When Zynga announced that it bought OMGPOP, the developer of the newly minted hit Draw Something, a lot of people shared some frustration. Zynga has earned a reputation as a less-than-popular developer out there, and the fear is that Draw Something, which currently has a relatively simple charm, will get overloaded with social cruft and other nonsense. But at least one person out there has a real problem with the Zynga takeover: Developer Shay Pierce actually walked away from his job because of it.
His story is an interesting one, and he wrote it up over at Gamasutra earlier today. Basically, he was a developer for OMGPOP (though he says he didn’t actually work on Draw Something), and when the news came down that Zynga was acquiring the company, he was concerned about his own iPhone app. Pierce published a puzzle game called Connectrode on his own time (with his employer’s blessing), but he was worried that self publishing like that wouldn’t fly under Zynga’s banner.
And indeed, long story short, it didn’t. He was basically told to stop publishing on his own or leave the company, and instead of joining up with the house that Farmville built, he quit his job. It sounds like he’ll be all right — he was compensated for his leaving, is planning to work as an independent developer for a while, and the press from this has probably grabbed a nice bump in sales for his game, I’m sure.
Still, Pierce doesn’t mince words talking about Zynga. “When an entity exists in an ecosystem, and acts within that ecosystem in a way that is short-sighted, behaving in a way that is actively destructive to the healthy functioning of that ecosystem and the other entities in it (including, in the long term, themselves),” he writes, “yes, I believe that that is evil. And I believe that Zynga does exactly that.”
I would agree that many of things Zynga is doing (mostly revolving around its social and casual games) are unsustainable. Its audiences need to grow to continue to make the company successful, and Zynga has built a model so thin on gameplay that I believe there’s a limit to just how interested in these games people can become. But I wouldn’t argue that the company is evil — being a flash in the pan just makes them a fad, not the devil.
Still, you may disagree. I think the final part of this story is to see what happens to Draw Something over the next weeks and months. The app has garnered such a huge audience so quickly that it seems as though it’ll be very difficult for even Zynga to hold that interest for long. As for Pierce, he’s made his choice, and we’ll look forward to what he’s working on next.