It wasn’t long after Zynga announced it would be laying off 18 percent of its staff that fired employees began to speak to the press. But one enterprising ex-Zyngaite decided to circumvent the traditional media route by hosting his own AMA on Reddit.
“What do you want to know about Zynga?” wrote the poster under the handle former_zyngite. “I’ll try to be as honest and open as possible.” As proof of his identity, the poster included a photo of his layoff paperwork.
Because this is Reddit, the top upvoted comment is about what snacks the legendarily swag Zynga HQ stocked. But the poster does provide some interesting insight into the inner workings of “the company that all gamers love to hate.”
On the layoffs
- “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.”
- “Before all these layoffs they started cracking down on head count for all the teams because they had too many employees but not enough projects for them all. They tried hard to keep everyone around, which I really respected. I think they just hit critical mass and finally had to let us go.”
On internal issues with the company
- “Their business strategy is terrible.”
- “I’d give them 10:1 [odds of changing their strategy]. The CEO is hellbent on believing that their current course is the correct course.”
- “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.”
- “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 user.”
- “And a serious lack of foresight over all. Too many major decisions are quick reactions to sudden changes in the market.”
On Zynga’s reputation for stealing games
- “They got a lot better recently. After The Ville got sued by EA it was much less okay to ‘fast follow’ a game (The term for copying a game).”
- “I think that early on it was blatant. Later it became well known practice at Zynga, but rather poor taste. Dream Heights/Tiny Tower was a big slap in the face. Sims Social/The Ville was the last straw. Towards the end of my time it was not so much that games were straight up ripped off, but key features would be. Such as the general method or menu flow that a game handles it’s multiplayer. The idea being that if it works for that game, it would work for our game.”
- “In general though, most of us knew what game was copying what. Bubble Safari was a copy of Bubble Witch Saga. The Ville was Sims Social. Hidden Chronicles was Gardens of Time. The company didn’t call it out for what it was, but you knew because whatever project you were on most likely had similar pressures to match and beat a game on the market.”
On the severance package
- “I can’t say for sure that everyone got what I did. But 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.”
You can read the whole thread here.