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

By Dave Cook
11 November 2013 08:27 GMT

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 GI.biz, 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.

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