OMGPOP almost got an extra life, but Zynga said ‘game over’. Zynga just finalized plans to shut down OMGPOP, the game developer of Draw Something it acquired for $200 million in March 2012. But multiple sources familiar with Zynga tell TechCrunch the OMGPOP team was in direct contact with Zynga leadership in an attempt to buy back the site or continue operating it, yet Zynga refused.
Our sources tell us that multiple OMGPOP team members independently tried to buy back the OMGPOP.com site, games, and intellectual property. These team members wanted whatever Zynga was willing to sell, even if that didn’t include the more valuable Draw Something assets or user data. Even more employees offered to work on OMGPOP.com for free. However, Zynga said this would all take too much legal work and wouldn’t agree to sell anything.
Instead, Zynga laid off OMGPOP’s employees, and today said the whole OMGPOP.com site will go dark September 30th. Several OMGPOP games (excluding the Zynga-rebranded Draw Something and its sequel that shall continue running) will shut down early on August 29th. This includes the games Cupcake Corner, Gem Rush, Pool World Champ and Snoops)
That leaves well over 30,000 monthly active users locked out of the games they enjoy. That’s a bit sad, considering our sources say OMGPOP.com and its non-Draw Something games were earning a decent amount of money — enough to be run independently of Zynga and make a profit. That will never be, though.
We’ve reached out to Zynga for comment on the news.
Now let’s be clear. Zynga has to trim the fat. If it doesn’t, it risks the whole company going under, which would displace even more employees and gamers. But refusing to give the axed OMGPOP team a second chance on their own doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of sympathy. Nor does it make it seem like an inviting place to work or sell your gaming startup to.
[Update: After further thought, Zynga's refusal wasn't just some cold-hearted grinch move. The fear might have been that if OMGPOP succeeded with the reclaimed assets, it could have been embarrassing for Zynga. It could have exposed Zynga's deficiencies, so it was safer just to put OMGPOP to sleep.]
Despite the injection of former Microsoft Xbox head Don Mattrick, one source familiar with the internal workings of the company says Zynga is “ruined”, and more specifically faces serious internal challenges going forward. Things apparently went downhill after Zynga’s December 2011 IPO when former CEO Mark Pincus cashed out nearly $200 million in stock. Morale is now supposedly very low, with employees doing as little as humanly possible to get by. People aren’t concerned with making fun games or long-lasting infrastructure, but just with keeping their metrics high enough to keep their jobs.
If Mattrick is going to turn Zynga around, it can’t just be about getting financials going in the right direction. He’ll need to fundamentally transform the attitude of the team and convince them there’s still time to hit “Continue”.