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June 4, 2013

Zynga closes Dallas studios (Formerly Bonfire Studios and NewToy)

Yesterday Zynga announced the shocking news that it was closing its Zynga Dallas and Zynga With Friends studios. Prior to Zynga’s acquisition of these teams they were known as Bonfire Studios and NewToy respectively. It was not long ago back in February 2013 that Zynga’s Chief Operating Officer, David Ko announced that it was merging all of its Texas operations under a single office as part of cost cutting moves for the struggling company. Now it seems those cost cutting measures have gone even deeper resulting in the layoff of all staff from the studios formed by Ex Ensemble Studios members.

NewToy was the first studio to be formed by Ex Ensemble Studios brothers Paul and David Bettner and they released their first hit game “Word with Friends” in around July of 2009. Words with Friends went on to become a massive success and featured the iOS charts for a long time. Infact to this very day Words with Friends is ranked #95 in the free games chart – thats after over 3 years! The NewToy studio was acquired by Zynga in December 2010 and they went on to produce numerous other successful titles such as Hanging and Scramble with Friends. Their most recent release has been Running with Friends in January 2013. Paul and David Bettner left Zynga to pursue other projects in late 2012 for reasons largely unknown.

Bonfire Studios was formed after the Ensemble Studios closure and was founded by Ex Ensembler’s including David Rippy who headed up the studio. The studio released their first hit game “We Farm” in July 2010 followed by “Game Chest” on Xbox Live in September 2010 a short while later October 2010 Zynga took note of the studios successful titles and moved to acquire the studio. From then on the studio was known as Zynga Dallas. During its Zynga years the studio released CastleVille which was very well received and has long been considered one of Zynga’s best performing Facebook games. To this day there are over a million active players enjoying the CastleVille experience which boasts some of the best audio and visual elements found on Facebook games.

So the question remains, why would Zynga shut down the studio housing some of its most successful games and developers? It has been no secret that Zynga has been facing lots of difficulties as of late. A report on AllThingsD helps clear up some of the reasons why Zynga has been struggling:

Sources said the reason for the more substantive cuts now, after earlier ones last fall, is because the decline of its Web business has been more drastic than anticipated, while the rise of its mobile business has been slower than needed. That’s been especially true on Facebook, which was once one of Zynga’s key money-making partners.

According to Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga on his official blog:

These moves, while hard to face today, represent a proactive commitment to our mission of connecting the world through games.  Mobile and touch screens are revolutionizing gaming.  Our opportunity is to make mobile gaming truly social by offering people new, fun ways to meet, play and connect.  By reducing our cost structure today we will offer our teams the runway they need to take risks and develop these breakthrough new social experiences.

Because we’re making these moves proactively and from a position of financial strength, we can take care of laid off employees.  We’re offering generous severance packages that reflect our appreciation for all of their work and we hope this will provide a foundation as they pursue their next professional steps.

Its hard to quantify how closing talented and proven track record studios like Zynga Dallas will help Zynga longer term as people power is a great factor in a companies success. Remember ES wishes the hard working people affected by these cuts the best of like finding new work. We hope that everyone lands back on their feet taking forward the successes of their time at Zynga Dallas.


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