Zynga Tried To Kill A Cute iOS Game One Ex-OMGPOP Dev Made For His Wife [Evil]

Zynga Tried To Kill A Cute iOS Game One Ex-OMGPOP Dev Made For His Wife [Evil]

Zynga hated the game ex-OMGPOP dev made for his wife, so he told them to get bent.

Zynga — the publisher of some of your favorites games on iOS and Facebook — is a pretty scummy company, well known for ripping off other companies’ games wholesale and then having their own employees vote it up in the rankings. Sleazy!

So when they purchased OMGPOP, the company behind the wildly addictive and stupendously successful iOS and Android game Draw Something, eyebrows arched all over the blogosphere. Surely it was only a matter of time before Draw Something transformed from a good-natured game of remote Pictionary into something that makes babies’ brains into slurpees. How long until evil struck OMGPOP? Less than a week!

Over at Gamasutra, recently ex-OMGPOP developer Shay Pierce describes what happened when Zynga came calling and offered all of OMGPOP’s current employees a new contract.

In short, when Zynga bought OMGPOP, they asked all of their new employees to sign contracts that forbid them to work on any other games that would compete with Zynga titles… even personal side-projects, done in their own spare time.

Pierce had such a project: a little game called Connectrode, a Dr. Mario style puzzler he had created for his wife. He had made it before joining OMGPOP, and it hardly made any money, but Pierce had sentimental attachment to the game.

When Pierce asked for an addendum to that contract, specifying that he be able to continue offering Connectrode on the iOS App Store, Zynga told him that he either had to sign the contract as it was written or walk.

Pierce decided to walk. As he eloquently states:

And then I wondered: why was I even trying to compromise? Zynga has an Austin studio, where several good friends of mine work. Yet I had never applied to Zynga. Why? Because the company’s values are completely opposed to my own values, professionally and creatively. Because I believe that developers are at the front lines of game development and deserve to be treated well, and I didn’t trust Zynga to do so. All this was still true — except that their complete unwillingness to negotiate with me only confirmed my concerns. Why on earth was I even considering joining?

Well put. Of course, now Pierce is without a job, and his only source of income is the very game in question, Connectrode. It’s only $0.99. Why not pick it up to help support the guy with principles who stood up to the evil empire? We need more guys like Shay Pierce.

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  • Bob Roebling

    he has my support, screw zynga

  • AwesomeDuck

    No company I have ever worked for would allow you to develop competitive products “after hours.” I really question that, and maybe OMGPOP was managed by people that were less aware of the IP ownership problems that creates.
    I don’t like Zynga either, but this programmer probably signed something in his contract that give IP ownership (even after hours) to the employer. Can he say for certain that he did not think of his game for one minute while on the OMGPOP clock? If he was working for a bank wiring database software during the day, then maybe he could write a game after hours, but competing with your employer has always been a fireable offense where ever I worked.

  • OS2toMAC

    AwesomeDuck…Did you read the article? He wrote his game BEFORE coming to OMGPOP. Even if he signed something with OMGPOP, pre-existing software would not be covered (IANAL).

  • Bandido

    I”m not much of an IOS gamer (prefer XBox) but had to purchase this game in support. Come on people just 99 cents.

  • SNose

    this is an incredibly dumb and misinformed article. as much as i love hearing that tired mentality of “once zynga owns something everything’s suddenly shitty,” i’d have to tell you guys to quit your bellyaching. this injustice, sad as it may be, isn’t a Zynga problem. it’s just the nature of a big and successful company doing damage control. any business model that is acquisition heavy is bound to have oodles and oodles of workers, and seeing to the personal needs of each of them is not only inefficient, but also unfair to all of the other schmoes that have had their work trampled on. blanket statements and generic contract stipulations are required to keep everyone in tow, especially now that Zynga’s gone public and the need for cut and dry is that much more imperative.

    and please, let’s not fool ourselves – are we thinking that OMGPop was a company that made a pointed push towards quality-centric games? No offense meant to OMGPop, I think DrawSomething is a really great and innovative game, but it’s still a casual game company, and if you are creating under the casual game banner, then you SHOULD be prepared to make the sacrifices that come with it. No offense to Mr. Pierce, because it really is a touching thing to make a game for your wife, but was potentially losing Connectrode to Zynga a huge blow to the game industry? Was it a unique and inimitable snowflake? She’s probably already got the game across whatever devices she owns.

    don’t get me wrong, i’m all for the furthering of the game industry as a deep, meaningful and substantial industry. i have played games all my life and i wholeheartedly believe that Zynga’s games are not indicative of the gaming industry’s talent ceiling – far from it. There are much better games being made, with a fraction of the budget and clout of a big dog like Zynga. The issue at hand, however, is business model: there are games that are geared towards quality, and then there are games that are geared towards making money. Zynga falls into the latter, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You may think that watering down game mechanics and monetizing is nothing but a detriment to the game industry, but guess what? It really is raking in that casual audience, it really is bringing gaming to the masses that would have otherwise glossed over it, and ultimately, it’s gonna broaden the industry as a whole.

    Tragically, the unsung truth of the matter is, companies like Zynga and Playdom are doing their damndest to try and bridge that gap, and create a harmonious hybrid so gamers of all makes and types can enjoy… and then they get slandered by the bandwagon opinion of HEY ZYNGA’S THIS CRAZY EVIL CORPORATION SO IT’S OKAY TO FLING SHIT IN THEIR FACES. shame on you guys, really.

    Mr. Shay Pierce, it seems like you value your own creative work, and uphold the integrity of your love of games (and wife) in a way that many others simply cannot, and y’know what? That’s awesome. You made the right decision, Zynga-owned life is surely not the right life for you. I respect that. It’s truly unfortunate that it came at the cost of your job, but hey, fighting for what you believe in has never been easy. Given your resolve, i feel like finding another job is gonna be cake for you. I commend you for sticking by your guns… but i don’t show the same respect and admiration for the article that is turning your actions into pointless martyrdom.

    boy, what a rant, huh

  • nickmartini

    Bought it to support him.

  • Flyphoenix

    I bought it to support and it is fun!

  • Richard Bachner

    As a company with a very questionable reputation, Zynga could probably have done a better job handling this just based out of their own self-interest. To some extent though, any big company has to cut people short when doing acquisitions and its not based on ill-will. I think a lot of smaller game developers have it tough due to legal, logistical, and other problematic issues. A big part of the problem with Facebook games is that many people have tried them out and seen some very low-quality games that aren’t worth going back to. Zynga does have some success among some portion of the population, but likely their name is mud amongst a bigger percentage of the population. That carries over into peoples perceptions of all kinds of casual games and impacts their willingness to play them. Another issue is that lately many companies on Facebook have been demanding a whole host of scary sounding permissions (access my data at any time, post on my behalf, etc) and people are very hesitant to install and try out games because of this. The other major issue is that most Facebook games companies outside of a few big ones don’t have the type of big advertising budget necessary to really advertise and create awareness of their product. There are dozens and dozens of companies listed at http://www.buyfacebookfansreviews.com that can help, but even so, it’s harder for a smaller developer to break into public consciousness without the much older features that Facebook had that enabled people to see notifications about other peoples’ games much easier. I think that Facebook has a great platform with a lot of potential, but there are some issues here that they do need to address to help devs out. This is part of the reason that I would hate to work at a big company – they can’t really take care of people in a positive way IMO.

About the author

John BrownleeJohn Brownlee is a Contributing Editor. He has also written for Wired, Playboy, Boing Boing, Popular Mechanics, VentureBeat, and Gizmodo. He lives in Boston with his girlfriend and two parakeets. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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