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Bought The Farm: Mass Lay-Offs At Zynga

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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Alec Meer

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Co-founder of RPS. Dungeon Keeper & X-COM 4 Life.

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