Q: So kind of like the chat that people do right now in ‘‘Words With Friends’’ but an evolution of that?
A: Yeah. I call it pokes with a purpose. The idea that we’re all on the go and running around and we are looking for ways to keep in touch with so many people. That’s one of the reasons why Facebook has been so important for so many people. And Twitter, and social media.
Games can give you a new dimension, but we have to make them. We still have to go a ways to package them more so that they are a poke with a purpose but not a rulebook that’s asking for a lot of your time. ‘‘Words With Friends’’ and ‘‘Draw Something’’ and ‘‘Scramble With Friends’’ start to kind of poke at that, at what that future could look like.
Q: Is that future mainly on mobile devices? Does this mean that you guys are moving away from the Web and from Facebook?
A: No, each of these mediums offers different kinds of exciting experiences. We still use the radio. We still use TV, and I'm a long-term believer in the PC. We still sit down in front of one at work. I just think the PC as when you sit down for a meal, and when you are on the go and want a snack you are on your mobile device. They need to talk more to each other, those experiences.
I still believe that we can offer you a much deeper, more engaging, more compelling play experience on a PC than we can on a mobile device, but one can enhance the other and one can expand the other. I don’t think they necessarily will compete with each other, just like how we find a place for movies in our lives, and TV and radio. The same will be true between a handset a tablet and a PC.
Q: Have any games that Zynga has come out with been a disappointment to you?
A: Yes. Although I'm happy to say there’s more that were disappointments that never saw the light of day that those that have been disappointments that have seen the light of day. But we are a learning company and a learning industry and we learn quickly. Last year ‘‘Mafia Wars 2’’ was a disappointment and a learning experience for us.
We didn’t get the game down to a fun, core, playable flight that we could go out and test with real people early enough. These projects can take on a life of their own and get big. And we had such a passionate connection with ‘‘Mafia Wars’’ and we were in love with the idea of a graphical version of it that we were more committed to that than we were to getting something fun out early.
Q: Can you talk about Zynga’s culture and how Zynga is run differently from other Silicon Valley companies?
A: The idea that we are building a house that we want to live in is something that’s very fundamental to who we are. I wanted to create an enduring community and an enduring institution almost from day one.
About every other week I sit down with all of our new Zynga hires and I talk to them for about 90 minutes, have an open Q&A. There is no formal presentation. I talk about our values, where they came from and why they are so important and I ask them to challenge those values.
An important, fundamental part of our culture is that we think that every person in the company should feel like a principal, an owner, a founder of this vision. And they should challenge the vision, the mission, the strategy, and the values. Sometimes we change the values based on those challenges, and sometimes we need our teams to call out that we are not living up to those values.
Our No. 1 value is that we are making products that we love, that we think us and our friends and family want to play. The first thing I say to new hires is that if you are working on a game and you don’t feel connected to it or love for it, don’t be embarrassed to talk about it.
It’s a culture that is very much about being an entrepreneur and a CEO. For many people that’s refreshing and exactly what they are looking for in their career. We were structured to be a great place for highly ambitious people. Sixty percent of our workforce has leveled up every year for the last four years, meaning that 15 percent every quarter have taken on greater responsibility, jobs, compensation. That’s unique in a bigger company.
Q: So that’s Zynga’s way of keeping employees happy? To give them more responsibility?
A: Our goal is that employees feel like they have more career opportunity here than any company on the planet. We have such a need for leadership at our company and in our industry. We are searching for leaders. I regularly encourage employees to break rules. I also say to employees that leadership starts with complaining and dissatisfaction. But it doesn’t stop there. It comes from saying you’re dissatisfied with something and then fixing it and making it better for everybody.Continued...