In his post on Gamasutra, Pierce advises other developers to consider their own values and not just the financial aspects of a company buy-out.
I exhort game developers: don’t join a company whose values are opposed to your own. Values aren’t just for idealists — they matter. If a company’s practices make you uncomfortable, pay attention to your instincts and be true to them.
One of the main problems for Pierce was the management of Connectrode. He writes that he was unable to get assurances that he would still retain ownership and control of the game under the job offer put forward by Zynga.
With the help of an attorney he drafted an addendum to clarify his concerns, but this was rejected. This left Pierce in a difficult position, having to decide between a good salary and position with Zynga or control of his own creation and pursuit of his own beliefs.
It was not just those aspects of the process that prompted his decision. Pierce makes a very clear case about his choice and describes his current relationship with Zynga.
- I didn’t work on Draw Something.
- I wasn’t screwed. I had a small amount of equity in Omgpop, I received a compensation for that, and that was never at stake in this decision. The amount is not going to change my life but it’s fair. I lost a job; that’s all.
- I’m not bitter. I have zero complaints about anyone at Omgpop and I congratulate them for their success. Zynga had the right to ignore my attempts to negotiate; I had the right to walk away. This has all been legal and amicable.
- I was not directly asked to give up control of my indie game. I was only asked to sign a job offer — which might have that legal consequence. (If this seems like a flimsy point over which to worry so much, ask yourself: if you were asked to sign a document that might mean that you lost custody of your child, with no assurances otherwise — would you do so? I don’t have a child, I have Connectrode.)
- I’m not an idealist. (I would love to be, but I work in an industry and I have a mortgage.) I’ve received paychecks from Zynga before: In late 2010 I was a full-time contractor for NewToy (on the Words with Friends client team) when that studio was also acquired by Zynga; I didn’t balk at working with Zynga then. I’ve made many compromises in my nine-year career in professional game development, but this one was simply asking too much.
Pierce considers a herd mentality where employees fail to question contracts and offers put before them. It is easy to follow along the same path if your peers are doing the same thing, but it takes more courage and initiative to look closely at an offer and then walk away.
Though Pierce states that everything has been amicable, it is a risk to reject a large and influential company. But in a dynamic industry that is seeing growth, experienced and reliable developers with a good track record of work are still in demand. Pierce may have the right idea after all.