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Zynga: We define innovation differently

CEO Mark Pincus responds to perception of company as a copycat publisher

Zynga's been accused of ripping off game ideas before, sometimes in public, and sometimes in court. Speaking at Fast Company's Innovation Uncensored Conference in San Francisco yesterday, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus responded to an audience member's question about how it decides whether to innovate or clone features in its games.

"Our company defines innovation differently than other companies," Pincus explained. "We define innovation differently than the whole game industry does. And sometimes that's been at odds. For us, innovation is about making games more accessible, more social, more fun, and feeling more free. Giving you more value for your time and sometimes your money. As a result, we don't define innovation by whether or not our Words With Friends game looks different enough from Scrabble. We think it's an innovative game because it has connected tens of millions of people together."

He went on to explain that the company puts features into three categories during development: Proven, Proven But Improvable, and New. Pincus said that as with any company, Zynga must balance its approach. If it pursued nothing but new things, it would be too heavy in R&D and carry too much risk. And if it didn't try new things, its games wouldn't be differentiated in the market so nobody would have a reason to play them.

The real measure of how well the company innovates, according to Pincus, can be seen in "how many happy players we've generated and how social they are with each other."

Zynga currently runs four of the top 10 apps on Facebook, according to AppData. The company's FarmVille 2 is the most popular app on the social network at the moment, boasting 60.6 million monthly active users.

[Via Business Insider]

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Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at GameSpot in the US.