Exit This Way

‘People Were Ripping Up Zynga Apparel:’ An OMGPOP Employee Dishes on the Zynga Layoffs

"People were grabbing beers from the fridge and walking to the meeting expecting the worst."
Mr. Pincus (Photo: Blogspot)

Mr. Pincus (Photo: Blogspot)

When news came down yesterday that Zynga was shuttering three of its locations and laying off 18 percent of its staff, employees in the New York office, many of whom joined the social gaming behemoth following the acquisition of an indie game studio named OMGPOP, were prepared for the worst.

According to an OMGPOP employee who was laid off yesterday, the office seemed like it was winding down over the past few months. Zynga’s VP of mobile, Sean Kelly, who had been tapped to replace OMGPOP cofounder Dan Porter, was rarely around the office, and though he had charged the teams with brainstorming ideas for new games just two weeks ago, he didn’t follow up with a roadmap to help guide their new game concepts into fruition.

“I think people weren’t surprised that it happened, but surprised that it happened this soon,” the former employee told Betabeat by phone.

One San Francisco Zynga employee gathered the New York team into the front part of the office, a place typically reserved for big news. Mr. Kelly was nowhere to be found.

“The last time that a meeting like that happened it was when Dan left,” the former employee said. “So anything that’s midweek that’s a meeting in the front space is not a good sign.” As employees collected for the meeting, some grabbed beers from the fridge that they could nurse if indeed the news was for the worst.

As it turned out, it was. The announcement was “absolutely unceremonious,” one former employee said, and lasted no longer than five minutes. It was bathed in corporate double-speak with portions lifted from Zynga CEO Marc Pincus’ memo. One thing the lackey from HQ left out: that the restructuring would be due to the company’s shift to focus on mobile. That key piece of information probably wouldn’t have sat well with the staff of the New York office, as theirs was a mobile-only enterprise, and yet the office was still being shuttered.

The San Francisco Zynga employee told them that they had to leave that day. The company’s head of HR took them into offices individually and presented them with severance packages.

The former employee said that Zynga agreed to give employees a few weeks’ pay, in addition to another few weeks if they signed an agreement, “which is probably an agreement that you won’t sue them for anything.”

“It’s nothing huge–it’s not like we’re getting a golden parachute or anything–but it’s nice to have that padding,” the former employee added.

Another area was cleared to make space to collect Zynga-issued hardware, like laptops and phones.

“People were ripping up Zynga apparel,” the former employee said. “Anyone that had Zynga stuff with them just left it in the office.”

The source said there’d been tensions between New York and SF ever since OMGPOP was acquired by Zynga almost 16 months ago. Every quarter Zynga would send themed swag to the office. One quarter the theme was “Zynga homecoming,” so they sent megaphones and Zynga-branded pompoms.

“We’re like, ‘What is this shit?'” the source said. “They always tried to do that and I guess it worked for the SF office, but the SF office–we never felt like there was a connection there as far as the culture. I think people are pretty bitter about Zynga acquiring OMGPOP last year.”

After the layoffs, employees gathered at the local bar Tom and Jerry’s to drown their sorrows, some already bouncing around ideas for their next step.

“Just ‘cuz Zynga bought us doesn’t meant that they dumbed us down,” the source said. “I think the people here are going to create some awesome stuff.”

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com