Zynga and the Rise of the New Gamer

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Ugh... The Wii was designed to capture the demographic of non-gamers and would-be gamers as well. Zynga is going after non-gamers on the PC which has the benefit of not needing to shell out 200$ for a Wii, and thus lowering the threshold of entry to... well nothing since most people(in the US and Europe) own a PC and have an internet connection. Its a step to rope people in but as we all know from the amount you rope in many will never go anywhere with it. Some will hunger for more, some will just plant crops for a time and lose interest.

I kind of wish that there was some other type of game for no-barrier entry. Farmville seems to be the only thing that has captured such an audience. It seems like a bit of a leap to go from it to say an easy RPG, or a fighting game. I suppose anything that makes people sees games are fun is nice and inevitably helps make my favorite hobby more mainstream and accepted.

Bigeyez:
I'm sorry, but the only reason Zynga is even a known name is Facebook. Without Facebook we wouldn't be talking about them right now. Without Facebook they would have 0 votes in March Mayhem. This isn't a case of passionate gamers rising up to vote for their game. This is the case of Zynga spamming all of Facebook for votes. This is NOT "the rise of a new gamer". This is a the rise of people who already spend hours looking at pictures on Facebook who decide to spend some time clicking stuff on a Facebook application. Zynga games are games the same way Reality TV is real.

I'm all for the Wii and companies like PopCap bringing the rise of GOOD casual gaming and introducing games to non gamers, but the last thing we need is to hold up a company to praise who steals peoples ideas, scams their own customers, and their only claim to success is being lucky and riding on the backs of the latest "it" social networking site.

Hear, hear!

Shamus is right in the sense that casual games are good for even hardcore gamers. They ensure the continuuation of the medium, and many are legitimately fun. Zynga, however, simply piggybacks on a site that will probably be dead in a few years, like myspace before it. When facebook or its various successors to-be die, and Zynga along with them, what will you be able to say about their contribution to the gaming as a form of expression?

Very little.

Twilight_guy:

I kind of wish that there was some other type of game for no-barrier entry. Farmville seems to be the only thing that has captured such an audience. It seems like a bit of a leap to go from it to say an easy RPG, or a fighting game. I suppose anything that makes people sees games are fun is nice and inevitably helps make my favorite hobby more mainstream and accepted.

Free games are plentiful on the internet, my friend. As many people on the thread have said, try PopCap, Armor Games, etc.

I don't think this is all so spot on accurate...
If I want to take on a new hobby only 2 roads come to my mind:

1- I ask a friend that does the activity in the first place if he/she can teach me.
2- I pay a professional to do it.

Both of them are basically "go find someone to teach me".
I don't know why gaming should be different. Everybody always try to say how games are the new medium to entertain and/or tell a story, the new books the new movies, etc. Do you expect to learn how to read only by buying a book?. But Im not saying it is impossible because the analogy stops working being that nobody has to be taught how to see a movie (except those people that though the train was REALLY going through the screen).

Another thing, unless you are a really impulsive person you wont buy all the things before having a clue that you might get the hang of it, maybe renting a surf board and having some classes before buying the board and expecting it to teach you how to use it.

Also games do go a long way to teach you how to play, the fact that there is a tutorial and a difficulty curve proves it. And if you have two brain cells to rub together but don't know what R3 is, you try every button and if that doesn't work you go check a manual, and if that doesn't work you ask somebody, and if that doesn't work you go look online (and the people that uses farm-ville knows how to google, hell my mom knows how to google and she can't even access her facebook account).

The information is there and not everybody that knows it now was carried by the hand THE WHOLE WAY, at the most they got themselves to ask for help.

People that play farmville want to play farmville, they are not sitting there moaping wishing they knew what to do when that tutorial tells the to crawl under the pipe...

jmoore4ska:

Twilight_guy:

I kind of wish that there was some other type of game for no-barrier entry. Farmville seems to be the only thing that has captured such an audience. It seems like a bit of a leap to go from it to say an easy RPG, or a fighting game. I suppose anything that makes people sees games are fun is nice and inevitably helps make my favorite hobby more mainstream and accepted.

Free games are plentiful on the internet, my friend. As many people on the thread have said, try PopCap, Armor Games, etc.

There are lots of free games yes, but not as many with players numbered in the millions. Many people will play Farmville because it is a giant but will not see other such free games and thus have limited access to the breath of gaming.

MasterSplinter:

Also games do go a long way to teach you how to play, the fact that there is a tutorial of a difficulty curve proves it. And if you have two brain cells to rub together but don't know what R3 is, you try every button and if that doesn't work you go check a manual, and if that doesn't work you ask somebody, and if that doesn't work you go look online (and the people that uses farm-ville knows how to google, hell my mom knows how to google and she can't even access her facebook account).

The information is there and not everybody that knows it now was carried by the hand THE WHOLE WAY, at the most they got themselves to ask for help.

People that play farmville want to play farmville, they are not sitting there moaping wishing they knew what to do when that tutorial tells the to crawl under the pipe...

This reminds me of a story i heard about Mass Effect 2. Apparently some bioware forumite's parent was interested in playing, but gave up because neither the tutorial or the manual explained that you use the WASD to move Sheperd. Every gamer just assumes this is common knowledge, haha. Of course, if he had asked his gamer son, like i'd wager you'd suggest, i bet he would have had a great time.

And yeah, i would like to see how many people have been enticed by Farmville into joining the greater gaming community in earnest. If anything, i would think trying out more games would only convince them to stick to Farmville in order to avoid the difficulty.

jmoore4ska:

DMac the Knife:

jmoore4ska:
Also, to reiterate: Zynga isn't popular because it is accessible. There are plenty of flash game developers who design good, simple, and entertaining free games. Zynga is just well known because it is on facebook and shamelessly spams the notifications and newsfeed of anyone who is friends with a player. If PopCap made a Facebook game, then made sure that it showed up in your feed 25 times a day or more, i'm sure they would get a lot of attention, at the expense of their integrity.

It is time for people to learn the basics of FB. You can hide all of the annoying newsfeeds for all of the stupid flash games on FB without hiding your friends' real posts. If it wasn't for this ability I would have given up FB shortly after creating my account.

I know the whole deal, but that isn't the point. You shouldn't HAVE to learn anything about FB to stop from being spammed. Nobody likes it. FB has the power to stop it, but does not. It isn't about being ABLE to stop it; it's the fact that there's something you need to stop in the first place.

Fair enough.

Twilight_guy:
[quote="jmoore4ska" post="6.185160.5592199"]
There are lots of free games yes, but not as many with players numbered in the millions. Many people will play Farmville because it is a giant but will not see other such free games and thus have limited access to the breath of gaming.

I'm posting too much. Oh well. What i meant was that there are definitely alternatives without a prohibitive price or difficulty barrier, if only the Zynga-ers would look.

I realize now that you know about them, but somebody has to tell our Farmville-ing friends that they're options aren't as limited as they might think.

As one who have "played" some of the Zynga games, and tried to follow their forums a bit:
The only thing Zynga did was to steal someone else's idea, make the art more cartoony, then put it out on Facebook. For some reason they got more users than the games they stole from. Not sure why.

Anyway, most of the users of Zynga's poorly drawn spreadsheets doesn't care about Zynga at all. Heck, most of them have no idea how to spell Zynga. I'd say 90% of their users have no idea how a forum works. 90% of those who do cannot spell worth shit, which indicates to me that they are stupid. Reading Zynga's forums are painful, at least when you are used to the forums here at The Escapist.

All the users ever do are complaining about bugs and errors that should be fixed (which probably never will be fixed), ask for new things they could put in the "game" (which is stupid since most of their "games" are still in beta), or they try feverishly to get more neighbours in order to get new things. It's all a frikkin' pyramid scheme.

I have to give it to Zynga, they are pretty clever when they say their "games" are in Beta all the time. Those who play their "games" have no idea what a beta-version really is, so when Zynga say that "Oh, you cannot get your money back even though you didn't get your black barn. The game is in beta you see, so these things happen" the users think it is normal.

I despise Zynga for what they are, and I hope they lose against Valve. I also hope they will be torn to shreds by their voting fans when said fans realize that Zynga ain't gonna give them shit for voting.
(But knowing Zynga I am sure they are going to actually give them something to commemorate the "struggle" to become the best developer... it will be on sale for five bucks in all their game-stores)

If I want to play something casual I'd rather play eRepublik. A game where you can actually learn something.

I get the feeling that all Zynga has done is open up a new market and not made new gamers. The people who play Farmvill are not likely to ever get into modern games, for the same reasons you cite and they are not likely to call themselves gamers.
My observations are from personal experance (the worst kind of evidence) so I could be wrong, but thats how I see it.

Shamus Young:

JordanMillward_1:
You do realise that Farm Ville is totally ripped off from Farm Town, right?

Same with Mafia Wars and Mob Wars?

Jeez, wish the Escapist would hire some writers who actually knew the background of whatever they were talking about.

I didn't mention it because it wasn't important to the point I was making.

I suppose Zynga being crooked was as well?
They trick consumers to get money, that would be as much a part of their success as targeting non-gamers.

EDIT: This is a big part of why I dislike Zynga, it seems to me that they view games as a way to make money, rather than something people enjoy.

Jaqen Hghar:

If I want to play something casual I'd rather play eRepublik. A game where you can actually learn something.

Heck, or any of the Sims. At least the sims doesn't make you follow its own schedule; you can play at your leisure, unlike the Zynga herd, or *shudder* Evony.

Still doesn't explain what they are doing on a GAMING WEBSITE, though. If this was a contest for best Application, sure, more power to them. But how can you defend them against real gaming devs, with real gamers voting for them?

where pretty much all of the original members dislike them even being allowed in the contest, let alone allowed to mass thousands of people from facebook to vote. People who are not escpaists, should not vote for the Escapists favorite developer. These thousands of people will never even come back to this site.

It is becoming increasingly clear Zynga has money in this site. Only a matter of time before they are in the ad space.

ucciolord1:
A great and wholly true article.
I still don't like Zynga, though.

Same here. I cannot disgaree with anything that was said, its true, unfortunatly. But...I still deep inside dont want anything to do with em

jmoore4ska:

Heck, or any of the Sims. At least the sims doesn't make you follow its own schedule; you can play at your leisure, unlike the Zynga herd, or *shudder* Evony.

Ah, yeah. Evony. The only thing worse than Zynga.
That's one of the things I really hate about the "games" Zynga make. You have to visit and do stuff on them every day. Of course, you can always buy something which makes it easier for you to take a day or two off. For real money of course.

Despite the truth behind some of his words, I find Shamus's article to be a complete work of asshattery. Of course I'm nerdraging and whatnot, but honestly. Zynga makes half-assed flash chores that require you to open up time from your schedule to be able to have success with them. And for what? So you can have a nice looking garden? Or a mafia account with lots of money? Then what happens? You keep going till the next patch, which adds a new plant or two. Oh, that's wonderful, you decide to add +200 to your already filled-with-shit garden. Then you have somewhere to go. All your plants are dead. Your once fertile garden of bright plants is now a crashed pile of wasted time. You glance at your money amount. You don't want to click through all the plotted land just so you can have a fictional garden that looks decent, only to have it destroyed eventually.

But hey. You didn't spend any money.
You did, however, waste who-knows how much time.

You download Team Fortress 2, which is only $20 bucks for what all the reviewers have been saying. You roll as a scout, because you think a faster class will help you. You die after running into a sticky grenade. You get frustrated; how is that kind of thing fair? And how can a sniper hit someone moving so fast? You sigh and respawn. What a waste of $20 You ask players for help, just about all of whom are friendly and laid-back. You even get a joke or two out of them. You soon find yourself getting into the groove, weaving around obstacles by making use of your double jump and landing on top of unsuspecting Heavies, batting them to death with your Sandman. You pull out your double-barreled Force-A-Nature and remind the demoman why he has more health than you.

Twenty bucks spent, yes. Twenty bucks WELL spent.

I blame Zynga for openly defrauding their customers. I don't care what else they have done, that's inexcusable.

You raise a very interesting point Shamus. Well put.

Jaqen Hghar:

Ah, yeah. Evony. The only thing worse than Zynga.
That's one of the things I really hate about the "games" Zynga make. You have to visit and do stuff on them every day. Of course, you can always buy something which makes it easier for you to take a day or two off. For real money of course.

I have 2 roommates that play Evony daily. Together.

I like to think it wasn't the ads that drew them in, that they are better people than that. But then i realize that they'd still be playing evony, regardless, and i am disappoint.

Just as a point of fairness and order. Zynga are NOT the only FB/browser type game to be openly using dodgy tactics; and I'm sure Farmville is fun to play.

However, any routine psychological testing would show that Farmville can classify as a psychological addiction, where as great as Valve games maybe, they don't.

Next time you boot up Farmville, do you:

a) Set your mealtimes around Farmville?
b) Set your waking times around Farmville?
c) Sneak away to play Farmville?
d) Have ever played it to the point of illness?
e) Spent money that would have gone on food on Farmville.
f) Ever played it in the loo/bath?

Each of those is a sign of mental addiction. That's no longer a game.

If you haven't, then you're cool, keep playing - but the game is set up to try and instill Pavlovian responses in you.

And it has no bearing on intellect at all. As any smoker/drinker can tell you.

The_root_of_all_evil:
snip

The bad thing is that Farmville forces you to do most of these things in order to succeed in the game...

The_root_of_all_evil:
Just as a point of fairness and order. Zynga are NOT the only FB/browser type game to be openly using dodgy tactics; and I'm sure Farmville is fun to play.

However, any routine psychological testing would show that Farmville can classify as a psychological addiction, where as great as Valve games maybe, they don't.

Next time you boot up Farmville, do you:

a) Set your mealtimes around Farmville?
b) Set your waking times around Farmville?
c) Sneak away to play Farmville?
d) Have ever played it to the point of illness?
e) Spent money that would have gone on food on Farmville.
f) Ever played it in the loo/bath?

Each of those is a sign of mental addiction. That's no longer a game.

If you haven't, then you're cool, keep playing - but the game is set up to try and instill Pavlovian responses in you.

And it has no bearing on intellect at all. As any smoker/drinker can tell you.

I've friends exhibiting two signs that clearly point out to an addiction, no matter what angle you look at it. They spend real money and try to play Farmville where ever they go.

Back on the topic, I'd take fun anyday before graphics. I still enjoy DOOM 1, Co-op lan party. It's simply amazing how great the game remains and even with a HD revamp/OpenGL, it remains fun because it's core is just flawless.

Lately these games being pushed out by publishers and devolepers forced to bring out games rather quickly, we will keep seeing bugs and whatever problems that are correlated with the recent trends.

Gaming is a BUSINESS, the EA CEO isn't even a man that enjoys games, he's simply running a company to make profit. And you can say, my gamer spirit is constantly being assaulted by a pessimistic assault after another.

Shamus makes a good point but i have to disagree on one aspect, the potential for Farmville and Mafia Wars fans to evolve to other forms of gaming. The Zinga frenzy is a social phemnomenon driven by the fact that is promoted by a social-networking platform and by the people's tendency to act like sheep anytime they can. I know a girl who plays Farmville just beaucause all her friends on facebook do. This is not a good premise for the expansion of gaming to a broader audience it's a good premise for the continued succes of facebook.

As an avid gamer i've always tried to get more of my friends into gaming and often i've stumbled across "browser gamers" (mostly Travian fans) who just refuse to give chances to other stuff cause they're to much into whatever they are playing to acknowledge that other stuff is better (i.e. they think travian is better than total war series). So I wouldn't hold my breath on browser gamers going into mainstream gaming.

First, to answer your "title" question: Why do people enjoy these kind of games? Because, as sad as it is, on average people are... basic, to be kind. Look at how much utter garbage becomes a phenomenal success without any claim to quality of any kind. Of the top of my head: The Transformer movies, Twilight, The Harry Potter movies (not to be confused with the books, which are actually good - also not to be confused with Twilight which is utter crap in all it's iterations), 90% of pretty much anything on MTV, MW2... If we start looking into it, the list is nearly endless.

On average people are like magpies, they chase the shiny things... Even if the shiny thing is a glossy turd.

As to the point of your article: I can understand where you're coming from, but I can't disagree more.

Don't get me wrong, I'll always welcome things like tutorials and good level design that doesn't simply assume you've been playing all your life. Valve is a good example of BOTH sides. Portal is a great example of good game design, as you're slowly eased into gameplay to the point where, by the time you're in the really hard puzzles, they feel easy as everything just comes naturally to you. Portal is the kind of game where you don't even notice how far along you've came until you look back, which is good. On the other hand, TF2 is about as welcoming to newcomers as a frontal collision with a brick wall.

"Pick a class!"
"...what? why? What class? what do they do? W-"
"Shut up and pick one ffs..."
"... ok...this one..."
"Ok, now kill stuff!"
"...what? how? I j-"
"Too late. You're dead. You suck."

Tutorial levels, incremental difficulty and such... All good. The thing is, there's a line to be drawn between "making things welcoming" and "dumbing it down". Yes, gaming requires you to learn a little about computers or consoles. Yes, it involves a time and money investment before you can collect your "return"... Here's the thing: Anything worth having is worth fighting for.

Sure, skate boarding is hard. I did some in my time. I wasn't particularly good to be quite honest, but I knew a few tricks. I never did a 900, but I could do some basic tricks, and it was awesome. It took quite a considerable personal investment to learn the little I did, but here's the tricky part: I had to. Under your line of reasoning, I should have just stood on the board and gone straight. I mean, sure I would never do anything even mildly similar to pulling tricks, but then again, I wouldn't have to try either!

You don't get to enjoy the feeling of a killer solo without some years of practice. You don't get to enjoy flying, if temporarily, without several months, sometimes years, of painful practice. And you sure as hell can't expect to enjoy a masterpiece without at least knowing the most basic stuff of the medium it's in. It's like saying "Sure guys like Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway could write some interesting stuff... But you couldn't really enjoy it unless you knew how to read well. Some of their stuff is really hard to read... Perhaps they should have written it with simplified language so everyone could understand it. Like, fourth grader kind. Maybe do small comic books instead. Maybe Caesar could have been a 20 page comic? Simplified version for people who didn't understand the intricacies of the language so well...". Douglas Adams' works are very accessible, vocabulary wise, but if you can't read you won't understand a single page...

Sorry, if you want quality, you need to invest in it. Otherwise you get... Well... Zynga...

Raising accessibility is nice, dumbing down isn't.

The problem isn't that they make casual simple games. I would be ok with Popcap being in the place they are now.
The problem is that the games are ripoffs of existing games, where the only original addition is the buy stuff for cash feature.

That, and the fact that great developer's like Santa Monica Studio, EA LA, EA Sports, etc. were left out of the contest to make room for them. Hell, Santa Monica would be my favorite if it was in.

TimeLord:
I once tried to play Farmville, I played for 2 minutes, went off to do something else and 2 weeks later came back thinking I would have a lush eden only to find it all fucking dead!

Yeah, see, this is the problem. It's not like some boring flash game is beating Valve, this thing is an in-browser MMO(rpuger). That's why it's so stupidly popular: it's an MMO with a convenient addiction initiator right on your Facebook page. And Facebook itself is a sort of MMO for a lot of people. It's a potent combination.

Getting more people interested in, or at least accepting of, video games would be great, but I don't think we want to get half the planet involved in WoW: Flash Edition.

Zynga's success is based on marketing. Automated viral marketing, to be precise. Not on design.

I've always said that marketing is the most important part in determining whether a game is popular, and furthermore that traditional games not published by Nintendo have utterly failed to be marketed due to chasing down an ever-dwindling niche.

The question of whether their popularity has to do with the game's design would lead only to the same conversation that has been going on continuously in the aftermath of GDC, and it would be tiresome and involve flagrant abuse of the term "Skinner box."

Yeah no, next year if they advertise themselves they should get disqualified. Then the people who actually care about the bracket will vote and not those who just care about some extra exp.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! W-A-R-N-I-N-G!!!!!!!!

Game developers of a more evil bent have looked at this Farmville phenomenon and come to rather different conclusions. Scary conclusions. Conclusions which you all need to know about by watching that video.

The danger is not that us hardcore gamers get shafted, the danger is that the most annoying aspects of our hobby become popular in the real world.

I wonder what the responce would be if MM was not taking place? Most likely still negitive, most people see Zynga as Evony on Facebook.

jmoore4ska:

That's why Zynga is less not revolution in "gaming," per se, but is a revolution in targeted marketing.

And you, sir, have hit the nail squarely on the head.

They only play it is surgically attached to Facebook.

The casual vs. hardcore debate. The answer is to not see it as an either/or debate, but recognize a well-designed game can appeal to both the casual gamer and the hardcore. A game does not have to choose between locking out the casual gamer vs. boring the hardcore.

I'm not talking easy/normal/hard modes either--that won't truly appeal to those playing on easy. As someone making a transition from more than 2 decades of PC gaming to PS3 gaming, I must say, wherever there are QTEs that means I automatically switch the game to easy mode. In doing so I get the feeling the game designers did not have players like me in mind when they made the game. I don't wholly feel welcome playing a game set on "easy."

But anyway how hard can it be to design a game where unlocking the content is easy, and then there will be side quests that range in difficulty from moderate to uber, that one can try when they are ready--but it is not like failing to kill a boss locks out of the rest of the game. Reward players for harder challenges but still allow everyone to play. That lets everybody enjoy the content, and then when they are ready, they can step up to some of the stiffer fights.

It isn't even just "casual flash games" this phenomenon can be observed on.

For instance, in germany a game called "Landwirtschaftssimulator 2009" sold 120.000+ copies in its first month and was up there with World of Warcraft, Sims 3 and Modern Warfare 2 and noone can really explain how, I guess it requires a gaming PC and would seem to be amongst the most "hardcore" kind of genres it could be by simulating agriculture...

Another thing I've noticed when my own brother (who other than casually watching me play a game every few months) started playing a game called Ikariam, which as far as I can tell seems to be some kind of a mix between Anno and Civilizations, is that even though the gaming "principle" may be simple and the graphics etc. not animated and "funky" and all that, they are interconnected like MMORPGs. You as a player seem to be building your town on an island near a lot of other player towns and interact with them by trading stuff or attacking/being attacked by them and "long-term" investment...

Looking back at the catalogue of "big titles" out there including stuff like Anno, Civilization, Settlers, Sim City, Tropico etc. they are mostly SinglePlayer only... and if they have a Multiplayer it isn't based on a long-term MMO concept but short games of at the most a few hours (instead of logging on and doing something for a few minutes but playing for weeks or months). So that might be one point, the "community" or "interactive" features of those simple flash games, which the big boys lack (or can't do because they'd require an incredible amount of ressources on that level) and long-term playability with immediate goals.

Calling them "gamers" implies they are playing actual games. Programs with rules, penalties, rewards, goals. Zygna products have only one of these, rewards. Zygna's design philosophy is "Waste your time in a certain fashion and be 'rewarded' with the ability to waste more of your time." By no interpretation of the word "game" is that a game. Spam, yes. Adware, yes. But its all ultimately irrelevant. Its a quantity of liquid shit in the ocean that is the internet.

But no, we can't just ignore anything, can we. We have to act like every large group of people is some sort of movement that will overtake us all. Zygna and facebook are completely insulated from the rest of the internet. Even Zygna's CEO knows this. The only people who don't seem to know this are the escapist staff.

But hey, talk about zygna, validate zygna, get hits from zygna's corral, get money from the increased pageviews. Beats working for a living, right? Its funny that yahtzee opened a bar. Kinda almost looks like hes making a liferaft.

Bigeyez:
I'm sorry, but the only reason Zynga is even a known name is Facebook. Without Facebook we wouldn't be talking about them right now. Without Facebook they would have 0 votes in March Mayhem. This isn't a case of passionate gamers rising up to vote for their game. This is the case of Zynga spamming all of Facebook for votes. This is NOT "the rise of a new gamer". This is a the rise of people who already spend hours looking at pictures on Facebook who decide to spend some time clicking stuff on a Facebook application. Zynga games are games the same way Reality TV is real.

I'm all for the Wii and companies like PopCap bringing the rise of GOOD casual gaming and introducing games to non gamers, but the last thing we need is to hold up a company to praise who steals peoples ideas, scams their own customers, and their only claim to success is being lucky and riding on the backs of the latest "it" social networking site.

This, oh so very much. My words and thoughts.

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