It looks like the controversy around Mob Wars , a very popular social network game that has been rumored to pull in as much as $1 million a month, is only getting started. Creator David Maestri and his company Psycho Monkey have filed suit against Zynga, a popular developer of social network games. The lawsuit centers on Zynga’s game Mafia Wars – a text-based game very similar to Mob Wars, which has also developed a large following.
Zynga’s Mafia Wars launched after Maestri’s Mob Wars with very similar game play and design (not to mention a similar name). Since then some of the design elements have changed, but it’s clear that Zynga was at the very least inspired by Mob Wars (Maestri will likely contend it was a blatant clone). I suspect that Zynga will argue that text-based games similar to Mob Wars have been around for years, and games focused on mobsters are hardly a novelty. Should Maestri win the case, it would set important precedents for the future of social gaming, and would likely affect the many Mob Wars knockoffs on social networks like MySpace and Facebook and potentially the iPhone.
It’s clear that Maestri is willing to go to great lengths to defend Mob Wars, especially after he spent many months in a legal battle with his former employer SGN over the rights to the game (which he developed while he was still employed there). SGN and Maestri settled their issues last December, in an agreement that gave Maestri the rights to Mob Wars but gave SGN full license to produce similar games in the future (SGN just released its first mobster related game last week).
You can see the court docket for the case, called Psycho Monkey, LLC v. Zynga Game Network, Inc., here, but the complaint itself is not yet available online.