By Josh Constine
Executing the cost-reduction plan CEO Mark Pincus announced in November, Zynga (ZNGA) has shut down, pulled from the app stores, or stopped accepting new players to 11 games, with some turning off today. The gaming giant will reallocate resources to more successful titles as well as creating new ones. Along with layoffs, the shutdowns are part of the hard road to recovery for Zynga.
The San Francisco-based company had overextended itself. During its heyday on Facebook (FB) it built dozens of games, then aggressively launched mobile games as smartphones gained popularity. It didn't seem like a problem when the company was preparing for a big IPO.
But Zynga's share price got decimated over the past year. Investors feared it had become bloated, free virality on Facebook had been curtailed, competitors were proliferating, and the shift of Facebook users to mobile from Zynga's stronghold on the desktop canvas would break the company. Zynga's share price is down to $2.33 from its $10 IPO price a year ago.
To get the company back on track, Zynga announced a deep set of cost-cutting measures, including laying off over 100 employees, closing offices, ceasing to renew deals with contractors, shutting down 13 titles, and significantly reducing investment in The Sims-style game The Ville.
Now the hammer has dropped on eleven of these games. Keeping them alive spread engineers, designers, and product teams too thin and cost money Zynga can't afford anymore. Those that weren't shut down or pulled from the app store already no longer accept new sign ups and will stop altogether next month. Here's the full list:
PetVille - Shut down December 30th
Mafia Wars 2 - Shut down December 30th
FishVille - Shut down December 5th
Vampire Wars - Shut down December 5th
Treasure Isle - Shut down December 5th
Indiana Jones Adventure World - Closed to new players, shuts down January 14th
Mafia Wars Shakedown - Pulled from app stores
Forestville - Pulled from app stores
Montopia - Shut down December 21st
Mojitomo - Pulled from app stores
Word Scramble Challenge - Pulled from app stores
These shutdowns might not seem like a big deal to everyone, but they were near cataclysmic for some players who pumped countless hours and dollars into these games. If you'd spent years tending your virtual aquarium only to have it disappear, you can imagine how disappointed or angry you'd be. Comments from gamers on the shutdown notices included things like "my daughter is heartbroken" and "Please don't remove petville. I been playing for 4 yrs. and I'M going to miss my pet Jaime….why do you want cause depression for me and others. Why do you want to kill my pet?"
To numb the pain and try to get gamers hooked on titles that will keep running, Zynga offered people who played FishVille, Adventure World, and some other titles a free bonus package of virtual goods in one of its flagship games CastleVille, ChefVille, FarmVille 2, Mafia Wars, or YoVille.
Though it may seem like a mass culling, Zynga will still have over 30 titles available across Facebook, Zynga.com, iOS, Android, Myspace, and other social sites.
The fact is that if Zynga wants to save these games, keep the rest of its workforce employed, and get its share price growing, it had to cut deadweight. While dead pooling 11 games was surely tough, it's better than Pincus freezing up as the ship sinks. The teams from these games could help Zynga produce and publish more titles like Horn, a mobile adventure Zynga co-released with Phosphor that Appolicious named the best mobile game of 2012.
Sometimes you have to put old dogs to sleep.