I assume you’ve heard the news: Zynga hired the cocos2d-iphone lead developer, Ricardo Quesada.
I’d like to try and shed some lights on the open questions that arose. Of course this is my opinion and speculative, so take it with a grain of salt.
What does “acquisition of certain assets of Sapus Media” mean?
Sapus Media products have been bought by Zynga.
These products may be gone for good, or they may be released for free as a concession to the Cocos2D community.
Why did Zynga buy these products?
It’s the cash carrot of the deal. Generally you can expect to receive somewhere around 2 years worth of revenue from a software product as buyout price. Whether Zynga wants or uses the products is irrelevant. It’s the price they paid in order to hire Ricardo and Rolando.
It’s common to bring in new employees by acquiring their legal assets. This keeps the new employees focused on the company’s interests rather than their own, and they no longer have to spend time maintaining and supporting their products. After all, they should focus all their efforts on their new job.
It’s also insurance for the company. By removing in the buy-out what once provided the daily income, the new employees are less likely to leave and more loyal to the company.
Did Zynga also acquire cocos2d-iphone?
I don’t think so.
The cocos2d-iphone engine is a product of Sapus Media. It may be a free and open source project, but legally speaking it has always been an asset of Sapus Media. This means that the copyright of all the cocos2d-iphone.org source code originating from Ricardo or Rolando could have been transferred to Zynga if it was part of the acquisition.
But I think it’s more likely that cocos2d-iphone was merely separated (legally speaking) from SapusMedia, making it an independent project which is owned by those who contributed to it.
The fact that you can still donate to cocos2d-iphone seems to validate this. If cocos2d-iphone were entirely Zynga’s now, I’d expect the donate button to have been removed as well. It would be bad PR for Zynga to take donations from the community for a project that they own.
Why can we still donate to cocos2d-iphone?
Likely to cover running costs.
Zynga did not acquire the cocos2d-iphone.org website and its assets (eg the website design, technology and content). That means donations don’t go to Zynga, and may be used to cover the website’s running costs.
It might also mean that it’s an incentive to keep working on the cocos2d-iphone project, like so many other open source project’s donate buttons.
Whether donations are even necessary, and how much money is needed, we don’t know. Unless there’s more transparency regarding expenses I wouldn’t feel comfortable donating at this point.
By the way, if I haven’t mentioned this in the Podcast I wanted to let you know that one of the new book chapters added to the second edition of my Cocos2D book will be introducing three of the new tools that came out after the first edition of Learn Cocos2D was written. Namely those will be TexturePacker, Glyph Designer and PhysicsEditor.
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.
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.
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.
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?
Today, after several delays I finally got around to start updating the Learn Cocos2D book to its second edition. The second edition is due to be published in summer, likely in July/August.
I decided I’ll easy myself into it and start by updating the first chapter. There’s no code and relatively little to change. The biggest addition here is the list of popular Cocos2D game engines I wanted to add. Here’s a screenshot of the comparison table I added:
Note: the link to cocos2d should have been http://www.cocos2d.org
The list doesn’t include all of the cocos2d ports, just those that are mature, stable and relatively up-to-date. I also completely removed the paragraph about Section 3.3.1 because that topic fortunately is no longer an issue.
Next I started to go through all of the 108 erratas that were posted on the Apress site. If you’re interested, here’s the errata list as xlsx or as csv file with emails and names of reporters removed.
I knew that there were duplicates but I didn’t expect over 50% of the errata to focus on only two things: the mixed up images 3-1 and 3-2 was by far the most often reported errata. Following that were two packs of spider variables either not being declared or not being initialized in chapter 4. Those led to compile errors in one case and non-dropping spiders in the other – if you were typing in the code straight from the book.
After I had removed all duplicates I was left with 28 unique and usable errata items that I’m going to look into, and 14 of those I was able to fix today.
Once I’m done with those I’ll be going through the painstaking process of updating no less than 72 Xcode projects from cocos2d v0.99.3 to v0.99.5 to cocos2d v1.0. Or maybe I’ll just wait a couple more days for the final v1.0.
Although built with Cocos2D the tilemaps created with iTileMaps can be used with any game engine that supports loading the TMX format. To get ahold of the tilemaps created with iTileMaps you can export them directly to your game or send them via e-mail. Great for designing levels on the road!
Check out this fast-forward movie to see it in action:
I’ve been told that some of you won’t be able to purchase the Line-Drawing Starterkit during the 50% Easter Bunny special sales period if it ends as planned on April 27th (today). I extended the 50% off coupon code event during Easter until May 3rd, so that you’ve had time to cash in your paycheck and/or return from your Easter holiday vacation.
Check the Line-Drawing Starterkit product page for the coupon code. It’s (almost) impossible to miss.
Seriously, what kind of game developer are you if you’re going on a holiday vacation? For a whole week! Aren’t you supposed to be working yourself to death trying to finish that Quadruple-A game in time for Xmas? And this year you’re really, really going to finish it – not like the previous two years? It says so in your contract.
Sheesh, the kids these days. No idea what working hard means …
It’s Easter weekend so why not have another coupon code event?
You’ll get 50% off ($59.50 USD instead of $119 USD) on my Line-Drawing Game Starterkit when you enter this Coupon Code during purchase:
This coupon code is valid until Wednesday, April 27th. Not sure about the exact time, since this is a Plimus setting I’m guessing US Central Time plus or minus 3 hours. Feel free to share the code.