News that hundreds of Zynga employees were laid off broke in an unlikely place: Twitter.

At 1:53 pm Eastern, Justin Maxwell, a former designer at Apple, tweeted that the social game services company behind popular games like Farmville and Mafia Wars had laid off employees at its Austin location.

“Zynga just laid off 100+ employees (incl. my friends) in its Austin office during the Apple Event. Gave them 2 hours to vacate. RT please,” he wrote.

The alleged layoffs have been confirmed several times over. Gamasutra claims that a first-hand source has confirmed the reports. The Daily Dot also verified the layoffs with a source who preferred to remain anonymous.

It was the tweet read ‘round the world. As of this writing, Maxwell’s breaking news announcement has been retweeted close to 4,000 times in a span of two hours, the same amount of time the former Zynga employees were given to clear out their desks.

At least one reporter is alleging that Zynga purposefully laid off people at the same time that Apple announced a slew of new products to avoid the press. That statement is, of course, pure speculation but the fact that Zynga has yet to make a public announcement does lend some credence to it.

If this is really the case, then Zynga’s strategy failed massively. According to Topsy, a social analytics site, mentions of the company have skyrocketed in the last two hours.

UPDATE: A memo to employees from Zynga CEO Mark Pincus reveals the extent of the layoffs. 

We are sunsetting 13 older games and we’re also significantly reducing our investment in The Ville.

We are closing the Zynga Boston studio and proposing closures of the Zynga Japan and UK studios.  Additionally, we are reducing staffing levels in our Austin studio.  All of these represent terrific entrepreneurial teams, which make this decision so difficult.

In all, we will unfortunately be parting ways with approximately 5% of our full time workforce.  We don’t take these decisions lightly as we recognize the impact to our colleagues and friends who have been on this journey with us.  We appreciate their amazing contributions and will miss them.

Pincus is expected to discuss the news in Zynga's third quarter earnings call, scheduled for Wednesday. 

Photo via Zynga/Facebook