FarmVille creator Zynga is the most popular Facebook game publisher -- that's no debating that. Out of the top 10 most popular games on Facebook, Zynga created seven of them: FarmVille, Zynga Poker, Mafia Wars, FrontierVille, Cafe World, Treasure Isle and PetVille. And while these games are beloved by many, the company behind the game hasn't always garnered a 'friendly' reputation with players or the games industry as a whole.
In a new tell-all article, 'FarmVillains' in San Francisco's SF Weekly, former Zynga employees dish about what they witnessed behind the scenes, which gives credence to the company's less-than-savory reputation. Apparently, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus meant what he said in his now-famous quote, admitting that he "did every horrible thing in the book just to get revenues," and one of those things includes blatantly copying competitor's games.
The SF Weekly article is long and certainly worth reading in its entirety, but here are a few of the more memorable quotes from Zynga's exes:
"I don't fucking want innovation," the ex-employee recalls Pincus saying. "You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers."
One contractor says he was offered freelance work from Zynga, related to mimicking a competitor's application, with explicit instructions: "Copy that game."
"I was around meetings where things like that were being discussed, and the ramifications of things like that were being discussed - the fact that they'd probably be sued by the people who designed the game," he says. "And the thought was, 'Well, that's fine, we'll settle.' Our case wasn't really defensible." Psycho Monkey's suit was ultimately settled for an undisclosed amount.
The former senior employee who was present for Pincus' "No innovation" diatribe described Zynga's business model this way: "Steal somebody else's game, throw millions of dollars at it, and then, if it doesn't have it already, add virtual coins."
To be fair, there are hundreds of successful corporations that were built on a concept that was an iteration of an existing idea. That's what makes the business world go 'round. Facebook itself is an iteration of a dozen social networks before it -- but Mark Zuckerberg's version just happened to resonate with the general population more than, say, Orkut or Friendster did before it.
Some could argue that Zynga simply did the same, but Pincus and his company have also built up a sense of distrust over the past few years, something that needs to be changed if they want to give companies like Electronic Arts and Activision a run for their money, and more importantly, if they want to keep players from looking for new virtual fields to harvest.