One reason people love to hate Zynga is the approach Zynga has taken to becoming so successful: The Microsoft approach.
Specifically: Copy a competitor's product, then crush the competitor.
Bill Gates did not grow Microsoft into an global giant by purely innovating or creating completely new products. Instead, he identified successful products, duplicated them, and used Microsoft's superior positioning and power to crush the existing competition.
For instance, Microsoft's Windows banished the Macintosh to years of relative obscurity; Internet Explorer killed off Netscape; Excel walloped Lotus, and Word replaced WordPerfect as the gold standard in word-processing.
Similarly, to grow his company, Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus has applied this model to the social gaming industry.
One way Zynga creates huge hits is by identifying popular games from other studios, creating a near replica, and then beating the original with a bigger marketing budget.
As with Microsoft, this strategy has made Zynga unpopular. The company has already paid one seven-figure settlement, and is mired in a slew of ongoing lawsuits.
But unpopularity -- and even perpetual legal battling -- may be problems Zynga is happy to put up with. As Microsoft has demonstrated, the strategy works.
Until his recent displays of philanthropic munificence, Bill Gates was never a beloved figure -- not the way Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison were. But you never caught his shareholders complaining.
So far, Mark Pincus and Zynga appear to be making that same trade-off.
i wonder how sustainable this is for a social game. unlike MSFT, zynga does not own the platform. switching costs are really low from one social game to the next. does zynga need to own any platform? perhaps their platform is the toolbar they put into all games to cross-pollinate?