Zynga// is an American provider of social video game services founded in July 2007 and headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States. The company develops social games that work stand-alone on mobile phone platforms such as AppleiOS, Android, Windows Phone and on the Internet through its website, Zynga.com, and social networking websites such as Facebook, Google+, and Tencent QQ. Zynga states its mission as "connecting the world through games." The company was named in honour of Zinga, CEO Mark Pincus's deceased American bulldog.
Zynga launched its best-known game, FarmVille, on Facebook in June 2009, reaching 10 million daily active users (DAU) within six weeks. As of early January 2013, Zynga games had over 265 million monthly active users (MAU), and three of the top five Facebook games (in terms of MAU, according to AppData) were Zynga titles: FarmVille 2, Texas HoldEm Poker (now known as Zynga Poker), and ChefVille. According to the BBC, around 80 percent of Zynga's revenue comes from Facebook users, but its formal partnership with Facebook ended on March 31, 2013.
Zynga began trading on NASDAQ December 16, 2011 under the ticker ZNGA. Originally priced at $10, ZNGA shares reached a price of $14.50 in March 2012, but fell steadily after that point, hitting $2.09 in 2012. Some analysts and journalists have questioned the long-term prospects of Zynga’s business model, especially after Zynga’s Q2 2012 earnings report failed to meet analyst projections for revenue and earnings. Zynga has been taking steps to cut expenses and expand its business into areas such as licenced board games, online gambling, its own gaming platform (Zynga.com), and mobile game apps.
Mark Pincus, Eric Schiermeyer, Justin Waldron, Michael Luxton, Steve Schoettler, and Andrew Trader co-founded Zynga in April 2007 under the name Presidio Media; the company name changed to Zynga in July 2007. Zynga was named after an American bulldog named "Zinga" once owned by Mark Pincus. The company uses an image of a bulldog as its logo. Zynga's first game, Texas Hold'Em Poker, now known as Zynga Poker, was released on Facebook in July 2007. The company received US$10 million, led by venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, in its first round of funding in January 2008. In July of the same year, Zynga received US$29 million in venture finance from several firms, led by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers in July 2008, at which time they appointed former Electronic Arts Chief Creative Officer Bing Gordon to the board. During the same period, they additionally bought YoVille, a large virtual world social network game.
Zynga became the Facebook app developer with the most monthly active users in April 2009, with 40 million people playing their games that month. Soon after, the company opened its first external game studio in Baltimore, Zynga East, led by Brian Reynolds. In June of the same year, Zynga acquired MyMiniLife which then built and launched FarmVille on Facebook and by August it was the first game on Facebook to reach 10 million daily active users. It had 20 million daily active users by October. On November 23, 2009, FarmVille.com went live as Zynga’s first stand-alone game.
On May 7, 2010, TechCrunch's Michael Arrington reported that Zynga was threatening to leave Facebook altogether in the wake of the website's requiring exclusive use of Facebook Credits for monetization in applications. On May 18, 2010, Facebook and Zynga entered into a five-year relationship to expand the use of Facebook Credits in Zynga's games.
In December 2010, Zynga's game CityVille surpassed FarmVille as its most popular game with over 61 million monthly active users and a base of over 16 million daily active users.
Zynga filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to raise up to $1 billion in an initial public offering on July 1, 2011. At the time, the company had 2,000 employees. Zynga began trading on NASDAQ on December 16, 2011.
On June 26, 2012, throughout the annual Zynga Unleashed conference, Zynga announced the "Zynga With Friends" network, aiming to connect players of Zynga game titles across multiple platforms. Zynga additionally announced the Zynga API, intended to help developers build social games. The company announced that three new partners were developing games for Zynga.com including 50 Cubes, Majesco Entertainment and Portalarium and unveiled the Zynga Partners for Mobile programme to help increase Zynga’s presence on mobile devices.
On October 14, 2012, Zynga filed a lawsuit against a former general manager for allegedly misappropriating trade secrets. The suit claims the ex-employee copied important confidential information from his computer before leaving Zynga to work for a rival social games maker.
On July 1, 2013, Zynga confirmed that it had hired Microsoft's Interactive Entertainment President Don Mattrick as its new CEO. Zynga's press release announced that former CEO, Mark Pincus, would continue as Zynga’s chairman and chief product officer. According to Zynga's 8-K regulatory filing, Mattrick would receive about $50 million in cash and stock compensation over several years.
In 2013, Zynga began shutting down a few of its games. On June 3, 2013, Zynga announced that the company would be laying off 520 employees — roughly 18 percent of its workforce — and close offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas. By July 2013, Zynga has reportedly lost nearly half of its user base from the previous year. Consequently, investors decreased Zynga's valuation by 400 million. On July 25, 2013, Zynga reported throughout their Q2 earnings that they wouldn't be pursuing real money game production in the US. Following this announcement, shares dropped 13%. The same month, the three top Zynga executives had left the company: John Osvald, a senior vice president of games, Jesse Janosov, a vice president who ran Zynga’s casino division, and Nathan Etter, a vice president of games, all resigned.
In January 2014, the company announced plans to reduce its workforce by 15%, bringing its total number of employees down by 314. In April 2014, as part of the company's regular quarterly earnings report, founder & former CEO Pincus announced he would be stepping down from day-to-day operations in his role as Chief Product Officer, retaining his position as Chairman of the Board. Daily Active Users fell from 53 million to 28 million year over year for the same period. The company additionally announced its new hire of Alex Garden, co-founder of Relic Entertainment and former Microsoft Game Studios executive. In July 2014, Zynga announced they had leased office space and were hiring software engineers and technical designers for a new outfit in Orlando.
In February 2016, Zynga said that it planned to sell its headquarters in San Francisco, a property last assessed at over $238 million.
In February 2010, Zynga acquired Serious Business, a social game company. Zynga additionally in February opened a studio in Los Angeles, California as well as Zynga India in Bangalore, the company’s first office outside the United States. In May 2010, Zynga acquired XPD Media. Weeks later on June 3, 2010, Zynga acquired Challenge Games, which would later be known as Zynga Austin. On June 9, 2010 Zynga launched FrontierVille developed at its Zynga East studio in Baltimore. Zynga acquired Conduit Labs on August 17, 2010, renaming it Zynga Boston. The acquisition of Dextrose, now Zynga Germany, marked the company's first expansion into Europe. Bonfire Studios was acquired by Zynga on October 5, 2010. It was renamed Zynga Dallas. The acquisition brought Zynga's workforce to more than 1300 employees worldwide. Months later, on December 2, 2010, Zynga announced it acquired the Texas-based mobile game developer Newtoy, Inc., developers of Words with Friends and Chess with Friends, and renamed the studio to Zynga with Friends.
Zynga acquired the New York-based game developer Area/Code, now renamed Zynga New York in January 2011. Soon after, in March 2011, Zynga announced the acquisition of the team from Boston-based game developer, Floodgate Entertainment. It was Zynga's tenth acquisition in ten months. In April 2011, Zynga announced the acquisition of MarketZero, an online poker tracker company.
On March 21, 2012, Zynga announced their purchase of the game company OMGPOP for $180 million, therein acquiring the popular game Draw Something. A noticeable drop in popularity was noted following the acquisition, as daily active users dropped from 15 million to 10 million in the first month post-acquisition.
On June 4, 2012, Zynga announced the purchase of video game maker Buzz Monkey, along with their entire 50 person, Oregon based office, which will now turn into Zynga's eighteenth satellite office. Buzz Monkey is known for working on successful video games such as Tomb Raider and Tony Hawk, as well as Zynga's Frontierville.
On September 17, 2012, Zynga announced it had acquired game maker A Bit Lucky for an undisclosed amount.
On November 9, 2012, Zynga announced it had acquired game company November Software for an undisclosed amount. The team created the Battlestone game, which was released in 2013 and shutdown in 2014..
On June 19, 2013, Zynga bought Spooky Cool Labs, a 40-person social games company led by Brian Eddy. The company has achieved successes with its Wizard of Oz city-building game and, more recently, with Hit It Rich Slots. Unlike a large number of of Zynga's additional acquisitions, Spooky Cool will continue to operate independently under the same leadership that it had up until the purchase.
On January 30, 2014, Zynga announced it has agreed to purchase NaturalMotion.
On June 15, 2015, Zynga announced it had acquired the product incubator Superlabs.
According to the company’s first-ever earnings report, revenues from advertising and the sale of virtual goods grew by 59 percent compared with the same period the prior year. A net loss of $435 million included a one-time $510 million employee stock compensation expense that was triggered by the company going public.
The company's top three games – FarmVille, FrontierVille and CityVille – accounted for 57 percent of online game revenue. Total revenue was $329 million for the quarter ending March 31, 2012.
Zynga approached a billion dollars in revenue in four years after inception, surpassing the market value of the longtime console game company Electronic Arts. Zynga's rapid growth has been seen as an indicator of the vastly different playing field from only a few years before, where games have become able to gain significant public acceptance in a shorter period of time, with the cost of entry being much lower.
On July 25, 2012, Zynga reported revenue of $332 million for its Q2 2012, which was up 19 percent year over year, and reported that Q2 bookings increased 10 percent year over year. Notwithstanding the company additionally reported a net income loss of $22.8 million, and reduced forecast for bookings for 2012 from 1.47 billion to 1.15 billion. Following Zynga’s weak Q2 2012 earnings, Zynga’s stock dropped by 40 percent in after hours trading, and analysts heavily criticised Zynga, with Richard Greenfield of BTIG taking the rare step of apologising for having recommended the stock. Zynga executives listed several reasons for the Q2 earnings: changes to Facebook's gaming platform that hindered Zynga users; a delayed release for an important new game; and several new games that didn’t meet expectations.
In late October 2012, Zynga's stock price increased as much as 16 percent after it had posted revenues of $317 million throughout its third quarter, beating estimates of $256 million. Its revenue boost and stock price jump was a result of Zynga's $200 million share buyback plan that the company decided to instil to help improve its recent stock price declines. An Additional factor included Zynga's announcement that it was moving into real-money gambling in the U.K. While acknowledging Zynga’s continuing challenges such as slowing sales and its low stock price, a few analysts were more upbeat after the Q3 2012 earnings than they had been after Q2 2012 earnings were announced. “Every single thing that they're doing is what you would want them to do,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities Inc. Comparing Q2 to Q3 earnings conference calls, journalists noted a change in former CEO Pincus’ tone. “Instead of blaming an uncertain economy, wandering consumer tastes or a weird alignment between Jupiter and Mars, the former CEO's message to Wall Street was clear: Blame us,” wrote CNET.
In early 2013, Zynga former CEO Mark Pincus announced that FarmVille, one of Zynga's most popular games, had reached $1 billion in total player bookings.
Zynga is supported in two manners: via direct credit card payments and partner businesses. Several Zynga games require an "Energy" characteristic to play. Engaging in "Missions", a core feature of a large number of games, consumes a certain amount of energy. After expending energy, it slowly replenishes to the character's maximum limit. This can take minutes or several hours (energy replenishes whether or not players are logged into the game). After energy is replenished, players can engage in additional missions. Waiting for energy to replenish is a significant limiting factor in the games. Their support mechanisms take advantage of this. Zynga games are linked to offers from a number of partners. Players can accept credit card offers, take surveys or buy services from Zynga's partners in order to obtain game credits, which would allow them to replenish their character's energy or receive premium currency that can be exchanged for additional various virtual goods. Players might additionally purchase game credits directly from Zynga via credit cards or PayPal. From within the game, players can purchase the points for a fee: US$5.00 for 21 game credits, for example. In March 2010 Zynga started selling prepaid cards for virtual currency at more than 12,800 stores across the US.
Zynga additionally sells advertising sponsorships within a few games such as movie tie-ins and additional brands. In March, 2012, Zynga announced it launched a separate social gaming platform, which will include publishing additional developers to the new Zynga.com platform. Early third-party developers include Row Sham Bow, Inc and Mobscience. In June, 2012 Zynga started running Facebook advertisements and sponsored storeys on its website. The revenue is to be split between Facebook and Zynga, as they continue their partnership. The exact percentage of this split has yet to be disclosed.
In February 2012, it was announced that Zynga and Hasbro had partnered to create products based on Zynga properties and brands. In October 2012, Zynga and Hasbro launched eight ‘face-to-face’ games resulting from their collaboration: FarmVille Hungry Hungry Herd and Animal Games; CityVille Monopoly and Skies; Words With Friends Classic, Luxe, To Go; and Draw Something. The Hasbro games include ties to Zynga Web and mobile games, such as in-game currency that players can use in the digital versions of CityVille and FarmVille.
In October 2012, Zynga announced a partnership with bwin.party, an international real-money gaming operator, to launch real-money gaming in the U.K., including the release of online poker, a suite of 180 casino games, and the first online FarmVille-branded real money slots game throughout 2013. The partnership opens up a potentially lucrative new revenue stream for Zynga.
Customer acquisition is key to Zynga's business. Zynga's customer acquisition was largely built on Facebook initially and most of its new users came in through incentivized viral loops. Notwithstanding in addition to viral acquisition, Zynga has additionally invested in paid marketing.
Initially, however, when Zynga was three or four people and they launched Texas Hold'em on the brand new Facebook Platform, they didn't spend any marketing dollars.
In recent times, though, Facebook has been tightening up. Zynga's customer acquisition was perceived as spam by Facebook and the new rules have limited the rate at which Zynga can acquire users. In general, Zynga owes a lot of its growth to incentivizing users to send invitations to their friends on the Facebook platform. Notwithstanding these incentives were usually artificial and not directly tied to the value proposition of the product. As a result, the indiscriminate usage of the virality that Facebook offered led to users getting spammed resulting in a backlash from users.
Overall, Zynga grew quite fast but its marketing has always been expensive and it is now further threatened owing to its over-dependence on Facebook.
Platinum Purchase Program
In September 2010, Gawker reported that Zynga had set up a "Platinum Purchase Program" allowing members to purchase virtual currency in amounts over $500 at favourable rates by making a payment via wire transfer. In contrast, the normal maximum purchase limits are $50 to $200. As with additional social game companies, Zynga depends on a small core of large spenders, known within the industry as "whales", for a large part of its income. Ryan Tate, author of the post, speculated that the programme was a way for gaming addicts to feed their obsession, and compared the secrecy of the programme to the secrecy of drug deals.
Many journalists have questioned the viability of Zynga's business model. Ray Valdes questioned the long-term prospects for Zynga, saying that it would be difficult for the company to make new titles to replace old ones whose novelty is fading. In December 2009, Tadhg Kelly, writing for Gamasutra, said that Zynga was at the "end of the beginning," noting that Zynga's business model is dependent on Facebook continuing to operate in the same manner and users continuing to expect the same quality of games, among others. Kelly additionally compared Zynga to Atari, which additionally churned out large numbers of simple games prior to the North American video game crash of 1983 and further claimed that Zynga's approach of creating similar clones of popular games would be impossible for deeper games. Tom Bollich, a former Zynga investor, said that it is impossible to make a cheap viral game, and that retaining customers is difficult.
In an October 2011 article in The Wall Street Journal, Ben Levisohn said that Zynga has "issues that could limit its upside," such as its dependence on Facebook and its reliance on a small percentage of users and a small number of games for most of its revenue.
In July 2012, after announcing disappointing second quarter results, a few analysts speculated that the sale of virtual items might not be a long-term, viable business model. Analyst Richard Greenfield downgraded Zynga from "buy" to "neutral" in an article titled "We are sorry and embarrassed by our mistake." Zynga executives have said the company is taking steps to turn its business around, which includes introducing new Web, mobile, and multiplayer games and developing a gambling game to be introduced outside the U.S. The company is additionally working to increase advertising revenues, which were up 45 percent in Q2 2012 compared to the previous quarter and increased 170 percent year over year. Advertising “will likely become a crucial revenue stream for the company,” according to Ad Age.
Zynga was listed in the cnn.com article "The top 10 tech 'fails' of 2012".
Through 2009, Zynga made money from lead generation advertising schemes, whereby game participants would earn game points by signing up for featured credit cards or video-rental services. These were criticised as being less cost-effective than simply buying game points, and in a few cases, being outright scams that would download unwanted software or unwittingly sign up for a recurring subscription. One ad signed up players for subscriptions to expensive and unwanted text-messaging services.
On October 31, 2009, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch said that Zynga intentionally worked with scam advertisers, and that lead generation made up a third of Zynga's revenue. Arrington additionally alleged that Facebook was complicit in this. On November 2, 2009, former CEO Mark Pincus announced a reform in its offers: Tatto Media, a major offer provider that enrolled users into recurring mobile phone subscriptions, would be banned, all mobile offers would be removed, and offer providers would be required to pre-screen offers.
Arrington continued to question Pincus' role in the scams, republishing a video of a speech by Pincus. In the speech, Pincus said:
So I funded [Zynga] myself but I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues right away. I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this Zwinky toolbar which was like, I don't know, I downloaded it once and couldn’t get rid of it. *laughs* We did anything possible just to just get revenues so that we could grow and be a real business.— Mark Pincus, Speech from Startup@Berkeley
In response, Pincus noted that after offering the Zwinky toolbar, his team of ten decided to remove it after it was a "painful experience".
Several days after the Techcrunch story, Zynga's most recent Facebook game, FishVille, was temporarily taken offline by Facebook on claim of advertising violations. According to Zynga, Fishville had 875,000 users within two days of launch. A release from Facebook on its reasons for taking the game offline read that "FishVille will remain suspended until Facebook is satisfied that Zynga demonstrates compliance with Facebook restrictions – as well as Zynga’s own restrictions – on the ads it offers users." The FishVille suspension was lifted less than 24 hours later.
Several suits were filed against Zynga for promoting such offers, including the class-action lawsuit Swift v. Zynga in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California for violation of the Unfair competition law and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act, after the lead plaintiff's credit card was billed more than $200 for offers she completed to receive YoVille currency.
Pincus later said that he had been too eager to increase company revenues through advertising, and that operating in reactive mode by taking down ads only after receiving complaints hadn't worked. The company removed all ads for a time, relying only on direct purchase of game currency, then began reintroducing third party ads only after they had been screened.
In 2011, Zynga started to move employees to new headquarters, located in San Francisco's South of Market district, where Zynga had leased 270,000 out of 650,000 square feet of a seven-story building. Zynga’s headquarters, nicknamed “The Dog House,” features a coffee shop, gaming arcade, gym, basketball court, and wellness center. At its San Francisco headquarters, Zynga CEO Pincus's goal was to create a "playful gaming environment" that evokes a "fantasy land." Zynga employees, additionally referred to as “Zyngites,” enjoy perks such as free gourmet meals, access to an in-house nutritionist, personal training, and insurance coverage for pets.
Prior to the company’s 2011 IPO, Zynga’s corporate culture received a few negative media attention for renegotiating the equity packages of four senior employees. Those employees were required to either give up part of their non-vested stock or be fired. Although a San Francisco employment solicitor said in The Wall Street Journal that Zynga's actions would violate the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, no court has ruled on the issue after it has been rare for companies to demand non-vested stock as a condition of continued employment. Pincus later explained that Zynga
wanted to find them another position at the company versus just parting ways. They had the option to leave and have a package, as happened with a few additional leaders, but we in addition to that offered them additional positions at the company that came with different forward compensation.
Zynga is reportedly known for having a highly competitive and stressful culture, with long hours and relentless tracking of progress.
In another criticism, in 2010 an ex-employee was cited quoting Mark Pincus as saying "I don't fucking want innovation. You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers."
In November 2011, The New York Times reported that Zynga “operates like a federation of city-states” with each of its games, such as FarmVille and CityVille, run by autonomous teams. This culture reportedly fostered “fierce internal competition” and caused a few employees to complain about long hours and stressful deadlines. Two former senior Zynga employees, quoted anonymously by the Times, speculated that Zynga’s corporate culture caused the company to lose a bid to acquire mobile game company PopCap and nearly derailed its acquisition of MyMiniLife, which later developed the technology that's the basis for FarmVille. At least one Zynga employee said he planned to cash out and leave Zynga after the IPO.
When asked about the criticisms Zynga had received for its workplace environment, CEO Pincus said the company strives to be a meritocracy with a culture of levelling up through promotions. Pincus’s management philosophy is to “turn people into CEOs,” encouraging employees to identify and fully own “something really meaningful” to the company. The CEO's philosophy is part of the Zynga meritocracy in which employees are rewarded for results. Pincus told The New York Times:
The only way people will have the trust to give their all to their job is if they feel like their contribution is recognised and valued. And if they see somebody else higher above them just because of a good résumé, or they see somebody else promoted who they don’t think deserves it, you’re done.
In a June 2012 article on the Forbes website, Zynga Chief Engineer Kostadis Roussos defended the company’s meritocracy culture, writing that it attracts people who're “obsessed with business outcomes” rather than those enamoured “with their own pet projects.”
Joe Raposo, the quality assurance lead on CityVille, is additionally the bassist for Southern California punk band Lagwagon. Raposo praised pro-creativity culture in Zynga, saying "I love working at Zynga because they really support anything you do on the creative side, and they nurture that." While on tour with Lagwagon, Raposo often works remotely for Zynga.
Over the summer of 2012, the company lost a number of key executives.
In February 2013, Chief Game Designer Brian Reynolds discussed company culture positively in a post for VentureBeat at the time of his exit from Zynga. saying "the capability to absorb and adapt to change quickly is one of the great strengths of Zynga’s culture – the true meaning of the motto and occasional battle cry Zynga Speed!" among additional comments.
Relationship with Facebook
On July 18, 2011, Zynga filed an addendum to its Form S-1 detailing its relationship with Facebook, including the 2010 five-year agreement to use Facebook credits exclusively. According to the released information, all covered Zynga games that use Facebook integration must remain exclusive to Facebook for the duration of the agreement, and Zynga isn't allowed to release new games on an undisclosed list of additional social networks. Also, Zynga is required to notify Facebook of any new games at least one week prior to their release. Finally, Facebook agrees to help Zynga reach "certain growth targets for monthly unique users of Covered Zynga Games".
On October 11, 2011, Zynga announced plans to create their own platform in which users can play the company's games. Although the platform, Project Z, will still have major ties to Facebook it is believed to be the first major step away from the social media giant.
Facebook’s S-1 Filing indicates Zynga generated twelve percent of Facebook’s revenue in 2011.
In November 2012, Facebook ended its special agreement with Zynga. Effective March 31, 2013, Zynga was bounded by the standard Facebook Platform policies.
Studios and subsidiaries
Zynga has acquired a large number of studios across the world.
- Zynga Headquarters (San Francisco). New 270,000 square feet (25,000 m2) headquarters at the site of former Sega offices.
- Zynga Chicago
- Zynga India (Bangalore, India)
- Zynga Austin (formerly Challenge Games) – acquired June 2010
- Zynga ATX (formerly MarketZero, Inc.) – acquired April 2011
- Zynga Germany (formerly Dextrose AG, based in Frankfurt) – acquired September 2010
- Zynga with Friends (formerly Newtoy, Inc., based in McKinney, Texas) – acquired November, 2010
- Floodgate Entertainment – acquired March 2011
- Zynga Toronto (formerly Five Mobile) specialised in mobile platforms, acquired July 2011
- Wild Needle, a casual games company that makes games which appeal to females, acquired May 2012
- Zynga Eugene (formerly Buzz Monkey Software), acquired on June 4, 2012.
- NaturalMotion Games, acquired January 2014
- Rising Tide Games, acquired September 2015
- Zindagi Games, acquired Q1 2016
- OMGPop (Draw Something creators), acquired March 2012
- Zynga East (Baltimore) – started in May 2009
- Zynga Boston (formerly Conduit Labs) – acquired August 2010
- Zynga Japan (formerly Unoh Games, based in Tokyo) – acquired August 2010
- Zynga New York (formerly Area/Code) – acquired January 2011
- Zynga Dallas (formerly Bonfire Studios) – acquired October 2010
- Zynga China (formerly XPD Media, based in Beijing) – acquired May 2010
- Zynga Los Angeles – opened February 2010
- Zynga Seattle, opened October 2010, closed January 2014
- Page 44 Studios Acquired September 2011
Reception and controversies
In its first years of existence, Zynga has been criticised on various fronts, at times resulting in legal action.
Critics like Nick Saint of Business Insider have said that Zynga's games have essentially the same mechanics even though they have different premises and settings. Georgia Tech professor Ian Bogost came up with the name "cow clickers" for such challenge-free games that demand little more than clicking on things, and eventually created the satirical Facebook game Cow Clicker, an "attempt to distil the social game genre down to its essence". The game became quite popular.
The criticism applies to the "social games genre" in general, though Zynga is emphasised as one of the most cynical companies. Ian Bogost has four points of criticism: the concept of "enframing" ("In social games, friends aren't really friends; they're mere resources"), "compulsion" ("brain hacks that exploit human psychology in order to make money"), "optionalism" ("the gameplay in social games is almost entirely optional. The play acts (...) can be skipped [by] spending cash money [...]. Social games are games you don't have to play.") and "destroyed time" ("Social games so covet our time that they abuse us while we're away from them, through obligation, worry, and dread over missed opportunities.")
Many of Zynga's games involve players posting messages to non-players, often for in-game benefits. Many non-players have notably complained about such communications created by those games that appear to them as "spammy." Peter Jamison described Zynga's communications as a "deluge" of "unwanted gifts or requests for neighbourly 'help'". Facebook groups created to express displeasure regarding overexposure of Zynga's games attracted millions of members. As a result of this, Facebook modified their application developers policy to prevent applications from sending messages to news feeds of friends or submitting updates to the notifications bar. Kotaku attributed the removal of Facebook notifications to a decline of users of Zynga games in April and May 2010.
Intellectual property controversies and litigation
Zynga has been accused several times of copying game concepts of popular games by competing developers. The launch of Mafia Wars sparked a lawsuit from the makers of Mob Wars. An attorney for Psycho Monkey, the creators of Mob Wars, said that in making Mafia Wars, Zynga "copied virtually every important aspect of the game." The suit was settled out of court for $7–9 million. An Ars Technica column said that Zynga's Café World and Playfish's Restaurant City were "nearly identical"; Café World was released six months after Restaurant City. Its gameplay, design, graphics, avatars, and even in-game items are almost identical to the ones in Restaurant City. Many players who have played Restaurant City and Café World have noticed the extreme similarities between both games. In addition, journalists have remarked that Zynga's FarmVille is similar to Farm Town, with Peter Jamison calling it "uncannily similar."
In September 2010, SF Weekly reported that an employee recalled Mark Pincus advising him to "copy what [Zynga's competitors] do and do it until you get their numbers." NimbleBit founder Ian Marsh has accused Zynga of copying its award-winning Tiny Tower game to create Dream Heights. Within a week, Buffalo Studios alleged that its game Bingo Blitz was copied by Zynga in making Zynga Bingo. Pincus responded by saying that tower-building games have existed after SimTower (1994) and that Zynga uses mechanics and ideas developed throughout the history of video games to create "best in market games". He added that Bingo Blitz has similarities to the discontinued Zynga game Poker Blitz. In response, Marsh argued that additional tower games like SimTower and Tower Bloxx are substantially different from Tiny Tower and Dream Heights, and that Zynga copied Tiny Tower's "core gameplay mechanics and rules" and tutorial steps. Inside Social Games writer Pete Davison said that although Zynga's The Ville is "not a complete clone" of The Sims Social, it was "very similar".
Zynga founder Mark Pincus has dismissed the criticisms, saying that competing video game makers have always released similar titles for each genre of game. The managing director of Lightspeed Venture Partners said that creating similar competing games has "always been part of the game industry." Following Zynga's January 2012 release of Hidden Chronicles, Paul Tassi of Forbes wrote that Zynga "refuses to innovate in any way, and is merely a follower when it comes to ideas and game design." In September 2009 Zynga was threatened with legal action by Nissan for using their trademarks in the game Street Racing. Zynga subsequently renamed and changed the thumbnail images of all cars that were branded Nissan and Infiniti to "Sindats" and "Fujis" with the thumbnails changed. At the time they additionally renamed and redesigned automobiles depicted as being made by GM, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Saab, and others. In September 2009, Zynga initiated trade secrets lawsuits against Playdom and 22 additional rivals, including Green Patch which Playdom acquired in November 2009. These lawsuits were finally settled in November 2010. In October 2010, Zynga was criticised on Hacker News and additional social media sites for having filed a patent application relating to the ability to purchase virtual currency for cash on gambling and additional gaming sites. Commentators said that significant prior art exists for the concept.
In January 2011, Techdirt reported that Zynga had sent a cease and desist letter to Blingville alleging trademark infringement for its use of the letters "ville" in the name of a proposed Facebook game. Blingville has filed a suit for declaratory judgment that it isn't infringing a Zynga trademark. As reported in Gamasutra, Jay Monahan of Zynga responded by saying that Blingville's "[use] of the name 'BlingVille' is an obvious attempt to capitalise on the fame and goodwill associated with Zynga's family of 'ville' games which includes FarmVille and CityVille". In November 2011, Inside Mobile Apps wrote that Zynga's lawyers demanded that mobile game developer Latman Interactive abandon its trademark registration for the game Quackville. Night Owl Games has additionally filed a lawsuit for declaratory judgement that its game Dungeonville doesn't infringe any Zynga trademarks after Zynga protested Night Owl's registration of the Dungeonville trademark. In May 2012, Zynga sued Kobojo for trademark infringement for calling one of its games PyramidVille.
On May 20, 2011, it was reported that The Learning Company, owners of The Oregon Trail trademark, filed a trademark infringement suit against Zynga, which is planning an "Oregon Trail" expansion to FrontierVille. The Learning Company had previously contacted Zynga about an Oregon Trail game on Facebook, but Zynga declined. On May 24, Games.com writer Brandy Shaul wrote that Zynga was dropping the Oregon Trail name and soliciting new names for the expansion. The name of the expansion is now "Pioneer Trail". In August 2012, Electronic Arts (EA) sued Zynga for copyright infringement, alleging that Zynga's The Ville copied expressive elements of EA's The Sims Social. Zynga's counsel responded by alleging that EA's SimCity Social "bears an uncanny resemblance to Zynga’s CityVille".
Insider trading allegations
In July 2012, a class action lawsuit was filed against Zynga, alleging that Mark Pincus and a few additional insiders were allowed to sell shares before disappointing Q2 results are revealed.
Other legal controversies
In late May 2010, the Norwegian Consumer Council filed a complaint to the Data Inspectorate regarding breaches of the Data Protection Act.
In August 2010, the San Francisco city attorney's office complained about the firm's guerrilla marketing campaign for its Mafia Wars game that pasted fake money on city sidewalks, calling it "vandalism".
On July 1, 2011, the company filed its Form S-1 registration statement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Zynga priced at $10 per share and began trading on NASDAQ under ZNGA on December 16, 2011. The stock closed down five percent on its first day, then climbed twenty-six percent to $13.39 per share after Facebook's IPO filing on February 1, 2012 (Facebook had reported that twelve percent of its revenue comes from Zynga). After Facebook's weak initial public offering and announcement of poor earnings results, Zynga's stock fell, hitting $2.27 per share by October 2012.
In March 2015, a district judge ruled that plaintiffs can pursue a lawsuit against Zynga on claims executives inflated the company’s value prior to its 2011 initial public offering by concealing weaknesses in its R&D pipeline of new games, numbers of users and their purchasing patterns, and additional key metrics.
As of June, 2016, Zynga currently features 17 (denoted by ^) and 29 titles for (denoted by *).
- Chess with Friends *
- Crazy Cake Swap ^ *
- Crazy Kitchen ^ *
- Clay Jam *
- Draw Something *
- Drop7 *
- Empires & Allies *
- Fairy Tale Twist ^
- FarmVille ^
- FarmVille 2 ^
- FarmVille 2: Country Escape *
- Farmville Harvest Swap ^ *
- Farmville Tropic Escape *
- Friends for Sale ^
- Gems With Friends *
- Hanging with Friends *
- Hit It Rich! Casino Slots ^ *
- Ice Age: Arctic Blast *
- Looney Tunes Dash *
- Matching with Friends *
- Princess Bride Slots ^ *
- Speed Guess Something *
- Spin It Rich ^ *
- War of the Fallen *
- What's The Phrase *
- Willy Wonka Slots ^ *
- Wizard of Oz Magic Match *
- Wizard of Oz Slots ^ *
- Word Streak With Friends (formerly Scramble With Friends) *
- Words with Friends ^ *
- Words on Tour ^ *
- Yummy Gummy ^ *
- Zynga Bingo ^
- Zynga Poker ^ *
- Zynga Poker Classic *
- Art with Friends – shut down April 1, 2015.
- Ayakashi: Ghost Guild – pulled from app stores April 30, 2015.
- Battlestone – shut down January 1, 2014.
- Bubble Safari Ocean – shut down April 30, 2015.
- Bubble Safari – shut down April 30, 2015.
- ChefVille – shut down April 30, 2015.
- Café World – shut down July 22, 2014.
- CastleVille – shut down April 30, 2015.
- CityVille – pulled from app stores April 30, 2015.
- CityVille 2 – shut down March 7, 2013.
- CityVille Holidaytown – shut down February 12, 2015.
- CityVille Hometown – shut down February 12, 2015.
- CityVille KRE-O Invasion – shut down May 15, 2015.
- CoasterVille – shut down July 23, 2014.
- Dope Wars – shut down December 2009.
- Dream Heights – shut down June 20, 2013.
- Dream PetHouse – shut down June 28, 2013.
- Dream Zoo – shut down May 27, 2013.
- Duck Dynasty – shut down April 30, 2015.
- Empires & Allies – shut down June 17, 2013; revived for mobile in 2015.
- FishVille – shut down December 5, 2012.
- Hidden Chronicles – shut down July 23, 2014.
- Hidden Shadows – shut down July 23, 2014.
- ForestVille – pulled from app stores.
- Indiana Jones Adventure World – shut down January 14, 2013.
- Mafia Wars - shut down June 6, 2016.
- Mafia Wars 2 – shut down December 30, 2012.
- Mafia Wars Shakedown – pulled from app stores.
- Mojitomo – pulled from app stores.
- Montopia – shut down December 21, 2012.
- Ninja Kingdom (formerly Dojo Mojo) - shut down July 7, 2015.
- Party Place – shut down March, 2013.
- PetVille – shut down December 30, 2012.
- Poker Blitz – shut down December 14, 2010.
- Roller Coaster Kingdom – shut down June 30, 2010.
- Ruby Blast – shut down January 4, 2014.
- Riches of Olympus – shut down April 30, 2015.
- Street Racing – shut down in December 2010.
- Skateboard Slam –shut down April 30, 2015.
- The Friend Game – shut down in February 2013.
- The Pioneer Trail (formerly FrontierVille) – shut down April 30, 2015.
- The Ville – shut down June 24, 2013.
- Treasure Isle – shut down December 5, 2012.
- Vampire Wars – shut down December 5, 2012.
- Warstorm – shut down in September 2011.
- Word Scramble Challenge – pulled from app stores.
- YoVille – sold May 11, 2014.
- Zynga Slingo – shut down August 26, 2013.
- Zynga Plus Casino – shut down March, 2015.
- Zynga Plus Poker – shut down March, 2015.
- Zynga Slots – shut down November 25, 2013.
- Zynga Elite Slots – shut down April 30, 2015.
- Zombie Smash – shut down January 12, 2015.
- Solstice Arena – shut down August 12, 2015.
In 2012, Zynga, in conjunction with Hasbro released several physical board games based on the various properties in the Zynga game library. These games were released under an imprint of Hasbro called "Hasbro Gaming".
In 2009, Zynga started a nonprofit organization, Zynga.org, in charge of incorporating charitable contributions into its games such as FarmVille. To date, Zynga.org efforts have raised $15 million for international humanitarian relief efforts and philanthropic initiatives.