Unlike the people over at OMGPOP, former_zyngite didn't expect this at all:
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. I did get a nice severance package and benefits. So I'm pretty well set for a while and I have a lot of friends and former co-workers in other parts of the industry. So I've got a lot of leads already.
Exactly how awesome was that severance package?
I got 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.
In general, Zynga was actually pretty generous with employees:
They 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.
Though, some employees got better perks than others:
There were things that were available to everyone in the company, like the gym and free food. But if you were on a top grossing team then you got additional perks, like trips to Vegas and other off-site excursions.
Despite all those trappings of a successful Silicon Valley tech company, "their business strategy is terrible:"
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.
That's partly because of management issues:
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.
And all of that comes out in the quality of the games:
There always seemed to be a lot of games like that. They were 70 percent awesome. They just needed a little push to make them great. But the teams weren't left alone to make the final adjustments. Someone up top would always feel like they knew what had to be done. So some major (and often uninformed) changes were pushed on the team and they would be forced to change features that would ultimately disrupt the rest of the game and cause the entire project to fail.
Getting into gambling probably won't save them, either:
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?
I don't blame Zynga for going after this market, and I honestly believed this could be the saving grace for Zynga. But they are Johnny-come-lately to this market.
But for now, they do make money off games:
The big games deal in Millions of DAU (Daily Average Users). If 3 million users pay an average of $0.20 you're getting $600k a day!
That's huge numbers!!
The company is also weirdly obsessed with dogs:
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.
And, no, he doesn't think Zynga is that evil:
I hated Zynga going into the company. I wasn't hired. I was acquired through a studio that was bought by Zynga. I had no love for the company. But over time I learned that the company itself isn't evil. It's the perception of hardcore vocal gamers that think it's evil.
Why do people think Zynga is evil? Because they copy the games of smaller developers and do it blatantly and obviously. They've made way more money than those companies did on the same games. Hence: evil.