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Zynga copies competitors’ games, says Zynga VP

Christopher Mims

“Zynga is often accused of copying games, which is mostly true,” Zynga VP Dan Porter said Wednesday night at a panel discussion in New York hosted by menswear startup Frank & Oak. But, he added, “what Zynga is really good at is managing a game as a live service.” Zynga is one of the world’s largest makers of casual games, but the company’s fortunes—and stock price—have taken a beating since its IPO in December 2011.

In the past, Zynga has been sued by competitor Electronic Arts for copying one of its games, but that suit was recently settled. The fact that Zynga’s games look suspiciously like those of its competitors is hardly news, but it is perhaps unusual to hear those words come out of the mouth of one of the company’s vice presidents. Dan Porter isn’t quite a company insider, having come to Zynga after it acquired for $200 million the game company he led, OMGPOP.

Porter explained that for modern game companies to survive, a good idea is not enough. They must use analytics and user feedback to constantly tweak games and provide new material to keep users coming back, two things at which Zynga excels.

Porter also pointed out that social media like Twitter are essentially casual games. “Twitter is ultimately like a huge game,” he said. “All of [Twitter] is a game that you don’t think is a game, but it is. It sucks to tweet something and not get it retweeted.”

One of the keys to the success to a successful game, he noted, is a certain amount of freedom. “When you try to over-articulate what the game is to people, they rebel,” he said.

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