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Zynga closes Timonium video game studio in broader consolidation

Gaming IndustryZynga Inc.Media IndustryGamingFarmVille

Zynga, the video game maker best known for FarmVille and Words With Friends, has closed its Timonium office as part of a broader corporate consolidation, company officials said Monday.

The company also made changes at three other offices, closing and consolidating some in Texas and New York. The company did not say how many jobs were being cut, but said that the moves affected about 1 percent of its work force of more than 3,000. About half of those in the Timonium office were relocated.

The decision is another blow to Baltimore County's community of video game developers, after Big Huge Games shuttered and auctioned its assets last May. Stiff competition and shifting video game platforms have challenged game makers like Zynga, which cut 155 positions across the company late last year as it posted a $209 million annual loss, according to corporate filings.

"In an effort to leverage resources as we focus on creating franchises and driving profitability, we are consolidating three of our offices," wrote David Ko, Zynga's chief operations officer, in a post on a company blog. "Whenever we make changes like this, we have to make some tough decisions around products, teams and people."

Zynga's shares rose 24 cents to close at $3.43 on Monday.

The Zynga studio in Timonium, dubbed Zynga East, opened in 2009. Brian Reynolds, a local game developer with more than two decades' experience after co-founding Big Huge Games and Firaxis Games, led the studio until he left Feb. 1.

Zynga officials would not say how many employees worked there, but added that they were able to accommodate all workers who requested to be transferred to positions at the company's other offices. Zynga is based in San Francisco, with several other offices in Silicon Valley and Southern California, Texas, Syracuse, N.Y., Eugene, Ore., and Seattle, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Among the studio's products was FrontierVille, a Western-themed follow-up to the popular Facebook game FarmVille, as well as Pioneer Trail and CityVille 2. It worked first out of a studio on Deereco Road in Timonium before moving to another space on York Road near Ridgely Road, Reynolds said.

While San Francisco-based Zynga got its start in social media-based games like FarmVille, games playable on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets are growing increasingly important as gamers shift their focus. Such evolution is common in the industry, Reynolds said.

"That's always a challenge when you're in this industry, and you kind of realize that's what you're going to be dealing with," said Reynolds, who is planning to launch a new game studio of his own later this year.

Such turnover has been common in the local video game industry, which started with studio MicroProse before veterans went on to companies like Firaxis, BreakAway and Day 1 Studios, said Fronda Cohen, a spokeswoman for Baltimore County economic development officials. Dan Gundersen, executive director of the county's economic development department, could not be reached for comment.

Reynolds said he is in the process of gathering investors for his next project, which is in the early stages and doesn't have a name yet.

An earlier version of this article misstated the number of employees affected.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Gaming IndustryZynga Inc.Media IndustryGamingFarmVille
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