Zynga lays off 18% of its staff, "necessary to move forward," says CEO

Katie Williams at

We've come a long way from Zynga's farm-planning heydays. Following last year's closure of three Zynga studios and the subsequent discontinuation of eleven browser-based titles, Zynga continues to downsize. Maybe it's about time to admit that taking "inspiration" from other games just isn't that profitable after all. The official reason for the layoffs, says founder and CEO Mark Pincus, is so that Zynga can focus more on "mobile and multiplatform" gaming.

Zynga on copying social games: "the debate about originality is vastly overblown"

Omri Petitte at

Social gaming titan Zynga isn't known for diversity in its products. It often deals with accusations of cloning popular games from other developers—app studio NimbleBit's response to a Zynga game uncannily similar to its Tiny Tower sim is perhaps the best sarcasm-laden example. But in an open letter on the company's website (via Eurogamer), Zynga New York boss Dan Porter claims that in the world of social gaming, everyone copies everyone else.

Zynga shut down 11 games, close Japanese studio

Phil Savage at

Troubled Facebook game/vacuous money-trap maker Zynga is rushing to cut costs in the wake of its fast falling share price. TechCrunch are reporting that 11 titles are being shut down, including PetVille, Mafia Wars 2, and Vampire Wars, among others. FarmVille remains safe. I know you were worried.

Zynga lays off over 100 staff, closes UK, Japan and Boston studios

Marsh Davies at

Everybody's favourite casual gaming firm, Zynga, yesterday laid off around 150 employees, shuttering its studios in the UK, Japan and Boston in the process. The axe reportedly also fell on employees at the company's Austin and Massachusetts studios, in a brutal cull which took the rank and file by surprise and left them only two hours to clear their desks. Ouch.

GDC 2012 has just kicked off. We're live on the show floor

Owen Hill at

The Games Developers Conference has just begun in San Francisco. Devs from every corner of the industry are congregating to talk about their craft. It’s a very exciting time.

GDC is less console iteration and booth babe than E3. It's more about quiet announcements and candid industry chatter. That said, this year’s show is already shaping up nicely, especially for us PC gamers. We have men on the ground, sniffing out scoops in real-time.

Will Valve open the Pandora’s box that is the Steam Box? What’s the mystery game that EA are due to announce on Tuesday? What will Sid Meier have to say in his keynote speech? Are Hitman Absolution’s crowds extremely good or a bit good? Read on for the highlights.

PopCap killing off Baking Life, not offering refunds or exchanges for customers' money

Owen Hill at

Are you one of the 100,000 daily users who enjoy creating recipes, baking goods, hiring your friends, and serving customers each day?

Probably not, but that's not the point. PopCap are closing down Baking Life at the end of January, and any "Zip Cash" bought with real-life money will be erased from existence.

I've never baked a virtual cake via the Baking Life app, but that PopCap aren't offering any exchange or refund option sets an ugly precedent for the value of microtransactions and gamer's rights. As pointed out in the screenshot below, PopCap seem keen to redirect players to alternative Facebook titles, but don't seem so keen on converting player's funds.

Empires and Allies is a horrible thing. But I can't stop playing it.

Tim Edwards at

Zynga, the company behind Farmville and multiple other wildly successful ‘social’ games has offered themselves up to investors in a billion dollar IPO. Their filings show that they're wildly profitable, and making money hand over fist. Their latest game is Empires and Allies, an empire building strategy game that used Facebook to become a ferociously viral piece of entertainment. Apparently, 30 million people are playing it. I’m one of them.

I’ve had high hopes for Zynga and the social game market they’re pioneering for a while now. I’ve always believed that Facebook games could and should be amazing to play. I’m a platform agnostic, but anything that helps me play games with the people I care about should be a good thing. Sid Meier’s making a Civ game for Facebook. This is the inflection point, right? The time when these games suddenly become good, and interesting, and exciting?

No. Maybe. Yes. Oh god no.

One developer's account of how he cheated his way on-stage at GDC

Tom Francis at

Flash game developer Ryan Creighton wasn't on the panel for the Social Game Developer's Rant session at GDC last week. Nor did he have anything he particularly wanted to get off his chest. But the panel played a game with the audience: whoever could amass the most tokens, given to every audience member, would win the right to speak on stage.

And by the time Ryan won the game, he had something to rant about.

Farmville launched as a "minimum viable product". Took 32.5 million users in one day

Matt Purslow at

Zynga have revealed that they launched Farmville as the most 'minimum viable product' possible.

Mark Skaggs, Vice President of Product Development at Zynga, explained that at the game's inception at GDC today. The philosophy for its development was "Fast, light and right". Skaggs commented that at the beginning his idea was “Lets just go for it, get it done as fast as possible. Pedal to the metal.” Read on for some astonishing figures on FarmVille's rapid growth and domination of the Facebook game scene.

FarmVille developer worth '$10billion'

Matt Purslow at

Zynga - the developer behind Facebook phenomenon FarmVille - is worth close to $10billion according to recent investment discussions.

In an article over at The New York Times, the casual social game developer is said to attract 275 million users to it's titles, which also includes CityVille. Such figures make it one of the major contributors to Facebook's revenue stream.

What do you make of this? Do you think this a triumph worth celebrating, or do you believe - like Jonathan Blow - that social games are 'evil'? Discuss in the comments!

[via CVG]