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Report: Ex-Zynga engineer makes cloning and contractor accusations

Reddit question and answer session from anonymous poster claims copycat development rife at social gaming giant

A Reddit user claiming to be an ex-Zynga software engineer has accused the social gaming company of cloning popular titles, mistreating contract workers and "creepy" behaviour.

"Tiny Tower + D Heights is all standard operating procedure here. If you can't buy em, clone em," user Mercenary-Games revealed, in an 'ask me anything' post on the social news website.

"Even the core technology for Farmville (MyMiniLife), was bought. The only 'home grown' codebases at Zynga is MafiaWars2 and maybe Poker, the rest of their tech was just bought from small studios. Look up Dextrose Engine. To me, that's utterly creepy. They try to choke out the competition by gating all these engine tech."

As proof of his employment with Zynga, the software engineer posted an image of his termination certification from the company, and said he left 6 months ago. He also mentioned working on specific titles like Frontierville. In his post refers to "my team here at Mercenary Games," although it isn't clear whether this is a developer or social group. There is no apparent record of a current company called Mercenary Games, and the domain is currently unregistered.

The software engineer also suggested that Zynga treated contractors as "second citizen employees" who have little control over their working hours and who are excluded from social events at Zynga.

"They are NOT welcome to company events; they are openly excluded from them. Yet, they want them to work twice as hard as regular full timers," he said.

"Remember the s*** when Pincus was announcing IPO plans? They kicked out all contractors off the office, and made em stay outside, while everyone got free chow and booze."

He went on to criticise the company's well publicised commitment to metrics, saying it is "a marketing company, not a games company" and explaining that games are adapted to match the habits of big spenders and popular players. He also wanted to make clear his reasons for sharing his experiences on Reddit.

"This isn't payback, or about a grudge," he explained.

"I was full time, offered stock (common shares, not that options bullcrap). I sympathised with contractors on how they were treated, most of the time. No, I was not some IT mangler. I worked for one of their "game studios", basically the front lines where content made it to the masses."

He also claimed to be unconcerned over possible legal action, because "no one f*** with engineers who had access to intimate source code."

Interestingly the post has inspired other developers to consider similar 'ask me anything' sessions.

"I'm very glad to see this AMA. I'm at another social game company, and seeing a lot of the same behaviour," said another Reddit user, Social_Disposable.

"I was thinking of doing an AMA of my own (and I still might in a few days)." has contacted Mercenary-Games about his post, but has yet to receive a reply.

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Rachel Weber avatar
Rachel Weber: Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.
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