Zynga On Copycat Game-Making: Everybody’s Doing It, Why Shouldn’t We?

At this point, Zynga's inter-office memos should say, "I know you are, but what am I?"
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Maybe you were the good kid in elementary school. Maybe you didn’t ‘accidentally’ steal someone’s glue and refuse to give it back. Maybe you never had to write apology letters in giant red marker that essentially amounted to blame-escaping, ‘I didn’t mean it but I’m not sorry your glue was just on my desk it wasn’t my fault.’ 

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Maybe you were, but Zynga’s Dan Porter definitely wasn’t. 

Sometimes addressing a public complaint can do good things for a company. When done right, it can cool tempers and ease tension, but when done wrong, it gives the public something to team up to laugh hysterically at you about. 

What I actually said was that all games are derived from other games, that this has been happening long before Zynga, and that the debate about originality in games is vastly overblown and misses the mark…

The bigger point that I made, one that was overshadowed, goes to the true genius of Zynga. After making games for years, it was joining Zynga that made me understand the art, science and special sauce running games as a service.

So when I spoke to this group, I told them what I truly believe: the debate over copying games is a distraction if you are trying to figure out the future of social games; what matters is the ability to run those games as a service. But I also know that is a nuanced point and isn’t quite as sexy a headline. I should know better. Lesson learned. Sometimes it is truly better to say nothing at all.

Which is why this memo exists, obviously. 

So I have a memo for you, Dan Porter. Just because everybody’s doing it, doesn’t mean you should too. Game-making is a business, yes. Like all things, there is a formula to making money in a business, but there is a vital component that you’re missing: humans are smart. 

Eventually, people are going to catch on to a damaging lack of originality. We expect to be challenged and surprised and refreshed. Sure, we could talk about the lack of originality in fiction (and games and music and pretty much every creative vein known to man) ’till we’re blue in the face, but at least most people assume you should try to come up with something new every now and again.  Even casual gamers understand that a lack of originality translates to a lack of new challenge (remember that part about humans being smart?), which provides nothing but a stale game.

Zynga has been reporting startling revenue losses over the past year, and even the most imperceptive people could make the very short jump between unoriginal content and loss of funds.

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HC Billings
HC Billings is an excellent gamer, acceptable writer, and laughable parkourist.