Developers of Draw Something, worth $180m in 2012, now worth $0m

Can you hear the bubble pop? Can you hear it OMGPOP?

In March 2012, Zynga, the casual gaming titan, acquired OMGPOP, a small firm which had developed the breakout hit Draw Something. It paid $180m. At the time, around one billion games were being played each and every week on the app, which had gone from being iOS only to having successful Android and Facebook ports, all with a very small team behind it. At the time, there was some grumbling that Zynga's offer was backed up with the implicit threat that it would simply clone the game if it didn't get its way, but for the most part, OMGPOP seemed happy.

Then it went downhill.

In October, Zynga wrote off $95m related to "the intangible assets previously acquired in connection with the company's purchase of OMGPOP" when filing its financial results for Q3 2012. And now, the company announces (under the fantastically euphamistic headline "Zynga Announces Substantial Cost Reductions") that it is laying off 520 employees, including the entirety of its LA, Dallas and New York offices. The New York offices being the rebranded OMGPOP offices.

In other words, the value of OMGPOP has declined from $180m to roughly $0m in just over a year. Zynga still has the company's IP, of course, and released Draw Something 2 to moderate reception in April (peaking at #3 in the iPhone games charts, it would be a solid performance for anything but the sequel to the biggest iPhone game of last year), so the withered husk of OMGPOP is still worth something to the company. But the purchase is definitely one of the first proofs of the astronomically inflated valuations of the second web bubble.

It's hard to divorce the travails of OMGPOP from the wider problems of Zynga, though. Certainly the former was ludicrously overvalued, acquired at the peak of its popularity even as many were pointing out it was far more fad than evergreen. But Zynga has experienced its own difficulties. Earnings from its flagship Farmville game have plummeted, even while other games have failed to pick up the slack; daily active users have slid from 72m to 52m in a year; and before its latest quarterly results, it shuttered four more underperforming games, The Ville, Dream Zoo, Empires & Allies, and Dream Zoo (the latter made for the Chinese market). Whether or not Draw Something was an unrepeatable success before the acquisition, Zynga doesn't look to be the best company to have shepherded it anywhere at all.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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Why Theresa May won't exclude students from the net migration target

The Prime Minister believes the public would view the move as "a fix". 

In a letter to David Cameron shortly after the last general election, Philip Hammond demanded that students be excluded from the net migration target. The then foreign secretary, who was backed by George Osborne and Sajid Javid, wrote: "From a foreign policy point of view, Britain's role as a world class destination for international students is a highly significant element of our soft power offer. It's an issue that's consistently raised with me by our foreign counterparts." Universities and businesses have long argued that it is economically harmful to limit student numbers. But David Cameron, supported by Theresa May, refused to relent. 

Appearing before the Treasury select committee yesterday, Hammond reignited the issue. "As we approach the challenge of getting net migration figures down, it is in my view essential that we look at how we do this in a way that protects the vital interests of our economy," he said. He added that "It's not whether politicians think one thing or another, it's what the public believe and I think it would be useful to explore that quesrtion." A YouGov poll published earlier this year found that 57 per cent of the public support excluding students from the "tens of thousands" target.

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has also pressured May to do so. But the Prime Minister not only rejected the proposal - she demanded a stricter regime. Rudd later announced in her conference speech that there would be "tougher rules for students on lower quality courses". 

The economic case for reform is that students aid growth. The political case is that it would make the net migration target (which has been missed for six years) easier to meet (long-term immigration for study was 164,000 in the most recent period). But in May's view, excluding students from the target would be regarded by the public as a "fix" and would harm the drive to reduce numbers. If an exemption is made for one group, others will inevitably demand similar treatment. 

Universities complain that their lobbying power has been reduced by the decision to transfer ministerial responsibility from the business department to education. Bill Rammell, the former higher education minister and the vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire, said in July: “We shouldn’t assume that Theresa May as prime minister will have the same restrictive view on overseas students that Theresa May the home secretary had”. Some Tory MPs hoped that the net migration target would be abolished altogether in a "Nixon goes to China" moment.

But rather than retreating, May has doubled-down. The Prime Minister regards permanently reduced migration as essential to her vision of a more ordered society. She believes the economic benefits of high immigration are both too negligible and too narrow. 

Her ambition is a forbidding one. Net migration has not been in the "tens of thousands" since 1997: when the EU had just 15 member states and the term "BRICS" had not even been coined. But as prime minister, May is determined to achieve what she could not as home secretary. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.