Zynga's best ideas were copied, says ex-employee

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The Independent Tech

The company behind Facebook's most popular games such as FarmVille and FrontierVille is a habitual copycat whose domination results from ruthless strategies and marketing might, claims a new article based on revelations from an former senior employee at the firm.

Speaking to San Francisco publication SF Weekly, the ex-employee said that CEO Mark Pincus ranted about the follies of innovation in a company meeting, saying, "I don't want innovation. Just copy [what your competitor does] and do it until you get their numbers," with reference to Zynga's competitors.

SF Weekly cross-checked with other former staff, concluding that "stealing other companies' game ideas - and then using Zynga's market clout to crowd out the games' originators - was business as usual."

The source also claimed that there was a widespread casual misappropriation of Google's motto, changing it from "Don't be evil" to "Do evil."

Many of Zynga's titles have been noted for being quick to pick up on emerging trends in Facebook and other social games - FarmVille, Facebook's number one game, topped out at 83 million active users, while its genre predecessor in Slashkey's Farm Town managed just short of 19 million before choking.

Other comparisons can be made: Mafia Wars and Mob Wars, Café World and Restaurant City, FishVille and Happy Aquarium, PetVille and Pet Society. With Zynga making its money from in-game advertising and micro-payments from players that want to unlock game features, the company is worth an estimated $4 billion.

Though FarmVille has since dropped from its peak earlier in the year, FrontierVille picked up the slack, accumulating 36 million users since June; Zynga has also become far more independent of Facebook and players can use the iPhone, Yahoo!, or Zynga's own website, to play some of the games.

To read the 'FarmVillains' article in full, visit SFWeekly.com.