Nobody Likes Zynga

Zynga rocketed to fame with titles like FarmVille and Mafia Wars. When Mafia Wars 2 launched, the number of players peaked at 2.5 million, but dropped to 900,000 earlier this month, with players complaining that the game just wasn't as fun.

They weren't the only ones complaining -- the individuals making the games were, too.

This comes as Zynga is about to make a public stock offering and as employees complain of stressful deadlines and long hours, The New York Times reported.

The environment at Zynga is data-driven, and according to one analyst, "similar to a New York investment bank". According to The New York Times, staffers who perform get vacations and $US100,000 in stock.

"Weak" employees were cut, and Zynga began to trim equity packages through demotions.

The workplace rumours and reputation were apparently one reason why mobile game company PopCap turned down Zynga's bid of $US950 million in cash. Instead, PopCap went with Electronic Arts.

"We've learned that when companies treat talent as a commodity, the consequences are severe," Gabrielle Toledano, head of human resources for Electronic Arts, told The New York Times. "It takes years to repair a reputation."

PopCap wasn't the only one to reject Zynga's advances: The New York Times reported that Angry Birds maker Rovio walked away from an offer from the FarmVille studio for $US2.25 billion in cash and stock.

With interest waning, Zynga might have more to worry about than its reputation as an employer -- namely, its reputation as a game maker. The social game business is becoming more competitive for gamer makers and more expensive.

"Zynga should be an example of entrepreneurship at its best," said Roger McNamee, a co-founder of the venture capital firm Elevation Partners. "Instead it's going to be a Harvard Business School case study on founder overreach -- this will be a cautionary tale."

Zynga's Tough Culture Risks a Talent Drain [NY Times]

In Some Virtual Worlds, the Thrill Is Gone [Business Week]

(Top photo: Jim Wilson | NY Times)


    The guy on the right hand side of the photo brings his dog to work?

      That's not it at all. Everybody else works at his house.

        This made me shit it laughing. Thank you.

      Nah, that dude is an animator... the dog is company property, he is just modelling a sleeping dog for their next game.

      Don't Wake The Sleeping Dog!

      People at my office sometimes being their dog to work too...

        Where do you work? I work at a university (at a rural campus) and they don't allow dogs in the office. She's not even a big dog...

          I work in an ad agency in Sydney and people bring their dogs in every other day. It's pretty sweet.

    How does Zynga even have 2.25billion dollars??? And I lolled at the idea that EA games is somehow any better at treating their employees

      Haha, yeah.
      “It takes years to repair a reputation.”
      Sure does - and you still haven't finished repairing yours yet EA.

        They haven't finished but man have they come a long way.

        that's true, they're still trying to repair their reputation since Need For Speed: Carbon, granted Hot Pursuit's reboot by Criterion was good.

        EA needs to make another Underground sequel true to the series as it was! With the drift mechanics from both Underground games in place. The drift mechanics in Carbon were god-awful!

    Wow man, if I could go back in time and make a crash the castle clone.

    I can't even fathom turning down 2.25 billion dollars.

    Considering now Zynga uses Facebook as it's main platform now, companies such as Popcap being offered money and stock from Zynga may be worth quite a bit today, but it doesn't ensure the security for future, especially when the target consumers (i.e. casual players on facebook) have a tendency to shift social networks over time. We've already seen it to myspace and a collection of smaller sites such as bebo, and i think results posted a couple of months back on how facebook was doing, showed either a slow down, a large number of people leaving the site (cant remember which), which could mean facebook may have the same fate some point in the future, which unless Zynga broadens their business model, will be the same.

    Facebook during its early years is fun and enjoyable, including the games suprise suprise, but over time, it gets more and more annoying, now i keep getting notifications from my friends to join his quest to slay dragons/farm potatoes/build cities/etc

Join the discussion!