Yesterday afternoon, at about 2:00 PM, Zynga New York’s 45 employees were called to an all-hands meeting.
Many grabbed beer from the fridge as they headed toward the front of the room. Nothing good came from unexpected, mid-day meetings anymore.
The large welcome area used to be a place where OMGPOP employees would have weekly meetings and brainstorming sessions. Now it marked painful departures of respected peers, like Dan Porter, who led the team to a $180 million Zynga sale one year prior and left in April. Other key executives such as Zynga New York’s head game designer and head producer followed Porter out the door.
Sensory-numbing beverages were now essential for these gatherings.
As weary employees drew near, they were greeted by the familiar face of the office HR woman. She stood beside a blonde Zynga executive from San Francisco who looked like he’d been ripped off the cover of Men’s Health.
The pair yanked the bandage off quickly. In no more than five minutes, they informed everyone that the office was closing. The entire room, minus a few who’d stay to help transition advertisers, no longer had jobs. There was paperwork that needed to be signed for severance packages. Empty boxes were distributed for belongings. Porter’s replacement, Sean Kelly, was nowhere to be found.
“There were no hard facts or figures. No real explanation. Just typical corporate BS,” one former employee who was in attendance tells Business Insider. “Everyone was just like, ‘Yep.’ Not surprised at all. It was like the weight had been lifted off our shoulders, that a decision had finally been made.”
In hindsight, the writing was on the wall. Porter’s unexpected departure in early April was the biggest indicator that the New York office’s days were numbered. His team used to have four or five IPs to manage, but lately, the projects had stopped rolling in. There were no assignments beyond fixing a few Draw Something 2 bugs in the immediate future.
“You could almost feel things were slowing down,” this person says. “We were all chomping at the bit for something new.
It was hard for the New York office not to take Zynga’s layoffs personally. Mark Pincus said in a company-wide memo that the cuts would aid Zynga’s mobile-first strategy. But hardly any of the desktop-first Farmville 2 team, comprised of former Facebookers, had been let go.
“We thought, ‘You just laid off your most talented mobile team,'” the former employee says. “We were totally under-utilized.”
Instead of feeling sorry for themselves or enraged at Pincus, the employees felt nostalgic. Surprisingly, they began to party.
“Most layoffs are sad. You imagine big corporate settings where security is there to lead people out of the office so they don’t make a scene. This was the opposite,” says the former employee. “Music was being played loudly, and people were ripping up Zynga hoodies and T-shirts. Anything that was Zynga was completely left there. The sentiment felt positive.”
Zynga trophies, golden statues that are gifted to employees during quarterly meetings, were strewn. Beer was guzzled as people swapped stories about the good-old startup days. Employees missed sharing one bathroom in a tiny, cramped office while they watched their hit game, Draw Something, explode from zero to 30 million users and get snatched up by Zynga last year.
The OMGPOP employees say they never felt welcomed by their publicly-traded employer, which may be why yesterday’s layoffs didn’t sting much.
“It never felt like anyone other than Pincus was really happy about us,” says the former employee. “I think everyone else was just pissed off because Zynga acquired a company that no one had really heard of before to do mobile.”
Once the boxes were packed and the Zynga gear was sufficiently destroyed, the former employees walked across the street to a bar. Few people expressed regrets. They knew they had been through one hell of a year.
“We regret nothing, not even being acquired,” the former employee says. “We got the chance to push Draw Something to the level we wanted, and we never took anything for granted….We lived through this experience that is very unique. It was a great ride. I think a lot of these people will be meeting up again in the future.”
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