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.