更糟糕的是，独立工作室Nimblebit发布了一封公开信，指责Zynga手机游戏《Dream Heights》与自己的热门游戏《Tiny Tower》存在惊人的相似之处，此举让Zynga突然成为众矢之的。这并非Zynga首次被卷入游戏模仿风波，其Facebook游戏《FarmVille》和《Mafia Wars》此前也有类似遭遇——但《Dream Heights》这次的遭遇却最让Zynga受挫，在此之前Nimblebit曾拒绝了Zynga的收购邀约。
Zynga后来成功收购了纽约工作室OMGPOP，也就是热门Facebook和手机游戏《Draw Something》。似乎除了Zynga之外，所有人都认为以1.8亿美元的高价收购仅推出一款不含盈利机制的热作的工作室，实在是一个疯狂举动。对Pincus而言，《Draw Something》取代《Words With Friends》成为Facebook头号热门游戏是一个自然而然的结果，它进一步巩固了Zynga在Facebook平台的地位。但这款盛行一时的游戏用户很快就开始下滑了——Zynga收购该工作室仅两周，该游戏就流失了500万用户，导致Zynga财政上出现了1.8亿美元的亏空。
之后Zynga与EA之间又发生了纷争。EA起诉Zynga，声称后者的《The Ville》与《The Sims Social》存在多处雷同，而Zynga则回应称前者的控诉“毫无根据”。
当然，Zynga的崩溃不会给任何人带来好处——它毕竟是一家拥有丰富资源和经验的公司，它也不应该落后于自己一手创建的领域。随着Zynga摆脱对Facebook的依赖（游戏邦注：这两者已经中止了独家合作协议），该公司可通过自己的Zynga With Friends网络以及Zynga.com门户网站，以及移动战略而开辟另一片天地。如果Zynga愿意直面批评者的告诫（例如，索尼在线娱乐总裁John Smedley曾表示Zynga“严重损害了免费游戏领域”），并且更关注玩家需求而非自身利益，它还是能够为社交游戏的未来发展发挥重要作用。（本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译，拒绝任何不保留版权的转载，如需转载请联系：游戏邦）
Stories of 2012: What Zynga’s decline tells us about the future of social games and free-to-play
Zynga’s rapid decline over the course of 2012 is thrown into sharp relief when you think back to January. Mark Pincus’ social game giant was in rude health, its continued growth apparently unstoppable following a long-awaited flotation on the stock market which netted the company a billion dollars (£644.7m). It was, though, also the first wobble in Zynga’s otherwise unflappable stride – a billion dollars is a great deal of money, sure, but the IPO, despite being the biggest flotation of a US tech company since Google’s in 2004, resulted in the company being valued at barely a third of what analysts expected.
That slide in value was partly down to declining confidence in tech IPOs following disappointing turns from the likes of Groupon and LinkedIn, but 16 acquisitions in 14 months, a concerted push to increase the frequency of its own releases, and the effort expended on decreasing its reliance in Facebook took a heavy toll on the company’s finances – finances that, up until December 2011, had remained hidden from public view. It wasn’t helped, either, by the being the first social game developer to go public. Social gaming companies measure success in daily active users, but the vast majority of them will never pay a penny, something investors struggled to get their heads round.
If that was disappointing, worse was to come. Independent studio Nimblebit published an open letter to the company that pointed out the striking similarities between its game and Zynga’s in-development mobile title Dream Heights, and suddenly it was open season on the king of social games. Tiny Tower wasn’t the first – Zynga had already been sued for allegedly cloning the works of others in Facebook smashes FarmVille and Mafia Wars – but the claim that Dream Heights came shortly after Nimblebit had rebuffed an acquisition bid from Zynga was a damaging one.
Pincus did his best to play down the mounting David vs Goliath clash. “Google didn’t create the first search engine. Apple didn’t create the first mp3 player or tablet. And Facebook didn’t create the first social network. But these companies have evolved products and categories in revolutionary ways.
“We don’t need to be first to market. We need to be the best in market. There are genres that we’re going to enter because we know our players are interested in them and because we want and need to be where players are. We evolve genres by making games free, social, accessible and highest quality.”
One acquisition that did succeed was of New York studio OMGPOP, developer of overnight Facebook and mobile smash hit Draw Something. It seemed like everyone but Zynga saw only insanity in spending $180 million on a one-hit wonder studio whose sole successful game had no monetisation layer, but the deal went through. For Pincus this was a logical reaction to Draw Something dethroning Words With Friends as the most popular game on Facebook, further cementing Zynga’s position as the most successful developer on the platform. User numbers dropped off sharply – five of 12 million were gone a fortnight after the sale went through, leaving a $180 million hole in Zynga’s finances.
The first results released after Zynga became a public company revealed an eye-watering annual loss of $404 million (£258.2 m). In the following three months it lost another $85.4 million despite a revenue increase of nearly a third. Shares fell to their lowest level since the IPO in June after Cowen and Company effectively called time on Facebook gaming, and Zynga’s stock would go on to hit new low after new low. The headlines just kept coming.
Then Zynga did the impossible and somehow managed to make Electronic Arts – voted the worst company in America, remember – look like the good guy. EA sued Zynga, claiming that not only had Zynga copied The Sims Social in the strikingly similar The Ville but it had literally cloned elements of it, right down to the RGB profile of character skin tones. Zynga said the suit was a “baseless sham”, but no-one was having any of it.
By October Pincus was doing his Iraqi information minister routine, penning emotive letters to staff insisting he was “proud of the progress that our teams made on many fronts.” Within weeks Zynga was laying off 100 staff, closing 13 games and studios in the UK, US and Japan. Investors loved it – shares rose 16 per cent despite a $52 million quarterly loss.
It’s been a tough year for Zynga, certainly, but much of the difficulty it has faced is a result of its position as a social gaming pioneer. The company has, for better or worse, played a major role in shaping the template for social game design, and for a time enjoyed great success with a model that the rest of the industry has only recently cottoned on to. But as other players bend free-to-play and social games into new – and often friendlier – forms, Zynga’s efforts are beginning to look out of place in a world increasingly focused on the individual player’s needs over chasing that headline DAU figure.
Zynga’s collapse would benefit no-one – it’s a company with considerable resources and enviable experience, and it needn’t be left behind in the world it helped create. Zynga has a big year ahead of it, with a reduced reliance on Facebook thanks to the expiration of its exclusivity deals with the social network, its own Zynga With Friends network and Zynga.com portal, and its increased focus on mobile. And if it’s prepared to listen to its critics – most recently, SOE president John Smedley said the company has “done free-to-play a terrible disservice” – and focus on its players and not its bottom line, it could yet have a large part to play in defining where social gaming goes next.（source：edge-online）