game the players must build their city and defend it from enemies.
Gameplay of games is not protected under copyright law (the reason why there are so many games that are played similarly to Flappy Bird) but the overall look, theme, feel, dialogue, story line, setting, and characters can be. Machine Zone needs to show that Empire Z is substantially similar and was copied from Game of War. And the kicker, Machine Zone claims that it has been damaged in an amount “no less than $100,000,000.” Let the battle begin.