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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Who is the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier?

The former French foreign minister has shown signs that he will play hardball in negotiations.

The European Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator today set an October 2018 deadline for the terms of Britain’s divorce from the European Union to be agreed. Michel Barnier gave his first press conference since being appointed to head up what will be tough talks between the EU and UK.

Speaking in Brussels, he warned that UK-EU relations had entered “uncharted waters”. He used the conference to effectively shorten the time period for negotiations under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, the legal process to take Britain out of the EU. The article sets out a two year period for a country to leave the bloc.

But Barnier, 65, warned that the period of actual negotiations would be shorter than two years and there would be less than 18 months to agree Brexit.  If the terms were set in October 2018, there would be five months for the European Parliament, European Council and UK Parliament to approve the deal before a March 2019 Brexit.

But who is the urbane Frenchman who was handpicked by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to steer the talks?

A centre-right career politician, Barnier is a member of the pan-EU European People’s Party, like Juncker and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A committed European and architect of closer eurozone banking integration, Barnier rose to prominence after being elected aged just 27 to the French National Assembly.  He is notorious in Brussels for his repeated references to the 1992 Winter Olympics he organised in Albertville with triple Olympic ski champion Jean-Claude Killy.

He first joined the French cabinet in 1993 as minister of the environment. In 1995, Jacques Chirac made him Secretary of State for European Affairs, teeing up a long and close relationship with Brussels.

Barnier has twice served as France’s European Commissioner, under the administrations of Romano Prodi and José Manuel BarrosoMost recently he was serving as an unpaid special advisor on European Defence Policy to Juncker until the former prime minister of Luxembourg made him Brexit boss.“I wanted an experienced politician for this difficult job,” Juncker said at the time of Barnier, who has supported moves towards an EU army.

 

Barnier and the Brits

Barnier’s appointment was controversial. Under Barroso, he was Internal Market commissioner. Responsible for financial services legislation at the height of the crisis, he clashed with the City of London.

During this period he was memorably described as a man who, in a hall of mirrors, would stop and check his reflection in every one.

Although his battles with London’s bankers were often exaggerated, the choice of Barnier was described as an “act of war” by some British journalists and was greeted with undisguised glee by Brussels europhiles.

Barnier moved to calm those fears today. At the press conference, he said, “I was 20 years old, a very long time ago, when I voted for the first time and it was in the French referendum on the accession of the UK to the EU.

“That time I campaigned for a yes vote. And I still think today that I made right choice.”

But Barnier, seen by some as aloof and arrogant, also showed a mischievous side.  It was reported during Theresa May’s first visit to Brussels as prime minister that he was demanding that all the Brexit talks be conducted in French.

While Barnier does speak English, he is far more comfortable talking in his native French. But the story, since denied, was seen as a snub to the notoriously monolingual Brits.

The long lens photo of a British Brexit strategy note that warned the EU team was “very French” may also have been on his mind as he took the podium in Brussels today.

Barnier asked, “In French or in English?” to laughter from the press.

He switched between English and French in his opening remarks but only answered questions in French, using translation to ensure he understood the questions.

Since his appointment Barnier has posted a series of tweets which could be seen as poking fun at Brexit. On a tour of Croatia to discuss the negotiations, he posed outside Zagreb’s Museum of Broken Relationships asking, “Guess where we are today?”

 

 

He also tweeted a picture of himself drinking prosecco after Boris Johnson sparked ridicule by telling an Italian economics minister his country would have to offer the UK tariff-free trade to sell the drink in Britain.

But Barnier can also be tough. He forced through laws to regulate every financial sector, 40 pieces of legislation in four years, when he was internal market commissioner, in the face of sustained opposition from industry and some governments.

He warned today, "Being a member of the EU comes with rights and benefits. Third countries [the UK] can never have the same rights and benefits since they are not subject to same obligations.”

On the possibility of Britain curbing free movement of EU citizens and keeping access to the single market, he was unequivocal.

“The single market and four freedoms are indivisible. Cherry-picking is not an option,” he said.

He stressed that his priority in the Brexit negotiations would be the interests of the remaining 27 member states of the European Union, not Britain.

“Unity is the strength of the EU and President Juncker and I are determined to preserve the unity and interest of the EU-27 in the Brexit negotiations.”

In a thinly veiled swipe at the British, again greeted with laughter in the press room, he told reporters, “It is much better to show solidarity than stand alone. I repeat, it is much better to show solidarity than stand alone”.

Referring to the iconic British poster that urged Brits to "Keep Calm and Carry On” during World War Two, he today told reporters, “We are ready. Keep calm and negotiate.”

But Barnier’s calm in the face of the unprecedented challenge to the EU posed by Brexit masks a cold determination to defend the European project at any cost.

James Crisp is the news editor at EurActiv, an online EU news service.