David Rippy ’90 is an expert at mixing work with play. As general manager at Zynga’s Dallas branch, Rippy has been at the forefront of social gaming—and witnessed its evolution from a pastime to a cultural phenomenon that defines a generation.
Zynga Inc., the world’s leading provider of social game services, has a mission to connect the world through games. They’ve done this through the release of popular games like CityVille, Draw Something, FarmVille, CastleVille, Words With Friends and Empires & Allies, which have unveiled on Facebook, Zynga.com, Google+, Apple iOS and Google Android platforms.
Rippy’s history with the gaming market began as a founding employee of the company Ensemble Studios, which created strategy games for the PC and Xbox 360. Later as co-founder and CEO of the company Bonfire Studios, Rippy led teams in designing successful games for the iPhone/iPad and Windows platforms. Bonfire’s achievements scored the notice of Zynga, which acquired the company in 2010.
At Zynga, Rippy is now involved in new product development, studio culture and financial management.
Foundation: During your time at Texas A&M, what prompted your interest in the social gaming market?
Rippy: Social gaming as we know it didn’t exist while I was at A&M, but I’ve been a gamer since I was a kid. I spent most of my time in high school programming computer applications and games, hoping I’d one day land a job doing what I loved. My time at A&M really helped round out my programming skills and gave me a strong foundation in business.
Foundation: How has the Zynga Dallas location added to the overall success of Zynga?
Rippy: Zynga Dallas is focused on bringing new games to the market. The first game we launched was CastleVille on Facebook, and it was a huge hit. About 30 million people were playing per month. We’re helping Zynga operate on a different scale and reach a much broader audience than the gaming industry has experienced before.
Foundation: What are Zynga’s three most popular games?
Rippy: On Facebook, the biggest games are FarmVille, CastleVille and CityVille. On mobile platforms, the biggest franchise is Words With Friends.
Foundation: What makes CastleVille a fan favorite?
Rippy: For one, the artwork in the game is beautiful. I know people that keep CastleVille running on their PC just to enjoy it as a screen saver and to listen to the music. Players also love the characters in the story and are driven to keep playing to find out what happens next in the storyline. Last, it’s a nice way for people to stay connected with their friends and family around the world!
Foundation: What does the process of developing a new game involve?
Rippy: We’ve always believed that the best ideas can come from anyone, so everyone in the studio is encouraged to speak up with their own game ideas. Once we have a seed of an idea that sounds promising, we’ll assign a small group to create a prototype of the game to discover the fun elements of the design. If the prototype turns out to be fun, we’ll fund it with a full team. A lot of our games have started out with someone saying, “Wouldn’t it be cool if we made a game that…”
Foundation: How long is a game typically in development stages before it is up and running for users?
Rippy: Most games on the Facebook platform take between six and 12 months to develop. Mobile titles are less intensive and can typically be completed in a four to eight month cycle.
Foundation: What is on the horizon for Zynga?
Rippy: The big growth area for Zynga in the future will be on mobile and tablet devices. We’re investing heavily in games for these, as well as our own gaming platform, Zynga.com.
While at Texas A&M, Rippy received the Patrick D. Mahoney scholarship for leadership in the field of business analysis and was involved in the Data Processing Management Association. He currently lives in Allen, Texas, with his wife Kama ’95 and their six children.
By Dunae Crenwelge ’14
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