If you’ve got shares in Facebook, here’s a sure-fire way to make yourself feel better. Take a look at Zynga’s current value (somewhere below $3), and you’ll feel nothing but a sharp rush of pity and there-but-for-the-grace-of-God gratitude.
One blistering response, from an anonymous user claiming to work for a studio acquired by Zynga, quickly climbed to the top of the pile, with over 600 upvotes. And it is a pretty nightmarish testimonial:
Six weeks before shipping the studio was flown out to San Francisco to launch our game – 12 hour days seven days a week, free of the distraction of friends, wives and girlfriends. I watched alcoholism and substance abuse skyrocket, relationships crumble (including my own), people slept on office couches, two developers got divorced, one nervous breakdown. They attempted to smooth this over with more stock, free food and t-shirts. Free food doesn’t do you much good when you’ve lost fifteen pounds from not eating.
The user concludes:
How does it feel? To spend years being worked into the ground, putting your life on hold and being egged along so top brass can cash out millions at $12 a share while the rank and file employees are in a ‘lockout period’? I’ll second ‘devastating’.
But, of course, the plot thickens. As of this morning, the damning answer has been deleted and now exists only in this TechCrunch post. And it’s not like an anonymous user is the world’s most reliable source. However, other posters chimed in with their own wretched experiences. AllThingsD also corroborates, to some extent, the tales of woe spilling onto the thread.
Others, however, leapt to the defense of Zynga and its hard-driving company culture. (This dude suggests unhappy employees are merely “butthurt.”) One expressed doubts the poster is even a real-deal Zynga employee:
[The anon's experience has] been so drastically different for both myself and my many friends that have worked here that I have to say that this post is either a gross exaggeration or possibly fabricated account of what it is like to work at Zynga.
He concludes that, “In the long run if I don’t get to cash out at $10+ a share I still get to walk away with an amazing experience. I’ve worked with some ridiculously smart and kind people, I’ve learned a lot and I’ve had a great time doing it.”
While we hesitate to take anonymous Internet commenters at their word, given what we’ve always heard about working at Zynga, that defense sounds just a little bit like Stockholm Syndrome. Take it down a notch, Patty Hearst.
Meanwhile, an analyst tells BusinessWeek that the company is making “a proactive move to prevent mass exodus.” The magazine reports:
Zynga Inc. (ZNGA), the biggest maker of games played on Facebook Inc. (FB)’s website, doled out equity grants to all full-time employees after an earnings shortfall caused a share-price decline (ZNGA) that eroded the value of existing grants, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
Zynga’s future performance in the public markets doesn’t look great, either. COO John Schappert just left–after being “stripped of some responsibilities” in a company reorganization, says Bloomberg. Electronic Arts is suing the company for the blatant ripoff that is The Ville, Zynga’s version of the Sims Social. Then there’s that class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of shareholders, alleging that ”Zynga misrepresented or failed to disclose material adverse facts about its business, operations, and growth prospects.”
It’s going to take more than an office full of romping puppy dogs to fix this one.