Looked at in a vacuum, the Zynga layoffs may seem like just another game developer having standard game developer trouble, similar to the layoffs that Bioware, Blizzard, Rockstar, Midway, and countless other developers have had over the years.

But there are some subtle differences.  This is the second round of layoffs (at least) for Zynga.  EA has reportedly experienced some caution as well, and may have reduced investment in Playfish (no, I don’t have any insight on that side of EA).  Playfish was #3 behind Zynga.  #2 was Playdom, which reportedly has also undergone some stress in the same round of self-evaluation that resulted in Raph Koster leaving and Junction Point shutting down.

All this despite the fact that Facebook reports that game revenues have actually increased significantly.  It’s clear that, somehow, Facebook gaming is in a state of heavy change.  Whether or not it is currently in a state of transition, or whether we’ll discover that Facebook gaming was really a fad, remains to be seen.  One hopes that if it does become revitalized, it will center on sustainable business models and fun game design rather than figuring out how to monetize .02% of 10 million people.

Which is to say, I often wonder how Facebook would have evolved as a game platform if Zynga hadn’t been the first 700 pound gorilla out of the gate.