The New York Times published an unflattering story this past weekend about the hard-charging culture of game maker Zynga, noting how the maker of FarmVille and Mafia Wars operates like a metrics-driven New York investment bank. Interestingly, Seattle’s PopCap Games, which turned down a buyout offer from Zynga in favor of a deal from Electronic Arts, is featured prominently in the story.
Reporter Evelyn M. Rusli writes that PopCap turned down $950 million in cash from Zynga in part because the founders “worried about the company’s reputation after hearing rumors of the company’s rescinding share awards and fierce internal competition.”
The Times’ story also notes that Rovio — maker of Angry Birds — turned down a buyout offer and notes that recruiters have been actively targeting “disgruntled employees” at the company.
Venture capitalist Michael Arrington has jumped into the fray with a defense of Zynga, noting that EA’s “fingerprints” are all over the story since an executive from the company is quoted as is the venture capitalist Roger McNamee, the former business partner of EA CEO John Riccitiello. Arrington also points out some of the perks at Zynga — including free acupuncture and an organic cafeteria — and writes that a hard-charging environment is exactly the spirit that Silicon Valley is built upon.
Zynga didn’t comment on the story in The New York Times.
Interestingly, Zynga opened a branch office in Seattle earlier this year, led by former Amazon.com and Evri executive Neil Roseman. At the grand opening party, Pincus declared that Zynga operates as a “confederation of entrepreneurs” and offered some particularly interesting comments about the company’s culture. We were there, and took some video of the remarks. Here’s the most interesting comment:
“The way Zynga is set up is we are a confederation of entrepreneurs and CEOs, and that is what our culture is all about. The only way we have been able to grow this fast has been by recruiting people who really want a clear mission, they want to own a product and they want to have clear goals for their products, and they want to be left alone or helped to be successful. We are a very decentralized company with that kind of structure.”
Zynga, which has grown to more than 230 million users and over 2,200 employees, filed for an initial public offering in July.
Here are Pincus’ remarks from the Seattle office opening in April, with the remarks about culture occurring in minute six.