(Updated to reflect comment from Zynga)
Zynga is, in ever sense of the world, having a pretty bad week. First the company was forced to lay off 520 people, or 18% of its workforce. Then it was reported that Zynga was shutting down OMGPOP, essentially admitting that it wasted $180 million when it bought the studio last year.
And now one of those fired employees has decided to take his revenge on his former employer by doing an Ask Me Anything on Reddit.
"I was just laid off yesterday, along with 520 other employees. I'm willing to talk about the company that all gamers love to hate if anyone wants to know more about it. I need to keep my identity on the down-low because I'm job hunting now and not trying to burn bridges. So I can't give specifics on the the projects I worked on, but can talk to a lot of the games, processes, culture, infamous game copying, etc," the employee, calling himself former_zyngite, wrote.
So here are some of the highlights from the session, which began over 12 hours ago:
- The company has a "terrible" business strategy
"Their major issues are the inability to adjust to the changing market. They did great when Facebook gaming was on the rise, but now it's declining and Mobile is on the rise. They're trying to change over, but employ too many of the same game development "best practices" that were developed for Facebook games. These just don't translate to the mobile market, which is why they're suffering in that market."
- And it has some major problems with management also
"A lot of micro-management from the top down that stifles the creativity and hinders the production of many games.
An over reliance on every game being a blockbuster hit which makes the fun aspect of games suffer while making the money grabbing tactics all too transparent to the users.
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."
- Even the company's foray into real-world gambling is not going to be enough
"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?"
- He does not expect the company to last much longer, unless they start to change quickly
"At this rate, I'd give them another 2 to 3 years. They make money and have a lot in the bank. But they also throw away money like you wouldn't believe.
If they actually manage to change their strategy and start putting out some big hits, they could be around a lot longer."
- Also, the company, whose logo is of a siloutette of a dog, is weirdly obsessed with them
"The culture was...weird. At least for me. I've never been a corporate kind of person. So it was hard to adjust. One of the weirder things was the obsession with dogs.
I like dogs. They're great. I grew up with them. Never really wanted to take one to work. But it's highly encouraged there. And kind of obsessed over. Some of the dogs were cool. Some were barking assholes I wanted to punch in the face. It's kind of like a crying baby on an airplane. It sucks, and there's nothing you can do about it."
- But working at Zynga was actually pretty nice overall, as the company does "really try hard to keep morale high"
"They give so many perks that you really get accustomed to it. I ate two out of three meals for free at work every day. It was awesome. And they provided healthy options! They promoted volunteering. Going green. They really tried hard to be a good place to work and a socially conscious company. In that way, they're really great.
On the games side of things I think their whole concept of pulling data on everything players do is amazing. However their over reliance on that is not so amazing. It made the development very analytical, and less intuitive. It's easy to tell when a game is fun. It's hard to pull data on that though."
- It also provides its employees were plenty of perks
"Lots of perks, like a gym in the building, three free meals a day, happy hour every Friday with free booze, unlimited vacation days. Not everyone takes advantage of them all. I loved getting a free 15 minute massage once a week."
- And, while Zynga gave him no indication that he was about to be fired, it did give him a "nice severance package and benefits"
"I had no idea this was coming. Totally out of the blue. I knew things weren't great at the company but I wasn't expecting layoffs at this point and I wasn't expecting to be part of it if it did happen," former_zyngite wrote, noting that the reason he was let go was because he was "low-man on the totem pole."
His severance packaged included "four months salary plus an additional week for each partial year. I worked almost two years, so I got 4.5 months paid. Plus insurance is paid on top of that."
- And, no, Zynga is not "evil"
"It's a mixed bag. Shouldn't any company strive to make profit? That, in and of itself, isn't evil. There are many people in the company that genuinely want people to enjoy our games, and pay a little bit while they're at it. That said, some of the business strategies historically way back in the day, as well as various attempts to monetize in limited time events were grabby in the moment with minimal consideration for how the players felt about the purchase afterwards.
However, even that isn't necessarily evil. There's also a charitable wing of the company, Zynga.org that was dedicated to community service and raising funds for charities. Oftentimes, whenever there was a big tragedy like the Japanese tsunami, the game studios would create a 'limited edition' game item that players could purchase and all proceeds would go towards a charity for that disaster. It's hard to say that kind of practice was 'evil'."
(By the way, if anyone was doubting whether or not former-zyngite actually worked at Zynga, he has proven his authenticy by posting a portion of the letter sent to him by Zynga, informing him of his termination earlier this week.)
A Zynga spokesperson declined to comment on this story.
(Image source: http://www.beyondphilosophy.com)