Zynga claims ex-CityVille exec walked out with secrets

Is Zynga headed toward game over? The value of the social media game-designing company has plummeted since 2011. During the same time, the company was accused of insider trading and later sued by Electronic Arts Inc. over the similarity between Zynga’s The Ville game series and EA’s Sims Social. The copyright infringement suit is just one of many against Zynga.

Now Zynga is proactively trying to protect its interests, claiming a former executive who was once in charge of the popular game CityVille took trade secrets with him when he left the company in August. The filing in a state court in San Francisco accuses the ex-general manager of trade secret theft.

The lawsuit alleges the executive, now working for game-making rival Kixeye, sent hundreds of Zynga documents to a file-sharing account within days of leaving the company. The documents included revenue figures, more than one year of company emails, “historic and future monetization plans” and confidential game development ideas for CityVille. Also reported missing was Zynga’s data used to identify games that are expected to do well with users.

Zynga complained the former director of CityVille swiped reports, projections, metrics and data about existing games and other unreleased games still in development. Zynga believes the trade secrets were stolen to help Kixeye improve its industry standing.

Kixeye could potentially learn the “core game mechanics” of Zynga’s game lineup through the copied data, including secrets to Zynga’s wildly successful social media games.

Critics say Zynga’s popularity among hundreds of millions of worldwide users has waned. The Ville game collection — including CityVille, FarmVille and ChefVille — is aging, a mortal flaw among rabid fans with limited attention spans who are always eager for the next big gaming challenge.

Source: kotaku.com, “Zynga Sues Former CityVille Director For Stealing Trade Secrets When He Left,” Kate Cox, Oct. 15, 2012