In a rather ironic turn of events, game maker Zynga acquired gaming company NaturalMotion for a whooping amount of $527 million. And then on the same day, it also let go 314 employees, around 15 percent of its entire roster.
Some might not be familiar with the name NaturalMotion, but those who still remember the iPhone 5 keynote might recall demonstrations of the developer’s Clumsy Ninja game, an honor bestowed on only a select few. The company also developed its own middleware, programs used for creating a finished software program, for making realistic 3D animations. This software was used in triple-A games like Grand Theft Auto and Lord of the Rings.
The business culture of Zynga and NaturalMotion couldn’t be more at odds with each other. Zynga has been quite popular, first on Facebook then on mobile, for churning out games like crazy, relying more on numbers than focused polish. On the other hand, it took more than a year for NaturalMotion to finally launch Clumsy Ninja on the iPhone, preferring to get things right rather than focus on simply monetizing through sheer numbers.
Zynga, however, seems to be undergoing a metamorphosis. Part of it seems to be due to the painful realization that its previous business model is no longer sustainable today, with the over saturation of small casual games in the market. There is a need for a more directed focus on a few hit titles rather than spreading their resources thin. Part of the change is also coming from the top brass, with former Xbox executive Don Mattrick taking over from Mark Pincus as CEO.
Unfortunately, this shake up in company direction has also resulted in a shake up in the workforce. The new CEO has already laid off a number of the workforce, even including members of the management. Today Zynga is shedding off another 314 of its employees, in addition to hundreds let go last August. Mattrick says those jobs are mostly related to infrastructure rather than game development. While the company still has hundreds more employees than any other popular game developer out there, it remains to be seen when this cutting down of human resources will come to a halt.