Zynga CEO Dispels Facebook Game Copying Accusations

"We're not copycats, you are. Besides, everyone copies." That sums up Zynga Chief Executive Officer Mark Pincus' response to accusations that his company's upcoming Bingo release for Facebook was a copy of Bingo Blitz, from Buffalo Studios.

“We’re not copycats, you are. Besides, everyone copies.” That sums up Zynga Chief Executive Officer Mark Pincus’ response to accusations that his company’s upcoming Bingo release for Facebook was a copy of Bingo Blitz, from Buffalo Studios (see infographic below).

As reported by VentureBeat’s GamesBeat, Pincus attempted to flip the script by claiming that Bingo Blitz, which has some three million average monthly users, was actually a copy of Zynga’s Poker Blitz, which averages just 4,000 monthly users.

Aside from the counter-accusation, Pincus also used a music industry-type defense, basically hinting that most games are influenced by older games, and as long as the new developer improves upon the game, there is no harm done. He told VentureBeat:

You can go back to (Zynga’s) FarmVille. Look at Farm Town and say, “Those pictures are troubling. They look too similar.” But you pull the lens back again, and you see Farm Town next to My Farm, and next to Happy Farm, and next to (Zynga’s) YoVille. What you see is a series of games innovating on top of each other. You see Farm Town had a very similar avatar to YoVille.

We think there is a massive body of work in the video-game industry that is going to be reimagined for decades to come in a way that is free, accessible, and social. That’s what we’re doing. I don’t think anyone should be surprised when they see us come out with games that they’ve seen before, a decade or more ago. I don’t think there are a lot of totally new games that are invented. We always try. But to us, they are like the crew mechanic in our games. They give you a new way to interact with your friends.

Zynga was also accused last week of copying elements from Nimblebit’s Tiny Tower iPhone game for its upcoming Dream Heights mobile game, according to VentureBeat, and Pincus told the blog:

You should be careful not to throw stones when you live in glass towers. When you pull the lens back, you saw that their tower game looked similar to five other tower games going all the way back to SimTower in the early 1990s.

Pincus sent a memo to all Zynga employees addressing the allegations. Highlights follow, courtesy of VentureBeat:

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. They are all Internet treasures because they all have specific and broad missions to change the world.

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.

And this has always been the case for our company and the rest of the industry. Zynga Poker, FarmVille, CityVille, and Words with Friends — none of these games was the first to market in its category, but we made them the most fun and social, and the most popular.

Our teams continue to build and improve these games every week, which has been an important part of our success model. We run our games as a live service, and we continue to iterate, innovate, and improve on them to give our players the best possible experience.

Readers: Do you agree or disagree with Pincus? Does he make some valid points?