Inside Zynga Headquarters

A look at the working environment at Zynga

Zynga is not a typical game company in many ways, and their working conditions at the San Francisco headquarters are far from the norm for game companies. Zynga recently purchased the building they now occupy in the South of Market area of San Francisco, home to an extensive area of mobile and social game companies. Their offices are not far from downtown San Francisco and even closer to Pac Bell Park, where Zynga employees can take a break from building their games to watch the San Francisco Giants trying to put together another run at the World Series.

Zynga's headquarters building has some 407,000 square feet of space, which sounds like an enormous amount until you look at the fact that it's shared by 1700 employees. There are six floors, not including the concourse and the rooftop parking (a must in SF, where parking spaces are rare and precious things). The building's ground floor contains the enormous cafeteria and open meeting space, which is also used for all-hands meetings and press events.

The main lobby features a Winnebago with a Z, a huge PLAY sign, and a time tunnel. It's all connected to props created for some photos, and they liked them so much they kept them. It certainly creates an otherworldy experience when you enter, and traveling through the time tunnel to reach the offices has an odd effect. You do begin to believe you're entering a different time and space. When you think about all that Zynga has accomplished in such a short time, maybe that's not too far off the mark.

Food is one of Zynga's killer apps. They have chefs on staff who prepare meals daily for the employees, lunch and dinner. Every week, Zynga goes through an average of 24,000 pounds of food. The menu is varied and always delicious. If you ever have the chance to try the pizza, you'll find a contender for the best pizza you've ever had. It's a great incentive to stay close to the office. If you get hungry at other times, each floor features its own break room, fully stocked with a wide array of food and drink.

Arranged around a central atrium, each floor houses the teams for various games in a wide-open floor plan that is common now among high-tech companies. The FarmVille team on the top level has the best views of the city. Is a team's position in the building due to its longevity, or revenue, or just the fact that they claimed an open space first? No one would say, though the odd Nerf weapon here and there hinted at battles from time to time.

As you might have expected from the Zynga logo, dogs are a welcome addition to the offices. On a daily basis, there's about one dog for every 9 Zynga employees in the office. Each doggie gets a signature Zynga bone tag with a number for safety. Zynga has a general policy for doggie behavior based on common courtesy. All the dogs I encountered were friendly, if they weren't curled up sleeping. Apparently they are bored with programming, game design, and art, though perhaps the ping-pong tables might hold some interest for them.

Zynga now has some 2854 employees all told, with about 1700 in the Bay Area. There are more than 20 studios worldwide now, located in San Francisco, Austin, New York, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Dallas, among other places.

When you wander through the offices, it's easy to see how Zynga is able to retain employees as well as they do. The working environment is open, spacious, and well provided with creature comforts, both for humans and dogs. As to the nature of that work, we'll have some interviews coming up with key Zynga executives that will shed some light on how Zynga gets things done.

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Latest comments (14)

Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd9 years ago
Is this a news item or a recruiting ad?
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Rupert Loman Founder & CEO, Gamer Network9 years ago
We weren't paid for it - I think it's just an interesting look behind the scenes at one of the most fascinating companies around at the moment.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd9 years ago
I don't doubt you for a second Rupert, but the copy (praising the food, wonderful working conditions and staff retention rate) reads an awful lot like a brochure.

I'm hoping the forthcoming interviews that are mentioned are a little bit more challenging.
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Show all comments (14)
Rupert Loman Founder & CEO, Gamer Network9 years ago
Feedback appreciated and taken on board!
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Not sure about fascinating. controversial for sure

It doesnt exactly show what the work culture is like. And typically, if the focus is primarily on food, there are other large game studios with similar setups of open plan multi storeyed facilities with their own chefs, etc blah blah

So, I think in retrospect, a insight into Zyngas offices, would be better padded out with the day to day routine from strategy, rip omatics and how growth/work culture is enforced.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
No table tennis table!!!
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Steve Peterson Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
My intent here was to give a look at the physical working environment at Zynga. The food, which I tried on a couple of visits, has been excellent. I call 'em like I taste 'em.

I haven't toured other game publishers with similar setups, and I've been at EA, Sony, and many others. This is atypical, which is what I noted.

My talks with various Zynga execs will delve more into how things are done at Zynga. I will say that I've talked to a number of employees, many of them outside the purview of Zynga PR, and they seem to enjoy working at Zynga. And these are people who have worked at many other game companies, who have a basis for comparison.
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Christopher Bowen Editor in Chief, Gaming Bus9 years ago
That's the thing. Steve was surely escorted throughout the building, with PR there for his every move. It's one thing to show the cafeteria and a few neon signs, but it's another to report on a company's actual work culture, which numerous reports have put as onerous. Not that Steve's reporting is necessarily bad, but it doesn't tell the whole story, by necessity, because I know for a fact that Zynga simply doesn't deal with anyone unless they're very sure the story will be a positive one.
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PR are obviously doing a good job :)
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Steve Peterson Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
Of course PR did escort me through the building; that's SOP on any company tour. I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the wretches chained to their desks in the dungeons, either. Too bad; that would have gotten more attention. Hmm, maybe I can do a little work with Photoshop...

Seriously, though, Christopher is correct that I was shown what they wanted me to see. But if those parts didn't exist at all, I couldn't have seen them. There have been some reports from former employees at Zynga about demanding working conditions. It's not clear whether that is widespread or unusual, though. As I said, I haven't gotten that from my conversations. All that tells me, though, is that not everyone is unhappy. I can't say whether my sample is representative, or whether the comments of unhappy employees are representative. All I can say is that neither case is universal.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Steve Peterson on 5th April 2012 5:43pm

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Andrew Jakobs Lead Programmer 9 years ago
Looks like a nice workplace, and it's not like other business have the same 'work-problems' as the gameindustry, it's not specific to that sector..
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Frankie Kang Producer / Consultant, First Post LLC9 years ago
Little known fact: The other half of the building Zynga took over used to house Sega's US corporate office during the Dreamcast days....
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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online9 years ago
This looks like a photo tour of a game dev studio by someone who's never seen a game dev studio before. Or who wanted to show it to people who had never seen one before.

Kitchen, colorful gizmos and the like are the norm really. And surely a company like Zynga in a rather new building has the money and space to spread them out a bit more.

@Frankie: Sega was in there way past the Dreamcast days. Last thing I saw in there was their new Golden Axe. ;) They moved to a smaller office just a few blocks away two, three years ago.
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David Marwick Director Business Intelligence, Outspark Inc9 years ago
Looking forward to the interviews. I never mind getting a glimpse into a company's HQ just to see what they've done with the place - probably not reasonable to expect hard-hitting investigative journalism on an office tour. If you want a candid look inside a place you may be better off finding some excuse to visit in person or searching for photos on Foursquare, Flickr, Instagram, etc. Or check sites like this:
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