Former Zynga employee takes to Reddit to deal dirt

Gives them "10:1 odds" on lasting more than three years.

Following on from the mass layoffs at casual gaming company/addiction farm Zynga, a disgruntled former employee has taken to Reddit to reveal the truth behind the company. "former_zyngite" – who posted a picture of a letter addressed to "departing employee" as proof they are who they say they are – offered themselves up for an AMA. Here's a selection of their answers:

leops1984
What percent of users actually pay real money in Zynga games?
former_zyngite
Depends on the game, but on average I think it's about 5%. Maybe less.
burninrock24
Thinking about it though, that's a lot of people and a lot of money.
former_zyngite
The big games deal in Millions of DAU (Daily Average Users). If 3 million users pay an average of $0.20 you're getting $600k a day!
That's huge numbers!!

Mostlyatnight_mostly
Do you think they have a sound business strategy? i mean its doubtful if they are laying off so many people but i just assumed they would be making a killing. edit removed second question because i all of a sudden learned to read haha.
former_zyngite
Oh hell no. Their business strategy is terrible.
Their major issues are the inability to adjust to the changing market. They did great when Facebook gaming was on the rise, but now it's declining and Mobile is on the rise. They're trying to change over, but employ too many of the same game development "best practices" that were developed for Facebook games. These just don't translate to the mobile market, which is why they're suffering in that market.
There's also lots of other issues internally.
A lot of micro-management from the top down that stifles the creativity and hinders the production of many games.
An over reliance on every game being a blockbuster hit which makes the fun aspect of games suffer while making the money grabbing tactics all too transparent to the users.
And a serious lack of foresight over all. Too many major decisions are quick reactions to sudden changes in the market. If some games jumps to the top of the Top Grossing charts then everyone need to drop everything and change to follow it. Which wastes time, makes for bad design and ultimately puts projects behind schedule. It just means they're always late to the party, and whatever game they're trying to compete with has already faded away by the time their own version hits the market.
They rely too much on reacting to what is making money now, and too much on their own data. They don't strive to make anything new or innovative and that's no way to excel in the games market. You need to lead the pack, not try emulate the best practices of top games with the hopes that you can out perform and already established IP.

Rango_99
Do you know any dirty secrets or scandals about the company ?
former_zyngite
Nothing that probably hasn't already been reported. I think the worst during my time was the law suit against the c-staff for insider knowledge. When the company went public the shares were $10. At their peak they were $15 and the c-staff had a special clause that allowed them to sell early. They sold something like 15 or 20% of their shares when the stocks were at their highest. By the time employees could sell for the first time it had dropped to $8 a share. After that window closed, the stock price had dropped to $4 or $5 by the next time employees could sell. I guess the investors were pissed that the top brass made out like bandits and everyone else got screwed.

LeMane
How much longer will Zynga be around for?
former_zyngite
Hard to say. At this rate, I'd give them another 2 to 3 years. They make money and have a lot in the bank. But they also throw away money like you wouldn't believe.
If they actually manage to change their strategy and start putting out some big hits, they could be around a lot longer.
THE_GUY_IN_CHAINS
What do you think the odds are that they do change their strategy and end up staying around longer?
former_zyngite
I'd give them 10:1. The CEO is hellbent on believing that their current course is the correct course.

Farmville, Zynga's first addiction farm.

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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The decline of the north's sporting powerhouse

Yorkshire historically acted as a counterweight to the dominance of southern elites, in sport as in politics and culture. Now, things are different.

On a drive between Sheffield and Barnsley, I spotted a striking painting of the Kes poster. Billy Casper’s two-fingered salute covered the wall of a once-popular pub that is now boarded up.

It is almost 50 years since the late Barry Hines wrote A Kestrel for a Knave, the novel that inspired Ken Loach’s 1969 film, and it seems that the defiant, us-against-the-world, stick-it-to-the-man Yorkshireness he commemorated still resonates here. Almost two-thirds of the people of south Yorkshire voted to leave the EU, flicking two fingers up at what they saw as a London-based establishment, detached from life beyond the capital.

But whatever happened to Billy the unlikely lad, and the myriad other northern characters who were once the stars of stage and screen? Like the pitheads that dominated Casper’s tightly knit neighbourhood, they have disappeared from the landscape. The rot set in during the 1980s, when industries were destroyed and communities collapsed, a point eloquently made in Melvyn Bragg’s excellent radio series The Matter of the North.

Yorkshire historically acted as a counterweight to the dominance of southern elites, in sport as in politics and culture. Yet today, we rarely get to hear the voices of Barnsley, Sheffield, Doncaster and Rotherham. And the Yorkshire sporting powerhouse is no more – at least, not as we once knew it.

This should be a matter of national concern. The White Rose county is, after all, the home of the world’s oldest registered football club – Sheffield FC, formed in 1857 – and the first English team to win three successive League titles, Huddersfield Town, in the mid-1920s. Hull City are now Yorkshire’s lone representative in the Premier League.

Howard Wilkinson, the manager of Leeds United when they were crowned champions in 1992, the season before the Premier League was founded, lamented the passing of a less money-obsessed era. “My dad worked at Orgreave,” he said, “the scene of Mrs Thatcher’s greatest hour, bless her. You paid for putting an axe through what is a very strong culture of community and joint responsibility.”

The best-known scene in Loach’s film shows a football match in which Mr Sugden, the PE teacher, played by Brian Glover, comically assumes the role of Bobby Charlton. It was played out on the muddy school fields of Barnsley’s run-down Athersley estate. On a visit to his alma mater a few years ago, David Bradley, who played the scrawny 15-year-old Billy, showed me the goalposts that he had swung from as a reluctant goalkeeper. “You can still see the dint in the crossbar,” he said. When I spoke to him recently, Bradley enthused about his lifelong support for Barnsley FC. “But I’ve not been to the ground over the last season and a half,” he said. “I can’t afford it.”

Bradley is not alone. Many long-standing fans have been priced out. Barnsley is only a Championship side, but for their home encounter with Newcastle last October, their fans had to pay £30 for a ticket.

The English game is rooted in the northern, working-class communities that have borne the brunt of austerity over the past six years. The top leagues – like the EU – are perceived to be out of touch and skewed in favour of the moneyed elites.

Bradley, an ardent Remainer, despaired after the Brexit vote. “They did not know what they were doing. But I can understand why. There’s still a lot of neglect, a lot of deprivation in parts of Barnsley. They feel left behind because they have been left behind.”

It is true that there has been a feel-good factor in Yorkshire following the Rio Olympics; if the county were a country, it would have finished 17th in the international medals table. Yet while millions have been invested in “podium-level athletes”, in the team games that are most relevant to the lives of most Yorkshire folk – football, cricket and rugby league – there is a clear division between sport’s elites and its grass roots. While lucrative TV deals have enriched ruling bodies and top clubs, there has been a large decrease in the number of adults playing any sport in the four years since London staged the Games.

According to figures from Sport England, there are now 67,000 fewer people in Yorkshire involved in sport than there were in 2012. In Doncaster, to take a typical post-industrial White Rose town, there has been a 13 per cent drop in participation – compared with a 0.4 per cent decline nationally.

Attendances at rugby league, the region’s “national sport”, are falling. But cricket, in theory, is thriving, with Yorkshire winning the County Championship in 2014 and 2015. Yet Joe Root, the batsman and poster boy for this renaissance, plays far more games for his country than for his county and was rested from Yorkshire’s 2016 title decider against Middlesex.

“Root’s almost not a Yorkshire player nowadays,” said Stuart Rayner, whose book The War of the White Roses chronicles the club’s fortunes between 1968 and 1986. As a fan back then, I frequently watched Geoffrey Boycott and other local stars at Headingley. My favourite was the England bowler Chris Old, a gritty, defiant, unsung anti-hero in the Billy Casper mould.

When Old made his debut, 13 of the 17-strong Yorkshire squad were registered as working-class professionals. Half a century later, three of the five Yorkshiremen selec­ted for the last Ashes series – Root, Jonny Bairstow and Gary Ballance – were privately educated. “The game of cricket now is played in public schools,” Old told me. “Top players are getting huge amounts of money, but the grass-roots game doesn’t seem to have benefited in any way.”

“In ten years’ time you won’t get a Joe Root,” Rayner said. “If you haven’t seen these top Yorkshire cricketers playing in your backyard and you haven’t got Sky, it will be difficult to get the whole cricket bug. So where is the next generation of Roots going to come from?” Or the next generation of Jessica Ennis-Hills? Three years ago, the Sheffield stadium where she trained and first discovered athletics was closed after cuts to local services.

This article first appeared in the 19 January 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The Trump era