As you’re probably aware of by now, Zynga laid off 520 employees this week. As part of that downsizing, a number of studios, including OMGPOP, were shut down. Now one ex-Zynga employee has taken to Reddit to answer any and all questions about the company.
The former employee – going by the handle “former_zyngite” – says that he was in a creative position at the company for over two years at the San Francisco office. He claims to have also worked with a couple of teams so his knowledge of the company and development culture at Zynga is rather extensive.
On the topic of scandals, the former employee says that Zynga wasn’t involved in anything that the public didn’t already know about. The worst “scandal” to his knowledge were the allegations that CEO Mark Pincus and other executives were involved in insider trading at the company, and bailed out before the stock tanked.
As for Zynga’s business strategy, the former employee says that it’s “terrible.” In short, he feels that Zynga was too slow to react to market moving from Facebook to mobile. Smaller developers really took off on mobile quickly, but Zynga was and is still having trouble in that market. Part of the problem, according to the former employee, is that Zynga would just chase trends:
And a serious lack of foresight over all. Too many major decisions are quick reactions to sudden changes in the market. If some games jumps to the top of the Top Grossing charts then everyone need to drop everything and change to follow it. Which wastes time, makes for bad design and ultimately puts projects behind schedule. It just means they’re always late to the party, and whatever game they’re trying to compete with has already faded away by the time their own version hits the market.
They rely too much on reacting to what is making money now, and too much on their own data. They don’t strive to make anything new or innovative and that’s no way to excel in the games market. You need to lead the pack, not try emulate the best practices of top games with the hopes that you can out perform and already established IP.
One constant theme when talking about Zynga are the allegations that the company outright steals other game ideas, and just slaps their signature style on it. The former employee doesn’t refute those claims, but says that Zynga has gotten much better about it after a lot of bad press came out against it with the Dream Heights fiasco and The Ville lawsuit.
Speaking of Zynga copying trends and following trends, the former employee addressed Zynga’s desire to enter the real money online gambling market. It’s already launched two real money games in the UK, and will probably be one of the loudest voices lobbying for its legalization in the US. Our mystery employee doesn’t think it’s going to work, however, for a variety of reasons:
It’s been legal in other countries for years. The companies that have been working those markets were the ones to pioneer and legitimize those markets.
Zynga is hopping in late. They have launched RMG (real money gambling) in the countries where it’s currently legal, but they’re not the first to the market.
They are pushing the legislation to make it legal in the US. But if it passes, there are other companies who have been doing it longer and better than zynga who will jump on the US market first. Zynga might jump on at the same time, but who are you going to trust your real money with? The company that has been managing online casinos for a decade or the company that is trying to jump into it now?
After all this negativity, it would be nice to hear something positive about Zynga. Our mystery employee, while critical of the company’s business practices, said that it took care of its employees and the community. For example, all employees were given three free meals a day, happy hour every Friday, unlimited vacation days, and a gym in the building.
As for the community, he says that Zynga promoted volunteering and “going green.” He says that Zynga is a “socially conscious” company.
Finally, we come to the number one question – is Zynga evil? He says that he thought that at first as he was acquihired into the company. After being there for a while, however, he says that Zynga is just like Dreamworks. Sure, the company exploits popular trends, but who doesn’t?
Besides, Zynga isn’t Hitler. That dude was evil and our mystery employee says that Zynga is a pretty good company by comparison.