Zynga CEO: Every employee should feel like an "owner"

Mark Pincus offers insight into Zynga culture after annual Unleashed event

Zynga, a driving force in the social gaming world, is something of an anomaly to the industry as a whole. While it has attained rapid and substantial success with games such as the 'Ville series, the California-based studio has been faltering these past few months. With a rocky start on its IPO, less than stellar performance of a couple games and now a drop in share price over Zynga Unleashed, the company is working on a way to keep things strong while becoming more independent from Facebook.

Zynga founder Mark Pincus took the time to speak with the Associated Press, saying that Zynga's goal is to keep driving forward in a culture that pushes employees to be a part of the process. "An important, fundamental part of our culture is that we think that every person in the company should feel like a principal, an owner, a founder of this vision," said Pincus.

"They should challenge the vision, the mission, the strategy, and the values. Sometimes we change the values based on those challenges, and sometimes we need our teams to call out that we are not living up to those values."

"Our No. 1 value is that we are making products that we love, that we think us and our friends and family want to play. The first thing I say to new hires is that if you are working on a game and you don't feel connected to it or love for it, don't be embarrassed to talk about it."

Zynga hopes that by empowering its employees, the titles that they create on the Zynga platform as well as Facebook will continue to grab the kind of audiences that FarmVille was able to attain just a year ago. Zynga's move to expand may have to go beyond those platforms to provide other greater social experiences.

"The promise of games for everyday people is still so much greater than the experience that everyone has today," offered Pincus. "The overall tectonic shifts that are going on in games and more broadly in media are that everything is moving to becoming free, social and accessible. But we're just at the beginning of that. We can get to a day where short-session play can enhance, if not replace text messaging as a way to stay in touch with people."

Zynga is still looking to expand its horizons of course, but Pincus remains hesitant to move away from the PC gaming world. He sees mobile and PC gaming to be mutually exclusive of one another, something that offers opportunity for Zynga.

"I still believe that we can offer you a much deeper, more engaging, more compelling play experience on a PC than we can on a mobile device, but one can enhance the other and one can expand the other. I don't think they necessarily will compete with each other, just like how we find a place for movies in our lives, and TV and radio. The same will be true between a handset a tablet and a PC."

Of course, the major concern for many investors is how Zynga plans to work with and around Facebook in the coming years. While the studio has made an effort to push away from the social networking giant, there remains a perceived connection that won't be broken anytime soon between the two.

"It has been hugely positive for us, for Facebook and for both of our consumers. Facebook has been an incredible catalyst, an accelerator, of social gaming and of other industries. And we are appreciative of that and we think that we helped see a significant catalyst for engagement on their own platform, and now on iPhone as well," Pincus said.

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Latest comments (4)

I like the pep talk, but I feel it seems almost incongrous with the recent Zynga unleashed.

Seriously - the new line up of titles dont really offer
"deeper, more engaging, more compelling play experience on a PC"

surely, if there truly was a culture of inspiring employees to develop what they want to develop, why are we having mediocre to lacklustre titles or clones like sims-ville?

"Our No. 1 value is that we are making products that we love, that we think us and our friends and family want to play"

Well seeing as how Mark has pin his core values to the mast, lets see if Zynga will produce innovate, bold new visions of social gameplay. Or, just more of the same old same old. Lets see if the leopard can change its spots!
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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters5 years ago
""I don't f***ing want innovation," the ex-employee recalls Pincus saying. "You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.""

I'm not sure I'd ever believe a word Pincus says, to be honest.
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Justin Biddle Software Developer 5 years ago
Every employee should feel like an "owner"

Never trust any boss who says this. I worked for a software company where the boss kept on banging on about this. Essentially he meant he wanted lots of overtime and we should expect nothing in return.
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Peter Dwyer Games Designer/Developer 5 years ago
So sadly true.

This phrase "Feel like an owner" effectively means "I'm dumping the responsibility on you without any actual gain on your part". If the phrase was taken literally, then every employee should get a stupidly undeserved pay rise and have to do little to no actual work.
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