I can’t say I approve of what’s going on in the gaming industry today when I read something as nasty as what you’re about to experience. What follows is an internal memo sent out by Zynga CEO Mark Pincus to his developers, engineers, and the like, congratulating them on their hard work in the face of accusations that they’ve copied the idea for developer Niblebit’s game Tiny Tower with their own game Dream Heights. Pincus has been known to speak on points like this in similar ways before, but his famous “just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers” remark has never fully been substantiated with proof – until now.
Though we’ll never know if Pincus really did make the “numbers” remark word for word, we can now read a memo leaked from the inner sanctum at Zynga, this memo showing off exactly what it means to be a part of Zynga and their development crew. Pincus makes it very clear here that they have no regrets in creating games that essentially copy the models of others, justifying it by saying that other people do it too, and they get copied too, so why can’t they do it? It’s like a kid saying he saw it on television, so why can’t he just shoot the neighbors dog?
I’ll not be posting the entirety of the note here, but the important bits will be shown. This memo was sent out inside the last month and has been leaked to the web this week:
There’s press today about one of our mobile games, Dream Heights, that just launched in Canada and worldwide soon. As we become the Zynga of Mobile and more broadly, as Zynga grows by further innovating on best of breed social mechanics, we should expect the industry to sit up and take notice of our growing portfolio.
I’m proud of the mobile team’s hard work and the industry has taken notice.
Google didn’t create the first search engine. Apple didn’t create the first mp3 player or tablet. And, Facebook didn’t create the first social network. But these companies have evolved products and categories in revolutionary ways. They are all internet treasures because they all have specific and broad missions to change the world.
We don’t need to be first to market. We need to be the best in market. There are genres that we’re going to enter because we know our players are interested in them and because we want and need to be where players are. We evolve genres by making games free, social, accessible and highest quality.
With regard to Dream Heights and the tower genre, it’s important to note that this category has existed since 1994 with games like Sim Tower and was more recently popularized in China with Tower of Babel in 2009 which achieved 15 million DAUs. On iOS there has been Yoot Tower, Tower Up, Tower Town, Tower Blocks and Tiny Tower. Just as our games, mechanics and social innovations have inspired and accelerated the game industry, its 30 year body of work has inspired us too.
And, this has always been the case for our company and the rest of the industry. Zynga Poker, FarmVille, CityVille and Words with Friends, none of these games were the first to market in their category but we made them the most fun and social, and the most popular. Our teams continue to build and improve these games every week which has been an important part of our success model. We run our games as a live service and we continue to iterate, innovate and improve on them to give our players the best possible experience.” – Pincus
Does this look like a set of words that brings about the shaking of hands between Zynga and the groups they’ve copied from and the groups that’ve copied from them? Certainly Pincus feels justified in saying it all, and it was definitely time for him to step up and speak the company’s mind, but is it enough? We’ll see!