Bought The Farm: Mass Lay-Offs At Zynga

By Alec Meer on June 4th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

The bursting of the Facebook gaming bubble was as inevitable as post-feeding projectile vomit from my newborn daughter (which is why I’ve not been on the site for the last three weeks, but fear not, I shall not be turning my every sentence into a parenting reference as a result. For the record, obviously she’s beautiful and amazing though. And very vomity). Much as I’m glad to see the industry-wide madness about wait/spam/pay anti-games dying down, it gives me no pleasure to hear that the cost of this is so many jobs. Around 500 people were yesterday put out of work as a result of one-time social gaming goliath/habitual copycat Zynga plunging into chaos.

The FarmVille/CityVille/Draw Something/Things With Friends/lots of games that are suspiciously like other games firm had a period of absurd growth, acquiring studios left, right and centre and sparking a desperate rush into social gaming from most of the rest of the industry as a result. While there was no question about company bosses – including notorious CEO Mark Pincus – profiting beyond belief, the sheer size of Zynga within such a short space of time, based on such a specific product, did seem unsustainable.

And here were are now, with 18% of the workforce suddenly laid off and offices in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas closed down. Rumour has it that recent acquisition OMGPOP (creators of brief mobile fad Draw Something) has been shut too. Why, it seems like only last year that Zynga paid $200m for OMGPOP. That is because it was only a year ago. Business!

In a company blog post, Pincus claimed that “None of us ever expected to face a day like today, especially when so much of our culture has been about growth. But I think we all know this is necessary to move forward.” Said forwards involves more targeting of “mobile and multiplatform, which is where social games are going to be played.” Zynga perhaps hasn’t meaningfully managed to move far beyond Facebook, which no longer seems the gaming force it once was. And if they do move to mobile, we won’t have to worry at all about whether we should be covering social games here anymore. Not that we do anyway, but out of sight, out of mind and all that.

Best of luck to all affected – hope you manage to find exciting new jobs that aren’t located atop thin ice.

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87 Comments »

  1. GallonOfAlan says:

    Aw! Ickle babies! Congratulations.

    WRT Zynga, can’t say I’m sorry that the wheels are coming off their model of ripping off other people’s ideas into crap browser-based microtransaction nightmares.

    • kazmakoze says:

      Claire. true that Rita`s report is cool… on tuesday I bought a top of the range Dodge since I been bringin in $6201 this – five weeks past and-a little over, 10k last-month. it’s by-far the coolest work I’ve ever done. I began this 9-months ago and straight away started to bring in at least $84, p/h. I follow the instructions here, === http://WWW.BUZZ90.COM ===

  2. BooleanBob says:

    Alec breaches the Charlie Brooker event horizon. Congrats!

  3. knux81 says:

    Congrats on the the baby :) Being a parent rocks!

    A bit of a bummer for those that were fired (understatement), but you could see the collapse of Zynga coming a mile off. You can’t keep churning out the same games with minor cosmetic changes (unless you’re EA or Activision).

    Still, I hope those that lost their jobs can find another at a decent gaming company. That makes games…

    • Premium User Badge

      Saul says:

      Congrats Alec! My daughter is ten weeks old today. Isn’t reflux fun? Seriously though, I’m loving every minute of it!

    • Premium User Badge

      AlwaysRight says:

      Congratulations Alec, My son is now 10 days old. Parenthood is fun isn’t it Alec? FUN FUN FUN FUN fun fun… fun… please kill me.

    • Zekiel says:

      Congrulations on fatherhood Alec! I have a nearly-six-week-old. Apparently it gets easier after 6 weeks. Apparently. :-)

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        It doesn’t, you just get more used to it. Kind of like Stockholm syndrome.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Easier?!
        Look, the older the baby, the less they sleep, the more they fuss, and the more they need attention.
        It’s lovely, but certainly doesn’t get any easier than those first few weeks when they’re asleep more than half the day. They do get cuter, though.

      • Gwyddelig says:

        It may get easier from the sleeping-at-night front but to corrupt an Irish proverb, God never opened one door that he closed another…

        Wait ’til the little blighters start teething!

    • db1331 says:

      Congrats from me as well. I’ve got a 13 week old boy at home. He is now sleeping through the night. Like ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. Like we put him down at 10:00, and he doesn’t get up until 7:00. It is fucking GLORIOUS.

      • Premium User Badge

        AlwaysRight says:

        I hate you

        • db1331 says:

          Are you swaddling at all? We greatly underestimated its importance for the first couple weeks. He used to get up every hour or so at night. We tried wrapping him in a normal swaddling blanket, but it’s all but impossible on a squirmy, kicking baby. Then we got one of those Swaddle Me sacks. It’s like a sleeping bag bottom with two velcro flaps on the sides. The first night we put him in that, he slept for about 6 hours straight. He immediately went from getting up 4-6 times a night, to getting up once a night. We’ve kept him swaddled ever since. He’s gotten up 1 time in the last 9 nights, at around 3:30AM one morning. And that was only because he wouldn’t wake up to eat before bedtime that night, so we put him down on an empty stomach, and thus were expecting him to get up shortly anyhow. It is a strange feeling to go back to going to sleep and not waking up until your alarm clock goes off in the morning. You almost start to feel human again. Almost.

          • Premium User Badge

            AlwaysRight says:

            To be honest, it’s not as bad as I’m making out (for comic effect). We’ve found a combination of swaddling and the ‘road noise’ setting on a white noise app seem to do the trick of keeping him sleeping. The main problem is the cluster feeding that can occur from 8-10pm non stop until 3-4am. Its ok now because Im on paternity leave, but would be impossible to deal with once Im back at work because Im up at 6am.

            Also… Zynga sucks but it’s sad when anyone who doesn’t deserve it loses their job.

          • Ninja Foodstuff says:

            RPS comments. Come for the puns, stay for the parenting advice

      • Ergates_Antius says:

        Hmmpf. Our still wakes most nights at 6 mths. To be fair, it’s pretty managable so we’ve not really put much effort into encouraging him to go the whole night.

        Re vomitting: We found infant Gaviscon helped a lot. Just mix it in with the milk if formula or expressed fed, or in a seperate bottle if breastfed. It just thickens the stomach contents a little and makes it more likely to stay down.

      • datom says:

        As someone with an eight-monther, much like AI War, as soon as you get good, the AI really kicks off – this sleeping bit is just to weaken your defences. The waves of unending complexity just get bigger and bigger. Between the hours of 7am and 11pm yesterday my daughter slept for 20 minutes. 20 MINUTES. How do you entertain someone for 15.333333 hours?

        Only one thing works consistently: singing Wheels On The Bus, which in itself is a kind of cruel punishment.

        • Gwyddelig says:

          After the tapir and aardvark, I ran out of animals.

          I felt like a failure as a father.

  4. Alexander says:

    Congrats for your daughter, Alec. May she be at least as awesome as you.
    (Also, random comment on Zynga which no one cares about)

    • Premium User Badge

      felisc says:

      Alright, you’ll be the official congrats comment we’ll all reply to.
      Congratulations alec :)

  5. Jekhar says:

    Congrats for the succesful hatching of your offspring! And please include parenting references in the future! As a father of a little seven month old rascal i would be very interested in your personal trials and tribulations.

    • knux81 says:

      Queue multiple stories of explosive nappies while on the maternity ward. lol I have two daughters (youngest is about to hit two). You guys have alot of awesome times ahead :)

  6. Crosmando says:

    Burn Zygna! Rape their women, steal their kids!

    • Alexander says:

      You could just put Pincus in a bag and throw him into the ocean. Better for everyone.

    • jalf says:

      Have you considered how utterly despicable garbage like that makes you appear?

  7. CaspianRoach says:

    500 hundred? Were they employing most of the industry? 50,000 is quite a lot.

    • gjrud says:

      I’m pretty sure he made a mistake, other sources say that they laid off 520 employees (18% of the staff).

    • Mctittles says:

      I have a hard time understanding how they can have so many employees (currently around 2800) for how simple their games look. You think 3 or 4 people needed per title they should have thousands of games released!

  8. Premium User Badge

    lowprices says:

    Alec: Congrats.

    Fired Zynga Employees: Commiserations.

    Zynga: Boo. Just boo, generally.

  9. lizzardborn says:

    And we have “Pun of the year” winner …

  10. Captain Joyless says:

    Even better than mass layoffs at Zynga, it appears a bunch of the insiders at the company cashed in their stock options earlier this quarter:

    http://www.businessinsider.com/zynga-insiders-cashed-out-just-before-stock-crashed-2012-7?op=1

    for hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Huh. It’s almost as if they knew something was up!

    • Bhazor says:

      Oh corporate America.

      I like how the article is apologising on their behalf, saying it was a complete coincidence that the company collapsed weeks after the top executives cashed in.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I’m no lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that’s insder dealing, which is illegal. It certainly fits the definition that we’re given at work about buying/selling company stock which is, essentially “If you hear anything at work that makes you want to buy or sell our stock, that’s insider dealing”

    • ChrisGWaine says:

      That’s about a year ago, not this quarter.

  11. Kar says:

    “None of us ever expected to face a day like today, especially when so much of our culture has been about growth. But I think we all know this is necessary to move forward.”

    http://allthingsd.com/20130404/zynga-rejiggers-comp-in-a-bid-to-retain-top-execs-and-tie-to-performance/

    Hmmm. Double executive compensation, shutter studios, sack 500 staff. Yeah I think this is necessary to move forward.

  12. Bhazor says:

    Take a job with the devil, don’t expect any sympathy when you get burned.

    Screw every last one of them.

    • MarcP says:

      Amen to that. We’re not exactly talking about a factory laying off uneducated workers who have no other qualifications or career options here, so let’s stop this charade about the “humble and meek, oppressed by The Man, shouldn’t be held responsible for any of their choices and actions”. Companies with such dubious strategies wouldn’t work if there weren’t so many people willing to join them.

      • datom says:

        In fairness, we don’t know who they’re laying off. Not to go all workers-on-the-Death-Star on you, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the ‘visionary’ game-pinchers that are collecting their packages. It’s pretty likely that for everyone laid off in the involvement of game design there’s going to be at least two connected to other aspects of the business. Receptionists, accountants, QA folk – they’re all for the chop – and if we’re not blaming factory workers for working for Nike, why would we blame receptionists for working for Zynga?

      • Mark says:

        You’re the sort of clueless little twats that stop me visiting game forums and comment sections most of the time.

        I know you’re almost certainly just kids that have never worked a day in your lives nor have any experience of an actual workplace or what it’s like to work for a company or try and make a decent living, but that’s barely any excuse.

        Saying “fuck them” to a bunch of people who’ve just lost their jobs, whom you’ve never met, just because they worked for a video game company you don’t like is vile behavior. You understand that plenty of people work for supermarkets that eat up small family businesses, arms manufacturers that sell weapons to nasty regimes around the world, banks that push up commodities prices for people that are near starving? You understand most people are just trying to make a living for themselves, that they often have families and dependents to provide for? Get some fucking perspective.

        How about fuck you and all the stupid little kids on the internet and all the stupid opinions we have to suffer because of them.

        • Bhazor says:

          Hey I for one was very sad to hear that the Iraqi secret police suffered massive layoffs following the fall of Saddam. At what point do you hold people responsible for their actions and their choice of who they work for?

          Also this may shock you. I’m in my mid twenties having worked since 16 and I have never once worked for a company selling weapons to foreign dictatorships. I guess I must be the outlier then huh?

          • datom says:

            Because an army that nerve gassed its own civilians is a suitable comparison.

            Nah, here’s a question. Do you believe that anyone who who works for the following multi-nationals that exploits farmers/workers/tax loopholes/creative types etc.: Tesco, Starbucks, WalMart, Ford, Nike, Google, Amazon, Ikea etc etc etc. deserves to lose their job? If the answer is yes, well, fair play, at least you’re consistent, but you’re not the kind of guy I’d want round at a dinner party.

          • dE says:

            I envy you Bhazor. You must have had a wonderful life, one without any bumps in the road. One with a clear path ahead, one where working hard and honest is always rewarded fairly. One where your aspirations are met and you have the luxury of being picky about all aspects of your life. This is no sarcasm. It’s the only way I can see you making those comments, because you have a complete lack of empathy, even feel disdain from a position you deem superior and above them, for anyone that is less lucky than you are.
            I don’t want to tear down your walls, so I’m not going to link to the sociological studies that show just what kind of shit conditions people have to make due with. I’m not posting statistics of people that didn’t dare to be picky about their jobs, because they didn’t even get the chance to get near one. Live in your peaceful world up above, may it never crack, may it never break.

          • Mark says:

            I’m kind of lost for words after your comparison with the Iraqi secret police.

            People like you are the reason I rarely read any internet discussion anymore, getting people to engage at any level of maturity or depth of thought and perspective is nigh impossible. We’re talking about video games here. It’s not ok to say “fuck them” to a 500 actual people who just lost their livelihoods because their company makes a style of video game you don’t happen to like. Some of them will have to move city, sell their house, leave their friends, kids will have to move schools, families will lose their health insurance. But fuck them I guess.

            It’s ok – you can go back to spreading bilge over the some corner of the internet again after this and barely anyone will bat an eyelid, but you got called out this one time though. Out.

          • Shuck says:

            Comparing a game company that makes games you don’t care for to a group that tortures and kills people. Yeah, ok. And Pincus is literally Hitler, right?
            I can’t even.

          • Bhazor says:

            So how far up the ladder before you’re actually willing to hold people accountable for their work practice?

          • Brun says:

            This zero-mercy, zero-forgiveness, zero-patience attitude my generation (mid-20′s) seems to be defined by really drives me insane sometimes.

          • Bhazor says:

            And the zero-risk, zero-blame, zero-reponsibilty attitude of corporations and apologists really pisses me off.

            This is a development studio built on cloning other peoples work. Every developer on those games knew what they were doing and did it expecting easy cash from the exploitative social market.

            Maybe people uninvolved with development lost jobs. Maybe a few cleaners, maybe the kitchen staff but everyone in management, advertising and development? They knew what they were doing.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            I don’t often agree with Bhazor, and I think his comment was stated in a needlessly inflammatory way.

            That said, he does have a point that the people working there were all adults who knew full well what they were doing. Yes they lost their jobs and that is sad for them, but thousands of people lose their jobs every day.

            It happens. And when it happens at a company that is actively harming society instead of helping it, it is something to be celebrated not mourned. Those who are employable and have actual skills will have little trouble finding new work. Those who are not, well that is their problem.

          • WrenBoy says:

            I would not have phrased it like Bhazor but I am not in the least bit sorry that Zynga are forced to fire people and am glad that fewer people are working for an organisation which has such an obviously negative impact on society.

            I do hope that they all find it easy to find employment quickly and that their future employer will give them more socially beneficial work.

    • Gwyddelig says:

      You expect people to put their jobs through some sort of worthiness test, determined by a gamer with nerd-rage about social gaming???

      Your lack of empathy is shocking. These are ordinary people being chucked onto the dole queue when it’s not like alternative employment is popping up like mushrooms

      • Bhazor says:

        These are people who have shamelessly stolen the work of other people. Who have built their whole business around exploitation and addiction. It’s like you’re expecting me to feel sorry for the marketing team of a tobacco company. Or you’re asking me to feel sorry for the receptionist of a loan shark.

        Zynga’s bullshit is well known, everyone working there knows exactly what the company does. Everyone in that company is to blame. These are developers who leaped aboard Zynga on the promise of easy money knowing exactly what that entailed.

        • Shuck says:

          I’d guess that most of the layoffs are studios that Zynga purchased. So not even people who took jobs with Zynga, necessarily. Not that it matters, if you have human empathy.

          • Blackseraph says:

            I always find it funny how much derision some random pc pirates get in these comments sometimes.

            Yet zynga and their employees are getting most of their money out of copying other people stuff and now we should feel empathy for these people?

      • WrenBoy says:

        Your lack of empathy is shocking. These are ordinary people being chucked onto the dole queue when it’s not like alternative employment is popping up like mushrooms

        As a thought experiment, consider that Zynga can only afford to pay its employees if the world gives them the money to do so. A Zynga tax, if you will.

        Lets assume that the consensus opinion is correct and Zynga has a negative impact on the world and that if conditions were fortuitous enough to drive the likes of Zynga out of business then the world would be a better place.

        If despite this you feel that such a situation would be undesirable as Zyngas employees should still get their paychecks every month then wouldnt the worlds money be better spent by creating a Zynga dole whereby Zynga employees get their paycheck in exchange for doing nothing at all?

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Except many of them didn’t take a job with the Devil. They took a job with someone else, and the devil came along and bought them.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        I missed the part where having a job meant you could expect employment for life. These things are part of the normal marketplace and it is the employees job to vet the financial viability of their employers.

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          Erm, my comment was in response to “Take a job with the devil, don’t expect any sympathy when you get burned.” so what you said doesn’t really make any sense…

    • Gassalasca says:

      The Deathstar debate from The Clerks, anyone?

  13. Screamer says:

    Congrats Alec! :P

    Oh and….ZIIING!!!

  14. Premium User Badge

    psepho says:

    Many vomity congratulations, Alec!

    I still haven’t worked out how it is possible for my children to spew up more than their own weight in vomit. Maybe it’s a Time Lord thing.

    Bad news about Zynga. I always suspected that the whole social thing would be a flash in the pan (…and in the games industry).

  15. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    “simultaneous hooray and boo”
    Booray? Yeah, Booray to that. Zynga can die in a fire, but people losing their jobs is never a good thing (unless said people are absurdly rich). :/

    Also, congratulations. :)

  16. solidsquid says:

    “None of us ever expected to face a day like today, especially when so much of our culture has been about growth”

    Really? Pretty sure most of the people here had recognised Zynga’s growth as being part of a social media gaming bubble which was going to burst sooner rather than later, doesn’t say much for his business acumen if he wasn’t able to see the same thing

  17. nebnebben says:

    I hope that those who are laid off find better places to work making decent games

  18. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    A shame for those people who lost their jobs.

    Also, I hope Brian Reynolds is working on something I’m excited to play now.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Reynolds left earlier this year, iirc. I, too, hope he’s up to something good. Alpha Centauri is still the pinnacle of 4X, and near the top of the best of all times chart, imo.

  19. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    So we should see about 500 new Kickstarters for virtual pet games?

  20. Gwyddelig says:

    Congrats, Alec and welcome to the club. Kids are great but you will never truly know peace of mind again!

    Got to say though that the last line was a little jarring. People find jobs where they find them and either tend not to think about their sustainability or are in a position whereby an “unsustainable” job is the only alternative to “no job”. This is especially true in recent times where people cling to jobs as much through fear as any sort of attachment.

  21. Tuor says:

    ‘In a company blog post, Pincus claimed that “None of us ever expected to face a day like today, especially when so much of our culture has been about growth.’

    Maybe if they’d focused a less on growth and a bit more on sustainability, they could have mitigated what happened.

  22. guygodbois00 says:

    Excellent news! Mr Meer, my hearty congratulations and best wishes to you, mother and (un)fortunate daughter. As to layoffs, I too, as Gap Gen, hope that Brian Reynolds will come to light. Perhaps Sid Meier’s (or without Mr Meier) Alpha Centauri The Sequel Kickstarter, eh?

  23. Jambe says:

    And there are still more than 2,000 people working there after these firings?

    … jeeze. Commiserations for them, too.

  24. LionsPhil says:

    Oh, so now they’re copying THQ?

  25. The Random One says:

    Rock Paper Shotgun: Surprisingly Full of Dads

  26. mr.black says:

    So Alec finally Leveled up and got a new pet! Congrats!

    Enemy instances upgraded and renewed. Karma gain: +10. New perk: Barfbreaker – poison & acid resistance +10%.

  27. jalf says:

    So, what I’ve learned from this comment thread is that apparently, getting your paycheck from a company which makes bad and derivative games means that you deserve to burn in hell, and that your crimes are equivalent to brutal secret police forces in dictatorial regimes.
    Oh, and your spouse deserves to be raped, apparently?

    PC gamers, stay classy. Never change… never grow up.
    You inspire so much faith in humanity…

    • dE says:

      I’ve never quite understood the habit of RPS to fire clusterbullshit broadsides based on a single post, at the entire readership, while adamantly refusing to actually reply to that single post they’re basing their bullshit on.

      • jalf says:

        Hmm? What do you mean?

        If, by any chance, you’re referring to me as “RPS”, then I’d like to point out the following:

        - I have not “adamantly” or otherwise, refused to reply to anything. I did reply to one of these comments, but given that I’m commenting on the attitude of a whole range of commenters, I really don’t want to essentially post the same comment a half-dozen times.
        - I am pretty sure it is not “clusterbullshit” to point out that when people compare game developers to Saddam’s secret police then things might have gotten a touch out of hand. Do you disagree?

        Really, it doesn’t bother me much that these people lost their jobs. Them’s the breaks. Everyone could’ve seen it coming, and the games industry has never been particularly big on job security. And employment is rarely for life. That’s just life. Sometimes, you need to find another place to work.

        But when people actually state that for the crime of being involved with Zynga, your wife should be raped, your children stolen, you drowned in the ocean? When people compare Zynga developers to arms dealers or Saddam’s secret police? (and if you read the comments, you’ll see that all of these are actual statements made in these comments)

        When that is the case, I am pretty sure the “clusterbullshit” is not coming from my direction.

        If it is “clusterbullshit” to state the simple fact that Zynga’s developers, and their developers families deserve to live in accordance with basic human rights, then yes, I am clusterbullshitting the hell out of this comment thread. And I’m not ashamed to admit it.

        • dE says:

          Destroying faith in humanity, you’re actually the one doing it right. Your issue is in perception. You are not commenting on a whole range of commenters, no sir, not even close, you’re explicitely commenting on Bhazors deranged nonsense. But for some reason you see his comments and assume everyone agrees with the deranged parts of his opinion, which pretty much nobody does, at least not amongst those that commented. You take this singular nonsense and fire off a flame at everyone. Do you see the issue yet? Probably not.

          Here is a metaphor for you:
          Some idiot teamkills you in your favorite game. Next spawnwave you lob grenades into your spawnpoint, killing everyone.
          Your thought: Serves them right, them teamkillers.
          Teamkillers thought: Lol.
          Teams thought:
          What an Idiot. Ban the teamkiller.
          Your thought: I agree.
          Your second thought: Why are they votekicking me?

  28. 7thRain says:

    “Best of luck to all affected – hope you manage to find exciting new jobs that aren’t located atop thin ice.”

    Real classy.

  29. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    Congrats, Alec! May you enjoy a lot of vomit and other gifts from your newborn! Well, maybe not that much vomit.