Zynga Dumps the Training Wheels

With a new game-playing hub, it reduces its reliance on Facebook and Amazon
Illustration by Daniel Hertzberg

For several months in early 2010 the engineering team at Zynga halted work on all new games. The San Francisco startup and maker of hits such as FarmVille was in tense negotiations with Facebook, which then and now provides a home—and a huge audience—for Zynga’s titles. Chief Executive Officer Mark Pincus realized he needed a backup plan in case talks fell apart, and his engineers started building an online gaming site of their own. “It became an around-the-clock effort,” Pincus recalls. “It was an amazing feat of engineering. In very short order we were ready to host our own games.” The hub never launched, though. Tensions eased, Facebook and Zynga recognized they had a mutually beneficial relationship, and the companies signed a five-year deal.

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