The head of Pot Farm studio East Side Games is perfectly okay with Zynga's approach to making games, because it's also the best way to make money.
There's no shortage of Zynga detractors floating around the internet these days, thanks most recently to the copy-paste design of Dream Heights and Zynga Bingo, both of which are widely seen as blatant rip-offs of other indie games. But at least one indie developer has no problem at all with Zynga's behavior and in fact sees it as a good thing for the growth of the casual game business.
"I am one of the people who ruined Facebook for you all. It was a nice, happy place where we could all share things with our friends, and myself and a little company you might have heard of called Zynga came along and exploited the shit out it," he said at the January 2012 Full Indie meet-up. "The first $100 million that Zynga made, I signed most of those checks. So together, we're proud to say, Pincus and I have destroyed the experience for you all."
The comments are obviously tongue-in-cheek, but Bailey did have a big hand in turning Zynga and Facebook into the monsters they are today. He co-founded Super Rewards in 2007, "which pioneered the monetization on the Facebook platform, paving the way for the virtual goods-based games that dominate the platform today." Super Rewards was acquired by Adknowledge in 2009, giving Bailey "a healthy eight-digit exit," but even as the CEO of indie studio East Side Games he's still a big believer in the system.
He also doesn't have a problem with ripping off other game designs and in fact claims that the games Zynga is accused of swiping were themselves heavily based on ideas found elsewhere. What makes it acceptable, he said, is that Zynga always improves upon the ideas it steals.
"So Zynga continues along this plot of finding a great game, ripping it off practically pixel-for-pixel, but there's an important thing to note - that is that Zynga always gives it at least a plus-one," he said. One of the things Zynga "did right," he noted, was reducing the amount of in-game currency it gives away in Dream Heights compared to Tiny Tower.
"If you play Tiny Tower, they're constantly spitting out tower bucks for you," he continued. "Zynga on the other hand is incredibly cheap and never gives that shit out for free, and that's why they have a $10 billion company."
The whole thing comes across as a little greasy at first glance, but there's truth in his words. Sleazy or not, the Zynga formula is a big success; artistically bankrupt, perhaps, but business and business, and it's hard to argue with a billion-dollar IPO.
"Zynga is awesome" Bailey concluded. "I own many, many shares in this company [and] I can't wait for them to continue to take over the world. I really hope that you all go home and work hard on your games tonight and come up with great, innovative gameplay techniques, and I will absolutely rip them off next week and put them into a good game."
Thanks to ResonanceGames for the tip.