MediaFile

The whole world is going to play together: Zynga founder

“Do you want to play Atari?”

Mark Pincus is sharing an inscription from his high school yearbook with a roomful of journalists at his company Zynga’s San Francisco headquarters.

The purpose of this event, called Zynga Unleashed, is to reveal the roadmap of one of Silicon Valley’s fastest growing companies – but right now Pincus is looking back.

“I spent my youth trying to get everyone around me to play games,” he continues. “But somewhere between high school in my first job, games stopped happening. I think that video games were too complicated for the people around me and I couldn’t rationalize sitting and playing alone.”

The narrative Pincus is spinning omits a few twists and turns: the overseas stint, Harvard, the Washington years and the failed social network. He jumps right into the chip factory, five blocks down the road, where his multibillion dollar gaming company got its start five years ago.

“I set out with a small group of people to make gaming free, social and accessible. And something that would bring my friends and family back to play,” he relates, pressing a clicker that keeps the slides moving.

More Bets on Virtual Casinos: Big Fish scoops up Card Ace

Casinos are the hottest real estate in today’s heady world of social gaming.

From Zynga to Caesars, deep-pocketed companies are increasingly looking to get a piece of the action.  On Tuesday, Seattle-based Big Fish Games staked its claim, acquiring the maker of one of the most popular social casino games, Card Ace: Casino.

The deal, gives Big Fish a seat at the table of the fast-growing social casino market, where consumers connect with other players in real-time using their smartphones, tablets and PCs to play poker, blackjack, roulette and other felt-table classics. The parties are not disclosing the price of the acquisition.

The games are just for fun – gamers can’t actually win any money. But the house still makes out OK, since many players choose to spend real money buying additional virtual chips to supplement the pile of free chips they’re given to start off.

from Paul Smalera:

The piracy of online privacy

Online privacy doesn’t exist. It was lost years ago. And not only was it taken, we’ve all already gotten used to it. Loss of privacy is a fundamental tradeoff at the very core of social networking. Our privacy has been taken in service of the social tools we so crave and suddenly cannot live without. If not for the piracy of privacy, Facebook wouldn’t exist. Nor would Twitter. Nor even would Gmail, Foursquare, Groupon, Zynga, etc.

And yet people keep fretting about losing what’s already gone. This week, like most others of the past decade, has brought fresh new outrages for privacy advocates. Google, which a few weeks ago changed its privacy policy to allow the company to share your personal data across as many as 60 of its products, was again castigated this week for the changes. Except this time, the shouts came in the form of a lawsuit. The Electronic Privacy Information Center sued the FTC to compel it to block Google’s changes, saying they violated a privacy agreement Google signed less than a year ago.

Elsewhere, social photography app Path was caught storing users’ entire iPhone address books on their servers and have issued a red-faced apology. (The lesser-known app Hipster committed the same sin and also offered a mea culpa.) And Facebook’s IPO has brought fresh concerns that Mark Zuckerberg will find creative new ways to leverage user data into ever more desirable revenue-generating products.

Corporate co-dependence: when good partnerships go bad

One of the biggest surprises in Facebook’s IPO filing was that it depended on game-maker Zynga  for 12 percent of its sales last year.

In 2010, the online game company famous for “FarmVille” and “Words With Friends” nearly declared war with the social network over a change in Facebook’s policy involving credits — the currency Zynga players use to buy virtual goods. Facebook wanted to take a 30 percent cut of transactions.

Bing Gordon, a video game veteran, Zynga board member and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, described the standoff during the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in May as a Silicon Valley version of the Cuban Missile crisis, where Zynga was at one point prepared to walk away from Facebook.

Zynga’s Pincus fights back against copycat accusations

Mark Pincus, the CEO of Zynga, isn’t pleased with reports that Zynga is ripping off games from small developers so he is doing something about it–wielding his pen to write passionate manifestos to employees invoking Silicon Valley greats like Apple.

After a game developer accused Zynga of copying a game called “Tiny Tower”,  Pincus sent a 60-line memo to employees to make sure his flock knows Zynga has done nothing wrong, (the memo was leaked to the blog VentureBeat and later obtained by Reuters).

“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.”

Could Zynga gamble with friends?

Investors were salivating on Friday at the prospect of Zynga breaking into online gambling. The company said it is in “active conversations with potential partners” to try and figure out the market, which sent its shares up 7 percent.

Last month, the U.S. Justice Department declared that only online betting on sports is unlawful, setting the stage for some U.S. states to legalize online gambling.

Melissa Riahei, general counsel at the online gaming company, U.S. Digital gaming, said Zynga would not be able to enter the $35 billion online casino market on its own. If Internet gaming is legalized, Zynga would have to partner with an operator that could get a license for Internet gambling, like a casino, and have to figure out which states it can work in.

Tech wrap: Wikipedia, Google protest anti-piracy bill

The English homepage of Wikipedia went dark and Google’s search page ran the logo “Tell Congress: Please don’t censor the web!” in protest of legislation designed to stop copyright piracy but the free online encyclopedia says “could fatally damage the free and open Internet.” Big tech names including Facebook and Twitter declined to participate in protests of the House of Representatives’ Stop Online Piracy Act and the Senate’s PROTECT Intellectual Property Act, despite their opposition to the legislation, unwilling to sacrifice a day’s worth of revenue and risk the ire of users.

European regulators will decide around the end of March whether to file a formal complaint against Google for misuse of its market position, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters. Until this point officials had been playing down expectations of an early conclusion to the informal investigation stage, although there still could be a long way to go. Antitrust investigations typically take several years.

EBay’s fourth-quarter profit jumped as the e-commerce company saw solid growth in its online marketplaces and an increase in transactions processed through its PayPal electronic payments business. The operator of the world’s largest online marketplace reported fourth-quarter net income of $2 billion, or $1.51 a share, compared with $559 million, or 42 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 35 percent to $3.38 billion.

Tech wrap: Is RIM circling the drain?

A months-long delay in Research in Motion’s new BlackBerrys and a dreary quarterly report sent RIM shares tumbling again on Friday and pushed some analysts to sound the death knell for the mobile device that once defined the industry.

Zynga shares opened as much as 10 percent above their offer price on Friday but then rolled back below the IPO price, showing that investors were still concerned about its dependence on Facebook and its growth prospects and that demand for hot tech IPOs may be waning.

The news has not deterred the creators of “Angry Birds,” who are said to be considering a stock market flotation in Hong Kong.

Tech wrap: RIM under fire ahead of results

Research In Motion faced renewed calls for a change in its leadership on Thursday, hours ahead of the quarterly results that could fuel criticism over the BlackBerry maker’s poor performance and sagging share price.

Jaguar Financial, an activist shareholder that has asked the BlackBerry maker to sell itself in whole or parts, once again called on two of RIM’s independent directors to push for a separation of the roles of chairman and chief executive.

Bloomberg reports that Zynga updated its initial public offering filing to expand on the risks of losing its chief executive officer after Google Chairman Eric Schmidt called him a “a fearsome, strong negotiator.”

Tech wrap: Verizon feeds hunger for cable spectrum

Verizon Wireless plans to pay $3.6 billion for wireless airwaves from a venture of cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. Comcast said that the deal represented a 64 percent premium over the $2.2 billion price the cable consortium paid in 2006 for the wireless spectrum being sold to Verizon Wireless.

U.S. Representative Edward Markey asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether software maker Carrier IQ violated millions of mobile phone users’ privacy rights. Carrier IQ makes software that companies including AT&T and Sprint install in mobile devices. It runs in the background, transmitting data that the software maker says its customer companies use to better understand their devices and networks.

Zynga, which plans to go public in two weeks, slashed its value by more than 30 percent to $9 billion, hoping to avoid the fate of other recent Internet IPOs that have disappointed after stock market debuts. Just two weeks ago a filing listed the Facebook game maker’s value, based on a third party assessment, at $14.05 billion. CEO Mark Pincus, a serial entrepreneur before he founded Zynga, will hold a class of shares with 70 times more voting power than the common stock that will be sold in the offering.