Now that Zynga’s IPO is up and running again following the Thanksgiving break, concerns have cropped up about the FarmVille developer’s ability to retain its top talent. An Initial Public Offering usually signifies a change in culture as the company in question is forced to, you know, go all corporate, man… and the thinking amongst employees is that the change won’t be for the better. Gabrielle Toledano, head of HR for Electronic Arts (possibly the epitome of corporate when it comes to gaming), sums up the situation best by stating the obvious:
We’ve learned that when companies treat talent as a commodity, the consequences are severe. It takes years to repair a reputation.
Zynga is already notorious for bad working conditions even by the standards of an industry where people are expected to live and breathe their jobs. CEO Marc Pincus has been quoted as saying “I don’t fucking want innovation. You’re not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.”
Recently, he’s been getting a lot of flak for allegedly leaning on employees to give back the stock they got when they joined the company, because these stockholders will get a windfall of money from the IPO and Pincus thought they hadn’t been working hard enough to deserve it.
This is, by the way, the same stock that start-ups give to talented developers in lieu of, say – a higher salary, in the expectation that the company will be successful later on. It’s no understatement to say that when describing Zynga, the word “evil” is bandied about often.
Stock or no stock, it doesn’t take a market analyst to see that talented developers might want a change of scenery after the IPO, perhaps to a place that doesn’t stifle their creativity but will understand them as a person and their need for higher pay and better working conditions.