Zynga Billionaire Mark Pincus’ Secret Plan To Make Everyone Dance At His Wedding


Zynga founder Mark Pincus just got the Vanity Fair treatment with a good profile.

Here’s what we learned:

  • Pincus grew up with video and outdoor games and is really into gaming in his private life as well. He would play games with his family all the time.
  • “Pincus doesn’t think hanging out with a glass of Pinot Grigio with his feet up in front of the fireplace is fun; for him, fun is programmatic, something that should be well planned by an invisible hand.”
  • Pincus planned out his wedding down to the most minute details. He didn’t want toasts so “we had those the night before, but we allowed everyone only three minutes.” And after the dinner “we took the seats away—they all had to go on the dance floor.” (If we had been invited to the Pincus wedding, we would have left early.)
  • Pincus is now officially a billionaire.
  • “No one in Silicon Valley wanted to touch [Pincus] in 2007” after his Tribes.net social network failed, an associate of his says.
  • Legendary VC and Zynga investor John Doerr sums up the success of Zynga games: “These games are not for everyone, it’s true, but it’s for more of everyone than anything else I know.”
  • The guy who designs the buildings in CityVille was an actual architect before that.
  • After Harvard Business School, Pincus was the only person in his section to graduate without a job. During interviews, if the interviewer said something he thought was stupid, he would point it out.
  • Eric Zimmerman, a veteran game designer and a professor at N.Y.U.’s Game centre, says of Zynga games: “By virtue of the fact that these games are as enormously popular as they are, there’s something there. Millions of flies can’t be wrong—if they’re buzzing around s–t, they’re getting something from it,” which may be the best backhanded compliment in history.
  • Pincus thinks that everything on the web will be game-like. “Game mex [mechanics] will be the most valuable skill in the new economy,” he once wrote.
  • Pincus says he got the idea for virtual goods and paid for in-game upgrades from playing online games and getting crushed by kids who were better than him. (The idea really comes from Asia, where virtual goods have been around for much longer than Zynga.)
  • After Tribes.net failed, Pincus went through a soul-searching phase and began working with a life coach. And then two life coaches. And zillions of coaches. Tennis coach, skiing coach, yoga coach. “I just don’t understand why you wouldn’t give yourself every advantage,” Pincus says, which actually sounds very reasonable.

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