Zynga hires Ricardo Quesada, Cocos2D Lead Developer

On May 9, 2011, in cocos2d, by Steffen Itterheim

This is hot off the press. According to Gamesbeat, Zynga has hired Ricardo Quesada (lead developer of cocos2d-iphone) and bought “certain assets of Sapus Media”. An official blog post by Zynga validates this news.

The community site cocos2d-iphone.org will continue to be run independently. Cocos2D users are discussing the move in a thread called “cocos2d is now Zynga’s?” on the cocos2d-iphone.org forum.

Apparently the deal includes a relocation of Ricardo from Argentina to San Francisco, according to Reuters: “Under the agreement, the developers, Ricardo Quesada from Argentina, and Rolando Abarca from Chile, will work at Zynga’s San Francisco office.”

The first response from Ricardo does not add anything to the news.

Cocos2D will remain free IMHO

I don’t expect a commercial version of cocos2d-iphone to appear considering that cocos2d-iphone grew mainly because it was free and open source, and also considering that Zynga is a game developer, not a game engine company. It does not make sense to assume Zynga wants to make money off the engine, that’s not the market they are active in.

I doubt that the “little money” you can make with game engines plays any role in the decision for Zynga, whose games are significantly more profitable than any commercial game engine, or possibly all of them combined.

The wording in Zynga’s official blog post leaves little doubt that cocos2d-iphone will see no change except that the developers are now being paid by Zynga to work on the engine. Whether we’ll see all of the future developments to be published with the open source version however is a valid question.

Better tools?

Hopefully we’ll see better support for 3rd party tools, or just as good: really awesome 1st party tools. I think that the latter is hinted at in the blog post, where it says “Ricardo and Rolando focused on developing professional tools for mobile game developers”.

I haven’t seen any of those professional tools yet, and the statement is not referring to the Cocos2D engine itself. If they mean the Sapus Media products however, then that could simply be a regular marketing overstatement. I don’t think they meant the Sapus Media products though, they’re not what developers would consider to be “tools” per se.

Ricardo said over half a year ago that the Mac OS X port will allow him to work on a “cocos2d world editor”. Although that’s the last we heard of it, I’m sure it has been in development, and could possibly have already been in use by Zynga or it’s development sponsored by Zynga. That is speculation but I wouldn’t be surprised if either or both of that were true.

However, in the Reuters report Zynga’s Chief Technology Officer Cadir Lee said that “We will be paying them to continue to develop the platform, as well as work on tools for Zynga, to make sure we can leverage the (platform) in the best way possible”.

This does raise the question whether the tools developed will remain Zynga’s in-house tools and won’t be released to the public. After all, it would be in Zynga’s interest not to give other competing game developers targeting the iOS mobile platform and using cocos2d, like ngmoco or Atari, the same tools for free.

Trademark Ownership?

Cocos2D is a registered trademark in the USA. Thus far, other developers have been allowed to create open source game engines based on Cocos2D’s design philosophy to use the Cocos2D name in their projects, but only if the project is and remains free and open source. The question here is if Zynga now owns the trademark and whether this policy will change.

Congratulations, I guess

I think Congratulations are in order for Ricardo’s personal and professional future. Working for a big company like Zynga will surely provide lots of new and positive experiences, and hopefully as little negative ones as is possible for someone who used to work on his own terms.

For the cocos2d engine and community as a whole, I’m not going to congratulate just yet. I first like to have an idea what this acquisition brings about for the Cocos2D users and supporters. I worry that future developments of Cocos2D will be geared towards Zynga’s requirements, which may not align with what the Cocos2D users want or need. Or a significant portion of the work might remain proprietary, leaving Cocos2D to be supported as a “after-work-hours” open-source project with correspondingly slow progress.

What about you?

What changes this move will bring remains to be seen. What do you expect, worry and hope?

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8 Responses to “Zynga hires Ricardo Quesada, Cocos2D Lead Developer”

  1. dany says:

    i think is a good thing….now riq has a continuos support not depending completely on cocos2d business (that i know for sure is not as good as someone can hope)

    • I am sure the acquisition will be positive for Ricardo personally.

      His business surely would have been better with better marketing (there was basically none, not even trying to find the optimal pricing) and, to be honest and frank, better products.

      Source code for a 3 year old game whose gameplay was never “hot” on the App Store won’t sell too well, even coming from Ricardo. Over time, the necessity to buy that source code project to learn Cocos2D and receive a good starting point for a larger project has diminished, with plenty of Tutorials and great books (hint, hint) being published.

      I assume Level SVG to have sold considerably worse though, since the workflow with Inkscape seems tacked on and doesn’t provide the convenience of a “true” game editor. The product page generally does a terrible job at convincing me to buy, let alone to explain the benefits of the product.

      I said it before, any kind of financial problems regarding SapusMedia are self-made and could have been easily improved. Lots of suggestions from the community were made, however none were implemented (as far as I can tell). I would love to say I’m doing a much better job selling my Starterkit, but I’m not, I could do a lot more myself but I’m currently happy the way it is – it brings in over 50% of what I need to feel and be financially “comfortable”.

      If you look at the iPhone RPG Kit, that’s a product that does great marketing and clearly let’s you know the value you get in return for your $$$. That’s how products are sold, it’s applied marketing 101.

      • dany says:

        yes….it is completely true….riq suck at marketing stuff…..but he is a NICE coder, and we can see it just looking cocos2d code…..

        I hope and I think that cocos2d will not die, just because riq work for Zynga, I think that maybe he will work on engine 80-90% (maybe more than now, because he is concerned also on other stuff) and supervisor some developers to do games for Zynga….

  2. Bivis Games says:

    I hope it brings better and better tools to all of us, iOS developers… Good luck to Ricardo!

    • Let’s assume Ricardo is developing an awesome tool for Cocos2D in his job for Zynga. Do you expect Zynga to voluntarily give this tool and thus a technological advantage away to all their potential competitors? Not going to happen. Not even if they’re nice people: the investors won’t allow it. Too much money is at stake.

  3. […] I assume you’ve heard the news: Zynga hired the cocos2d-iphone lead developer, Ricardo Quesada. […]

  4. […] the case of Cocos2D, this happened last summer when Zynga hired Ricardo Quesada, the project’s lead developer, leaving the project’s future direction […]