While I was in San Francisco, I had a chance to visit Zynga’s office. Zynga was started in 2007 and grew quickly to be one of the largest gaming companies in the world today. In fact in terms of the number of users that play its games, it is the largest. You’ll definitely have heard of at least one of the games that Zynga’s responsible for. They’re the creators of Farmville, Cafe World, Texas Hold’em on Facebook and even some iPhone games like Scramble. I know Kitteh was at one point addicted to Scramble.
Zynga was founded by Mark Pincus and today has over 1,200 employees with over $600 million in revenue a year. From some sources there I hear that Zynga today is worth some $6 billion. That’s insane!
The name Zynga came from Mark Pincus’ bulldog and I guess that’s why the logo of the company is also the dog. Their offices are housed in this building with many many individual office units. You need someone there to bring you in for a tour before you can go in and you also need one of these name tags.
There are some other offices in there too from other kinds of companies but the Zynga employee that took us for the tour told us that they take up 90% of the office units there. You’ll find the Zynga bulldog posters everywhere marking which units were theirs.
Zynga has a policy that allows everyone to bring their pets to work. So in their offices you’ll often see people working on their computers and next to them you’ll see their dogs just waiting patiently for them. When they go for lunch, they bring their dogs along.
Moving along the corridors though we found this door. Through this office unit is apparently where all the top minds of Zynga are at. The CEO, CFO etc etc.
We got to go inside their offices and their offices had an open concept kind of style not really different from the Netccentric and Nuffnang offices we have. We weren’t allowed to take pictures of the inside of the office but inside we found Nerf guns and the likes.
I managed to snap a picture of this Zynga beanbag though.
Their office windows were all decorated with all sorts of stuff. Like these newspaper articles about their games.
And also make-pretend newspaper articles like this one here that was about Mafia Wars.
While we were there a Zynga employee named Jon gave us a presentation about they’re about and a bit of history on how they grew so big. Their strategy was always to make gaming social. It doesn’t matter so much what kind of graphics the game has and all that, as long as you can play it with your friends and interact with them while doing it makes it fun.
He also let out some secrets on how they managed to beat their competitors. They were better at coming out with ideas to distribute their games. Like on Facebook they would just allow you to give your friends a virtual gift. Like it’ll say “You found a cow” and in order to take care of it you have to go in and play their games.
At its peak, Jon mentioned that Farmville had over 30 million active users playing it at any one point. Now it has dropped to some 15 million or so but believe it or not that’s even better for Zynga. Why? You see Zynga makes its money from selling virtual items that people use in its games. The more serious gamers buy more virtual items whereas the more casual gamers buy less. They both however use the same amount of bandwidth which requires them to have the same number of servers.
So once the hype of Farmville drops out, only the more serious players stay and they’re after all the more profitable ones. Interesting huh.
One thing that Jon did concede is that the Americans are learning from the Chinese in China on how to perfect micro-payments or the business model of selling virtual items. After all, QQ the most popular instant messenger in China makes money from selling its virtual items. Each for a small amount of money but they sell a LOT of them.
We learned so much from Zynga that day though. Even caught a picture of their “core values”.
I now know so much more about social gaming than I ever did. Ending off with a picture here with Kingston and Ming who were there with me.
The next office I’ll blog about will be Google’s office in Mountain View. That is an amazing office!