As my Facebook profile will tell you, I have not really played many of your games. This does not make you a bad game maker. I have followed your company though for a longtime and I have some thoughts.
Keep the talent happy and yeah well keep them:
For a longtime you were compiling a long list of the who’s who of the video games, I myself was approached about a dozen times and politely declined your firms kind outreach. The guys that you were hiring made me think that you were at least interested in making better content.
Since those days your GC (General Counsel) Reggie Davis has been up to his old tricks. I have been tracking good ole Reggie since the time he sued mForma – a now defunct mobile games publisher in 2006.
This has been his go-to-legal strategy for over half a decade now, let me guess; he hired Bradford Newman as outside counsel?
The very first rule of any publisher is pretty simple, KEEP THE TALENT HAPPY!
This has a twofold effect:
They are happy and you can make more money.
You can attract more talent.
You have now gone IPO so you are not in the same position to attract talent. Perhaps you have a learning disability; your task is to attract talent, not attack talent. These are two very different things Mark.
You may well disagree with me, that is totally fine and hey I have been wrong many, many times in the past. However, at the rate that Zynga is losing staff currently, your stock price and your declining user engagement levels, I think it is fair to say that history will regard my statements as being correct and it will be at your expense.
The key is to embrace the views of your staff, not belittle them; the key is always to regard oneself as the least talented person in the room. You have never done this and I think that it is fair to say this has been your downfall.
Keep the street happy:
I consult for institutional investors on a weekly basis; most of them thought that you were a god like figure in the world of video games for the longest time. They thought that you would bring the investment community to the promised land of video game profitability. Yeah, I told them they were all crazy and they stopped working with me!
Guess what chuckles?
They are all back working with me today because they are now seeing the metrics that you so adore, that the “Free 2 Play” model is brilliant, but that you did not invent it, you merely had the critical mass of capital to throw at it first.
One thing that the investment community loves is the ability to fire management; on the face of it this makes no sense! Why fire the person that got us here? How did that work out for Apple?
Spoiler: You are no Steve Jobs!
Your firm’s corporate structure allows you to control everything, at some point in your life you felt that control was a real thing and not wanting to sound cheesy, but control really is an illusion –kind of like your IPO valuation.
Why would any sane person invest in a professional NFL team in which the coach cannot be fired?
This is part of a longer SEC conversation that I do not wish to bore you with.
That said; pro-tip, you should fire yourself and make your stock more attractive by realizing that you are not “it” in the world of video games. In fact, most people are bored with you.
Actually, the Street is bored with you and distraught at the talent that has left/run for the hills.
You have been measured and sensible investors want you out.
It’s all about evolution not devaluation stupid:
There can simply be no argument that Zynga has merely mapped other people’s games to their portfolio. I can literally map a direct line from every Zynga title to another firm’s title.
I really do not have an issue with cloning games as long as they evolve the genre, but what I do have an issue with is that your titles did not add to the conversation, they did not evolve the genre and they were literally copycat titles with different assets.
If one were to delve into the world of evolution of video games, I think they would opine that Zynga titles embrace a “Pay to Win” mentality, they do not embrace the free market economy, they do not embrace equality and they simply embrace the failed system of communism or as I like to call it “Heads I win, tails you lose”.
To Paraphrase Orwell “All gamers are created equally, but some gamers are created more equal than others” has been your model. Mark, this is a model that is perverse and gamers are not stupid, they want a pure experience and you do not want to deliver this because you feel evolution is bad.
Nickels worth of free advice:
The genius of our industry lies within the people that work the late nights, the people that argue with their partners that they HAD to hit THAT milestone to get the title to prototype, basically the folks that are not you.
I do not think that you are a bad person because you make copycat games, I don’t even think that you are a bad person because you sue your talent as a religion; I do think that you are a bad person because I think that you feel that gamers are stupid.
Your exact job is to consider the gamer to be the reason that you do not have a job that sucks, that you do not have to worry how much gas costs at the pump and that you don’t have to explain to your partner why you spent X amount of dollars on virtual goods that could have been spent on food.
The reason you are a bad game maker is that your constituency is some rich guy that will hold a Visa Card instead of a controller in his hands to get ahead in a game. Your constituent currently is the kid with a sack full of quarters that domineers Double Dragon with continue coins and refuses to let other kids in because their dad is the town’s attorney and gives him a ton of coins so he doesn’t have to interact with his child–let’s hope he doesn’t sue the mills staff for replicating the art of cutting wood.
Gamers are speaking to you, they are asking not to be abused or cast aside because they do not have enough friends on Facebook or disposable income to throw at a Facebook game.
The constituency has finally realized that the change you wanted is actually a hundred dollar bill.
Republished with permission. Original can be found at http://kevin-zhdcp.posterous.com/an-open-letter-to-mark-pincus
Views presented are the author’s. What do you think of Zynga’s current situation in the market?