Did Zynga Use Apple Event to Fire Employees Under the Radar?

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While the financial world was busy watching the highly anticipated Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) event in San Jose, one struggling company took the opportunity to announce a round of layoffs.

Zynga (NASDAQ:ZNGA), the social-gaming company behind hits such as FarmVille, apparently used Apple as cover to cut more than 100 people from payroll. Ian Miles Cheong, games journalist and editor-in-chief at Gameranx.com, tweeted out moments ago, “Zynga just fired over a hundred people, giving them two hours to clear out their desks. They did it during the Apple keynote to avoid press.”

The claim was verified by Gamasutra, a website that focuses on video game development. According to the site, there are at least 100 employees out of work at Zynga’s Austin development studio, but it is unclear if the studio has been shutdown completely. Zynga’s entire Boston studio may also be shutdown, with similar bad news in Chicago.

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Gamasutra explains, “The announcements came during Apple’s press conference this morning. Zynga Austin’s game The Ville and a new IP are both ‘done,’ according to an affected employee speaking to Gamasutra anonymously. Consumer video game blog Joystiq reports that its sources say that the studio’s Zynga Bingo team is gone as well.”

It was been a rough year for Zynga on all fronts. In early October, the company negatively pre-announced third quarter earnings, which will be officially released Wednesday after the market close. Zynga expects revenue between $300-305 million, well below estimates. Mark Pincus, chief executive officer, also hinted at layoffs by sending out a letter that read, “We’re addressing these near-term challenges by targeted cost reductions and focusing our new game pipeline to reflect our strategic priorities.”

Shares of Zynga have plunged more than 70 percent this year, placing it among other Internet losers such as Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN) and Angie’s List (NASDAQ:ANGI).

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