Zynga was often uncertain of its own direction, says former developer

Monday, 11th November 2013 08:27 GMT By Dave Cook

Zynga was well aware of criticisms aimed at it from the gaming community and often held internal debates over the uncertain trajectory of the business, former developer and founder of Mohawk Games Soren Johnson.

It follows Zynga’s Q3 financials, which showed further losses.

Speaking with, Johnson was working for Zynga East in 2011, an off-shoot of the core business. He’s now head of Mohawk Games and is working on a strategy title simply dubbed ‘Mars’. It’s worth noting that Johnson became a household name for his work on Civ 4, so the man clearly knows strategy.

The game will not be free-to-play, a model his former colleagues at Zynga are fond of. Johnson explained that even before the company entered its seemingly sustained period of turmoil, it was having trouble figuring out the next step. He explained, “Zynga has taken a lot of criticism within the game development community for the types of games it makes and how it treats its customers and so on and so forth and the classic dilemma of the business side versus the game design side.

“One thing I found very interesting inside Zynga is that the exact same questions that were being asked externally were absolutely being asked internally and perhaps even more stridently internally. There was a lot of open debate and arguments about these types of issues. The company itself was often uncertain about in what direction it should go.”

He added that regardless, the job “Was a lot of fun, we played internally a lot, but once Zynga started having trouble some of the more speculative projects became not as important. Part of the reason it didn’t get me down too much was I was fairly certain I would be able to start up a studio of my own and whatever I worked on next I could make sure that it was going to come out, and come out in a way that I was happy with.”

Further on he suggested that perhaps no one really seems to like free-to-play, but it’s something gamers and the industry have become “saddled” with, but that those spending a lot of money on microtransactions each month are keeping many free titles afloat, even if the rest of us never spend a penny.

What do you think? Are we saddled with free-to-play or is it a passing phase in the industry’s life-span? Is it the future? Let us know below.



  1. IntrovertedOne

    Seems like following your direction should be easy when your business strategy is just to clone and then over advertise other peoples game ideas as your own. Just throw that crap on facebook and wait for the money to come in.

    Anyways, I think F2P is currently garbage; most either make it impossible to be competitive as a free player (if you’ve tried Evony you know) OR on the other side cash shops are only good for cosmetics so there’s no real incentive to buy.

    IMO they are fine IF no content is locked behind a paywall and players aren’t essentially handicapped by not paying (by giving xp or heath bonuses to paying players). If players want to pay for things they could eventually unlock anyways I think that’s fine as long as if it’s MMO those Items are tagged somehow as “purchased”, so the players who earned it through actually playing still keep some of that feeling of accomplishment.

    I doubt F2P games will go anywhere, there will always be those with more money than sense, the kids whose greatest accomplishment in life is being born wealthy.

    For me even when F2P is done well its seems like: you go to down to your local gamestop to buy a new game, the clerk tells you its completely free OR if you want you can give him 10$ and he’ll play it for you and tell you the ending. It’s not for me, but some seem to prefer it.

    #1 10 months ago

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