Zynga employees wait for their next turn

Hundreds of Zynga employees are looking for new jobs today.  The social gaming company behind FarmVille and Draw Something is letting go of 18 percent of its staff to cut costs.

It’s the latest round of high profile layoffs in an industry that’s not exactly known for job security, but that doesn’t mean all those ex-Zynga developers will be carrying their pink slips around for long.

Zynga says more than 240 million people play its web games every month, but its CEO says cell phones are changing everything.  Now, mobile is where the money is. To make the jump Zynga is downsizing, but its troubles won’t seal the fate of the game developers it’s cutting loose.

“You shouldn’t look at Zynga and just be like, 'Oh hey, if you get into the video game industry, you are doomed',” says Kris Graft, editor-in-chief of the gaming industry trade website Gamasutra.com. “The upside is that when a company breaks down, it kind of just blasts the seeds of its talent all over the place."

Graft says gaming might still be short on job security, but it’s one of the fastest growing tech industries.  So there are a lot of opportunities. Developers do need to be ready to move around.

“It’s just part of the sort of DNA of the sector,” says Tim Loew, Director of the Massachusetts Digital Games Institute. “So folks who go into it have an understanding that they may work for one company in San Francisco, then a year or two later maybe they’re working for a company in Seattle.”

Loew says when there’s a big round of layoffs like Zynga’s, some workers start their own companies, and others get hired by competitors. When former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s video game company 38-Studios shut down last year, four of its engineers were snatched up by Subatomic Studios in the Boston area.

People in the industry are really awesome people, and we always all try to help each other out when things like this happen," says Subatomic co-founder Jamie Gotch. "It’s just because of the way things constantly are changing there’s always a need for very talented people."

Gotch expects the gaming industry to stabilize within a few years.  In the meantime, he says Subatomic is hiring.

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