Zynga Layoff Announcement Draft


I “found” this draft of Zynga CEO Mark Pincus’ letter to his staff about impending layoffs. Changes from the final draft are in bold.


To our Zynga Community,

Today is a hard day for Zynga employees who haven’t vested and an emotional one for every employee of our company. We are saying painful goodbyes to the least productive 18% of our Zynga brothers and sisters.  The impact of these layoffs will not really be felt across every group in the company because those still around have already cashed in their options.

None of us ever expected to face a day like today, especially when so much of our culture has been about lead gen scams, intellectual property theft, and unsustainable growth to justify an IPO. But I think we all know this is necessary to move towards something resembling an actual business. The scale that served us so well in building and delivering the leading social gaming service on the Web to 12-year-olds who steal their parents credit cards to buy virtual cows is now making it hard to successfully lead across mobile and multiplatform, which we just noticed is where social games have been played for the last two years.

These moves, while hard to face today, represent a proactive commitment to our mission of connecting the world through games that we lie about being freeWe read on TechCrunch that mobile and touch screens are revolutionizing gaming.  Our opportunity from two years ago was to make mobile gaming truly social by offering people new, fun ways to meet, play and connect but instead we just bought a Pictionary ripoff and copied Oregon Trail.  By reducing our cost structure today we will offer our remaining teams the runway they need to take risks and develop these breakthrough new social experiences like a Scrabble ripoff, a Tetris ripoff, and at least six or seven more SimCity ripoffsAnd stay tuned for the latest release from Zynga Israel: Dreidel with Friends. 

Because we’re making these moves proactively and from a position of financial strength , we can take care of laid off employees as well as any company with hundreds of millions of dollars of negative operating revenue. We’re offering generous severance packages for a company with 15 months of sub-$5/share performance that reflect our appreciation for all of their work. We hope this will provide a foundation as they pursue their next professional steps that hopefully don’t involve competing with us because there are already 10,000 dev shops around the world doing exactly the same shit we do but with none of the overhead or sense of entitlement.

Although these are hard decisions, I’m confident that our strategy of building leading ripoffs of other actual creative people’s franchises and supporting them with the largest network of spoiled children with iPads is the right one for the long term. I’m encouraged by our recent progress like how more investors want to short Groupon than us for the first time.  Running With Friends is a great example of the quality player experience we can deliver by ripping off TempleRun, which has already received an average 4.5 app star rating from 22,700 players we bribed to rate us with free virtual crap in less than one month after launching. Our FarmVille franchise teams continue to innovate and deliver ground breaking new social experiences like County Fair which, despite being a near exact copy of the PrizePig game mechanic we “invented” previously and only being available on the web, is engaging 39 million monthly players. What precisely they are engaged with is a question for Steve Chang. 

I want to thank every one of you for the spirit, creativity and energy that you’ve invested in Zynga even though it wasn’t enough to distract people from the fact that we don’t actually do or make anything original.  You’ve reintroduced a generation of people to gaming dominated by in-app purchases and through these games offered them new ways to connect with their families by begging them for money to buy our virtual bullshit, make new friends to show off your virtual bullshit to and even sometimes find love with other agoraphobes.

Everyone will be affected by these changes except our early investors who cashed in long ago and I’m sure there will be many follow up questions to this email like, “Could you ask Charles Forman for some of our money back?”  If you have specific questions relating to your project or team, please talk to your manager though she is probably busy updating her LinkedIn profile.  For any other feedback or thoughts feel free to email me directly.


Reprinted by permission.

About the author: Aaron Christopher Cohen

Aaron Christopher Cohen is a technologist and entrepreneur based in Brooklyn. Born and bred in Palo Alto, he made the move to Silicon Alley because he prefers a climate with true seasons, bona fide mass transit, and skinny jeans. He has been a co-founder and early employee at three NYC startups and currently serves as Chief Startup Wrangler at DreamIt Ventures NYC.

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