Zynga: We define innovation differently

CEO Mark Pincus lashes out at copycat claims, argues company is focused on social

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus has lashed out at the developers who've accused the company of copying their games, arguing there are only a small number of truly new games.

"We think there is a massive body of work in the video game industry that is going to be reimagined for decades to come in a way that is free, accessible and social," Pincus told GamesBeat.

"That's what we're doing. I don't think anyone should be surprised when they see us come out with games that they've seen before, a decade or more ago. I don't think there are a lot of totally new games that are invented. We always try. But to us, they are like the crew mechanic in our games. They give you a new way to interact with your friends."

He also suggested that Buffalo Studios, which recently accused Zynga of copycat tactics regarding its game Bingo Blitz, saying it was similar to an early Zynga title.

 "It was a little ironic to look at Bingo Blitz. Pull that lens back. Look at our game Poker Blitz, and then Bingo Blitz, you see striking similarities in those pictures."

He also compared Tiny Tower, another game Zynga has been accused of aping, to older title SimTower. He also claimed that Zynga was still an innovator, but in terms of social mechanics, rather than gaming ones.

"I think people in the industry are defining innovation different from the way we are," he argued.

"When you define innovation, you have to define what problem are you innovating against. The problem we are innovating against is how do we get a billion people to play together. That's what we want to solve for. We need to innovate as an industry to make that happen. That's a worthy goal. I think we are innovating as an industry and Zynga is contributing massively to it on many, many fronts."

On Friday the social gaming company's share price finally crept above its IPO price for the first time, closing at $10.05. At time of writing it stands at $10.49.

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Latest comments (15)

Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus8 years ago
Well, at least Pincus reads these sites. He wouldn't have freaking heard of SimTower otherwise.

It doesn't matter what any of us think. Zynga's swimming in money, and their users don't care about IP theft. They'll keep doing it to small studios who can't fight back, and whoever does will win a Pyrrhic victory because the legal fight will obliterate them. They'll keep doing it because no one can stop them. It's worked so far; they've built their entire business off of stealing from other people.
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James Wells Gaming Contributor - 8 years ago
...and wasn't SimTower itself a ripoff of the even more obscure Yoot Tower? Or did I mix the two up?
I hate to acknowledge this, but his point of the fact that historically, some games have "inspired" others, is totally valid. However, other companies usually at least TRY to do SOME of it a little differently.
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Mihai Cozma Indie Games Developer 8 years ago
Watch these great movies that explain it all: .

This guy got it. Everything is a remix!
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Show all comments (15)
Ove Larsen8 years ago
Being able to go through an entire interview without really saying anything while throwing in some free advertising for good measure, is an artform I thought only politicians were able to master.
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Steve Nicholls Programmer 8 years ago
Zynga are no talent thieves no matter how they justify it. Well I tell a lie... They have a talent for ripping other peoples work off. It is one thing to be inspired but to copy as they do down to placement of window components is totally out of order. If any Zynga employees are reading this I hope you are ashamed no matter what your deluded boss says. They are a cancer in the industry.
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Marina Kobayashi Games User Researcher, Electronic Arts8 years ago
Wondering why not come up with a mutually beneficial situation for all parties... something like partnering or publishing the games and doing profit sharing with the developers?

@ Tim Browne. Thank you for informing me. Ok, that's worse if their advances were rejected and they ended up ripping it off. :(

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Marina Kobayashi on 2nd February 2012 5:52pm

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Tyler Moore Game Designer & Unity Developer 8 years ago
There's a line between developing a game that inspired by other, similar titles (even to go so far as combining two titles together) and copying a game with a new coat of paint and tacking on additional marketing mechanics.

What you are innovating is how to sell a cheap knockoff for lots of money. I've worked in social games I've yet to see many that actually, genuinely give the feel of "playing together" versus marketing themselves as much as they can via a social network platform.

A raid in WoW or a game of Mario Party has far more social appeal than clicking cows.
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Tim Browne Game Studio Design Director, King.com8 years ago
@Marina Kobayashi - Unfortunately I believe Zynga did approach Nimblebit, the makers of TinyTower to work with them but they weren't interested.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Tim Browne on 1st February 2012 8:00pm

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Tin Katavic Studying MSc-Games Technology, University of Abertay Dundee8 years ago
Its really a shame that Zynga can pull this stuff off with such impudence. The idea that if you as an indy studio or such come up with an idea, make it a game and then Zynga can rip you off with no reprocussions ... scary ...
Is this another sign of industry immaturity I keep hearing about?
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I wonder what Zynga will do when studios quit making innovative titles because their already astronomically high chance of failure is exacerbated even more by having to compete with a goliath team of marketers and lawyers.
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David Amirian Writer 8 years ago
games arent about games anymore, its about how they interact with other people, is what he is saying. at what point you have to ask yourself why you're playing a game. is it to interact with friends or to actually play a game
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Frederic Eichinger Web Developer 8 years ago
@Tim Browne - Didn't they just make an offer to buy NimbleBit? Not sure myself right now ... But in that case I would've denied it just as well ... And it's a reasonable reaction to accuse them of copycat tactics after such an offer was denied ...

Now, funny thing ... When I was prepping my blog entry for next Sunday, I had this exact thing in mind ... Topic was supposed to be "Copycat and Competition", since I expected this exact response from Zynga ... It's a shame how they don't even bother trying to be subtle anymore ...
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 8 years ago
@ David

This is what he's arguing, yes. The question is, how innovative is Zynga when it comes to this? I only follow Facebook gaming from a business perspective, but I don't quite see how that tower game can be as socially interactive as Left 4 Dead, say. I would argue, actually, that most Facebook games appear to revolve around the equivalent of the high score table, which isn't that innovative or social at all.

As for his remarks re: similarities of games, surely it's simple. If a game does everything another game does, whilst only changing the graphics, it's not a reimagining, it's a clone. Like a shot-for-shot remake in movies:
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Krzysztof Koźmik Owner, Producer, Programmer, Designer 8 years ago
So, the devs of TinyTower copied the old YootTower and had the guts to complain that Zynga copied it too? :D

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Krzysztof Koźmik on 6th February 2012 10:49am

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There is a nice all guts and glory expose of Zyngas alleged work practices by a ex exmployee
Bring your own popcorn and salt to measure

[link url=
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