Massively Casual

Massively Casual
The Man Who Would be Zynga

Russ Pitts | 27 Jul 2010 12:42
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The success hasn't come without a price. Last year the rumors of aggressive plagiarism and ruthless profiteering swirled into a maelstrom of bad press for Zynga, none of which, however, seemed to bother CEO Marc Pincus, who outright admitted to "scamming users ... from the start" in order to fuel Zynga's rabid growth. If Pincus seemed unworried, he had reason to be, the "scandal" amounted to a storm in a teacup, and players kept right on playing, and clicking and getting scammed, or not, depending on who you ask.

Reynolds says the scandal wasn't even on his radar.

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"I had gotten into a new kind of game and was interested in finding a way to make them," he says. "I certainly haven't seen any horrible business practices going on in my time - some good old fashioned competitiveness for sure, but Zynga treats its employees amazingly well, has great partnerships, and otherwise doesn't really seem all that different from anywhere else I've worked."

According to Reynolds, the secret to making a Zynga game is appealing to the mass audience - the people who aren't playing Gears of War.

"A game about tactics in the Napoleonic Wars wouldn't be a very good fit," he says, "and similarly a lot of the 'traditional' topics of AAA games (guns, spaceships, robots, aliens, wizards) that appealed to the traditionally young male crowd who bought those games don't work as well ... so I think that's the first and most important thing we think about at a concept level. The second thing we think about is how can we make the concept social enough - because social network gaming is all about playing and interacting with your real friends. Once we've got a great and social topic, we're off to the races!"

Asked what the next "off to the races" idea from Zynga will be, Reynolds admits that he has absolutely no idea. He's been too busy making FrontierVille.

"In the world of social gaming 'launching' a game doesn't mean you're done with it," he says, "it means you're just beginning. I do eventually expect to begin tinkering with another franchise idea 'on the side' with a small team, but right now I'm not even ready to start something small yet!"

So what's the next big game Brian Reynolds, mad hatter of Zynga, crusher of the industry, bane of AAA game makers is looking forward to?

"Gears of War 3," he says. "I played through Mass Effect 2 three times this winter."

Russ Pitts is the Editor-in-Chief of The Escapist.

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