The new studio will be called Zynga Dallas. The company’s three founders — David Rippy, Bill Jackson and Scott Winsett — started the company in November, 2008, after Microsoft shut down Ensemble Studios, the legendary maker of the Age of Empire games.
Dismantling Ensemble Studios was likely one of the more foolish things Microsoft has done. But it has led to opportunity for new startups.Another studio founded by Ensemble veterans, Robot Entertainment, is making Age of Empires Online for Microsoft. But Bonfire Studios went its own way. The company hasn’t yet published a Facebook game, but given Zynga’s heritage, it’s a safe bet that it will do so. Rippy will serve as general manager of Zynga Dallas; Jackson will be its creative director, and Winsett will be senior art director.
Like Zynga’s chief game designer, Brian Reynolds (who will speak at our DiscoveryBeat 2010 conference) , who made the Civilization games before joining Zynga, these game veterans have impressive resumes. Rippy was lead producer of Ensemble’s Age of Empires 3, Age of Mythology and various prototypes for games. Jackson had been a programmer and producer at Ensemble since 2000, working on titles such as Halo Wars. And Winsett served as art lead on Age of Empires, The Rise of Rome expansion pack, Age of Empires 2, and The Conquerors expansion pack. The trio funded their own startup. Zynga declined to say how many employees Bonfire has.
Zynga makes simple Facebook games such as FarmVille. It has often been criticized for copying other games, but the company has more than 1,200 employees — including 600 engineers — and it is investing heavily in the talent to make quality games.