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OMGPOP dev explains why he walked away from Zynga takeover

"I don't have a job, but I can sleep soundly at night."

The only employee at Draw Something developer OMGPOP who refused to sign a new contract following the studio's $210 million acquisition by social gaming giant Zynga last week has explained why he walked away from the merger.

Writing in a guest Gamasutra column, Shay Pierce explained that he felt uncomfortable compromising his ideals to sign up with the controversial Farmville developer, and that his would-be employer had shown a lack of flexibility during contract negotiations.

When he questioned whether he would be asked to remove an iOS game called Connectrode from the App Store that he had developed in his own time due to conflict of interests, Zynga's lawyers failed to offer any assurance and refused to tweak the small print in his contract.

"And then I wondered: why was I even trying to compromise?" he wrote.

"Zynga has an Austin studio, where several good friends of mine work. Yet I had never applied to Zynga. Why? Because the company's values are completely opposed to my own values, professionally and creatively. Because I believe that developers are at the front lines of game development and deserve to be treated well, and I didn't trust Zynga to do so.

"All this was still true - except that their complete unwillingness to negotiate with me only confirmed my concerns. Why on earth was I even considering joining?

"It's not easy to pass up a lucrative salary and solid benefits, of course," he continued. "But I realised that ultimately I was letting myself be guided by simple inertia. I was part of a herd, and that herd was all going in one direction (and doing so with great urgency).

"I would really only be doing it for the sake of going with the flow, and responding to pressure to either conform to corporate expectations, or be left behind. These are not good reasons to join a company whose values are the opposite of your own, or to compromise your ideals, or to give up control of something you rightfully own.

"I politely declined to join Zynga and became the only Omgpop employee to be left behind. I don't have a job; but I can sleep soundly at night knowing that I'm not working for any employer with whom I strongly disagree."

Pierce then went on to explain exactly why he has such a problem with Zynga, pointing at the developer's much-maligned reliance on game cloning and exploitative payment models.

"An evil company is trying to get rich quick, and has no regard for the harm they're doing along the way. It's not making things of value, it's chasing a gold rush," he wrote.

"An evil game company isn't really interested in making games, it's too busy playing a game - a game with the stock market, usually. It views players as weak-minded cash cows; and it views its developers as expendable, replaceable tools to create the machines that milk those cows.

"It follows unsustainable practices (like cloning or even completely screwing innovators; or abusing viral channels until they have to be curtailed) - all practices which, in the long-term, not only make things worse for every other company in the industry, but ultimately for itself.

"Zynga is not the only one of these, but yes, they fit my definition.

"Not everyone shares my values, and not everyone is in a position to pick and choose job offers," he continued.

"I know many good developers who work for Zynga - especially now - and their choice of employment doesn't change the respect that I have for them. They have their reasons and I have mine.

"But I exhort game developers: don't join a company whose values are opposed to your own. Values aren't just for idealists - they matter. If a company's practices make you uncomfortable, pay attention to your instincts and be true to them."

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Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.