Zynga and the Rise of the New Gamer

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The article's true and all, as usual, but that doesn't explain why people who are just getting started with this hobby are turning out in such high numbers at a site dedicated to people knee-deep in said hobby.

Shamus Young:
Don't blame Zynga, because it's not their fault.

I do not blame Zynga (BLEEEEEEERGH! Just who picked that name?!) for being popular. I blame them for scamming their userbase.

I actually do not blame simple games for re-appearing as the force on a market. That's a good thing - they may not be "hardcore", but they'll help create better reputation for games. You can't call something like FAHRMVILLE a "murder simulator", now can you?

ahhh Shamus, using the March Warzone as an inspiration for an article, but sheds some new light to take consideration into. It is quite frightening if these developers take these new developments the wrong way buuuut some people are simply not afraid to do so if it means profits.

It seems if the creative masses don't roll in enough dough for them, then they will look the other way and try to appeal more to the uncreative masses which looks like its working very well right now.

My goal someday as a game designer is to make a game that my parents, people who have never even tried games and don't care to, become obsessed with; and without prompting.

This is not news, however; the Wii has already been doing this for quite a while, through accessible areas such as: any medical practitioner who hears it's good exercise.

One thing I think they did get right is the time requirement. People who don't currently play games are usually doing so because they don't have time; they go to work, come home, don't get enough sleep, and repeat. The mistake so many games make is that they want you to be playing it constantly, in order to level up some progress perk.

What could make an actually FUN game work well in this area is to provide unique, customly-designed experiences (similar to a well-made Mario level) and then after a 5-minute play say that the effects of that level will then disperse over the next day with the promise of some rewarding result, after which you can play it again. If effective, it could keep people's interest over a long period of time without them even playing it.

This time, I find your point....lacking.

I always seem to hear of this mysterious "non-gamer" demographic. It is starting to sound like a logic defying trump card whenever something odd happens in the gaming world of business.

I don't like Zynga for two reasons. 1. Incredibly shady practices. I'm no saint, but even I have lines, and nearly ripping off someone, and making tons of cash while doing it publicly is somewhat distasteful to me.
2. Habitual games. This is also the reason I hate WOW and other games like it. You have to be on once every so often, or you fall behind, you will miss things, or things will disappear. Considering myself a "casual" gamer, I find needing to dedicate myself to a game too much for my time, and my wallet.

I have stated my deeper thoughts on Zynga and their presence before, but I feel it unnecessary for the discussion at hand.

The point is, Zynga didn't really seem to break any gaming mold. They brought the addiction of WOW in a small cute package. And that isn't amazing at all to me.

I wouldnt mind what Zynga do except for the many controversies and other devs being jealous of how much they make? Like I played farmville and mafia wars but I couldnt keep it up ot was too dull, but there are people who are addicts and I realise that Zynga games are great for newcomers, my gf started with farmville etc and now owns a ds and plays Zelda etc which is how it should progress. But its not that the learning curve is shallow, its that its a plateau, 15 mins and you know all to playing farmville and many people stop at this stage. It would be great if they would try new things because of their enjoyment of farmville but many wont, Zynga to me represents stagnation for all the new gamers it attracts. They go as farm as farmville but never quit since its ne long giant progress bar of a game with no end in sight. Liek Yahtzee said in his Peggle review devs wont step up from cute and casual games to the epics we play now since the fiscal incentive is with Zynga. We risk losing a great many future devs to Iphone apps and farmville clones.

jmoore4ska:
Even though there isn't anything specifically untrue in this article, it doesn't really mention that the reason the gameplay isn't innovative isn't because they were trying to make an accessible sim adaptation, but because forcing someone to come back (even in the middle of the night) every few hours to accomplish simple tasks keeps the eyeballs coming back to see all the ads, without scaring them away with difficulty.

The entire purpose of farmville is to keep people coming back at a regular clip to stare at all the ads. It isn't meant to be innovative (of course), but it also isnt meant to be accessible. Accessibility (and lack of difficulty) is merely a side effect of making sure that no one stops looking at the ads because the "game" part is too hard.

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

I think this basically needs to be quoted until Shamus apologizes.

SHAAAAAAAAAMUUUUUUUUUUUS

Don't fool yourself. Accessibility isn't FarmVille's strong point, it's the skinnerian game mechanics that play with your brain's addiction centers (also seen in lots of MMOs). If the game were only accessible and nothing else, i can tell you that their playerbase would be 10% or less of what it is right now.

"If Farmville isn't that fun, why are so many people playing it?"

The same reason people like Justin Bieber, Twilight books and Clash of the Titans?

Xan Krieger:

Petchyy:
This isn't a rally of passionate people defending their game.

I have never before seen such a massive concentration of stupid. I think my I.Q. plummeted just from reading that.

I begin to feel very uncomfortable when people over the internet start to post things like "fertilize my crop" or I shit you not "fertilize me!".

Also, Zynga is a scammer. Plain and simple. Farmville may be "fun" (personally, I think it's a load of shit), but it's still a scam deep down.

The Casual Question: how do you keep the newly attracted "casual gamers" playing (and buying) your games? Zynga's answer is: hobble 'em if they don't come back on time. Which is a) a bit mean and b) from a design point of view, a bit of a cop-out. At least with Nintendo, their answer is "Try to move them on to more complicated games, such as Mario Galaxy[1]". Note that AFAIK Nintendo doesn't have a Wii ____ game in development, it's all Mario Galaxy 2, Metroid: Other M, Sin & Punishment 2 and talk of Zelda Wii. That is a bit more sustainable for the gaming industry for a whole than if everyone took the Zynga model, I believe.
I do have a beef with their CEO, however, considering he seems to model himself on Bobby Kotick, as a quick Google search will testify.

[1] Mario Galaxy is a bit more complex than Wii Sports, you can hardly argue with that.

No shit sherlock.

But htey won't. Because they're making money.

Great article.

I'd add about Ubi's new DRM scheme though (I know, I know) that there couldn't be a better way of putting people off - gamers and about-to-start gamers alike.

There is a way around the time investment thing...remember the tutorial on Super Smash Brothers Melee? If I remember right (which is a big if, the GC died years ago...), it gave you a picture of the whole controller, and showed which button presses were making Mario kick Luigi in the face...

Zynga was by no means the first. Free browser games like Runescape have been going for years.

I rather disagree with a logical progression shamus has made - That is, people who play farmville are likely to make the next step and begin to play other games.

This is simply not the case with zynga games. They are too disconnected from video games in general. The only reason they play zynga games is because it is on facebook, as well as because it is ridiculously easy, yet draws you in to play multiple times due to it's rpg elements.

I don't see my mother (who plays farmville) moving on to play any other video game any time soon.
Since she played farmville, she never once has showed the slightest interest in any video game. nor do I think she ever will. She hasn't learnt anything from farmville in terms of gaming. As the only aspect to it that is at all common to games is the sense of continual improvement through menial actions. Which frankly every human knows through other avenues.
The interface is used via mouse only, the game tells you what to do. It is basic - even for a casual game - and makes no efforts to teach you any new skills. If you know how to move a mouse, read, and click, that's all you need. In terms of "gaming skills", there are none. No strategy outside of very, very basic strategising for highest xp/money. And that's only people who are power levelling.
It doesn't help gaming, it doesn't ease people into gaming. People don't even view it as a video game, it's viewed as a part of facebook, and the social gaming that goes with it.

Perhaps this is just me seeing with one eye closed, but I see no positive benefits coming from zynga to the video game market, outside of silly web 2.0 trash makers.

If the article was about popcap and armor games on the other hand - Fair enough.

Edit - Well after reading the article a third time, I wonder how I started ranting about something so far from what shamus was saying.

Well I guess he's right, although I'm still not sure whether or not it's possible to get lots of "uninitiated players" playing video games in any way except spoon feeding. It still takes some form of computer literacy to play plants vs zombies. I'm not sure whether there are any lessons to be learned from zynga, other than the popular mass tends to go for simplicity over quality, whether it's music, video games or films.

Farmville is my way of relaxinf withour killing people .. if that is bad and boring then so be it !

its not bad and boring as a concept
but it takes the industry back too many steps

the idea is for games to be recognized as an actual art form by the broader public
Farmville takes it back to being nothing more then toys (like a Tamagutchi)

jmoore4ska:
Even though there isn't anything specifically untrue in this article, it doesn't really mention that the reason the gameplay isn't innovative isn't because they were trying to make an accessible sim adaptation, but because forcing someone to come back (even in the middle of the night) every few hours to accomplish simple tasks keeps the eyeballs coming back to see all the ads, without scaring them away with difficulty.

The entire purpose of farmville is to keep people coming back at a regular clip to stare at all the ads. It isn't meant to be innovative (of course), but it also isnt meant to be accessible. Accessibility (and lack of difficulty) is merely a side effect of making sure that no one stops looking at the ads because the "game" part is too hard.

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

jmoore4ska:

SnipErlite:

jmoore4ska:

Still, PopCap and Armor Games are better at what zynga does, and they actually makes innovative games that aren't there just to feed you ads. They just don't have the benefit of a built in audience of millions (facebook).

Oh totally, I love PopCap purely for making Plants vs Zombies. I don't like Zynga but I have a grudging respect for their success.

Hm, i'd say i respect their success the same way i respected the success of Bernie Madoff. He may not have earned his billions, but he certainly scammed his way to having billions.

I don't think merely having money means you deserve respect. It's how you make your money that gets respect from me, and Zynga made theirs by partnering up with ads that installed spyware and programs that scammed their users for money through "fine print." Just because they stopped, allegedly, when they got caught doesn't mean their legacy of shady practices gets a free pass.

IIRC, the founder publicly admitted to doing this dirtyness just to get money. Because he wanted the money. And for no other reason. So why isn't he on the docket right behind Madoff?
Instead his company is the poster child for the future of gaming investment. He's got a direct line into ALL of the money now.

That's... not something that future historians will respect us for :(

I really have to heavily disagree with the point about games setting the bar too high. That's like saying playing the guitar/clarinet/saxophone/cello/karate/football or any other sport or instrument or anything for that matter has set the bar too high. If you wanna start big like TF2 and CoD or CoH you have to accept the fact that

YOU WILL SUCK FOR THE FIRST 24 HOURS OF PLAY

that is if you are unfamiliar with engine and gameplay style. Simple as that.

For example I have been playing the clarinet for about 6 years but I played the recorder beforehand. Now while not the same instrument and with different fingering for notes. I picked it up relatively fast. However, when I started to learn guitar last year it was a nightmare to pick up but I stuck at it and now I can play a little. The question is not of the bar being too high but people being too lazy and not willing to put in any effort to get anything out of it.

Besides there are plenty of simple easy games out there for everything you just have to look for them and you will find them. That brings me back to my previous point of people not willing to try and look for it.

"If Farmville isn't that fun, then why do so many people play it?"

Appeal to common action. Logical Fallacy.

I'm glad that wasn't your entire argument.

Only reason farmville is popular is due to the fact that it can be played by people at work that should be working. As matter of fact employers would be wise to block farmville from their office connection and watch productivity rise as half your employees are fucking off half the time playing flash games.

The article makes some good points, but I have to point out a glaring error:

"The game will run on just about any web-enabled PC on the planet"

Not true. The game is badly coded and/or has too many animations for Flash to handle. The bigger farms bring my modern dual-core, 4GB-of-RAM laptop to a crawl and even run slowly on my quad-core desktop. On my older single-core desktop, FV crashes on anything bigger than an 18x18 farm.

I also think the article entirely misses the main success factor in Farmville--it's not just easy gaming, it's easy SOCIAL gaming. All those posts that spam your newsfeed aren't just for annoyance, they are an integral part of the game. You literally can't get anywhere in the game without sharing and interacting with your friends. It's very much a co-operative effort and that kind of easy social interaction is core to the success of FV and something the less popular games on FB have yet to pick up on.

tehroc:
As matter of fact employers would be wise to block farmville from their office connection and watch productivity rise as half your employees are fucking off half the time playing flash games.

Yes but for a lot of employers that would require dragging the IT personnel away from their porn long enough to do their jobs as well.

(I will go from OT to off-topic, but anyway...)
I think Shamus, as always, have a very good idea on the mechanics of the market and how things should go. Casual players should always get a chance, not everybody is a natural-born-gamer (BTW I'm having such trouble trying to teach a 4-year old boy to play anything on a PS2... it was so easier with my little bro years ago, with a SNES...). I think that is his point, and the article is good because of that.
THAT SAID, Zynga will always be placed under "bad developers" for me, not only because it just copies other persons work, but also because they have no ethics when it comes to making money, as seen in at least two episodes: when they lauched that Zynga toolbar (I miss the reference to the escapist news who mentions even their CEO couldn't uninstall the dreaded spyware thing) and for asking for donations for Haiti and keeping 50% of the cash for themselves...
As many have said, go PopCap and Armor Games... they're better to represent the casual developers.

ShadowsofHope:
I begin to feel very uncomfortable when people over the internet start to post things like "fertilize my crop" or I shit you not "fertilize me!".

You've never seen people spam 'fertilise me'? You need to hit up some dating sites.

zamble:
(BTW I'm having such trouble trying to teach a 4-year old boy to play anything on a PS2... it was so easier with my little bro years ago, with a SNES...)

I've found kids take to mouses much easier than controllers. Hell, first time they use a mouse they can entertain themselves for 10 or so minutes just moving the cursor around... around which point you need some suitable content as they discover clicking on icons makes things happen or you risk them deleting everything.

I find it a crime against gaming that Zynga is at the time of this posting beating out Valve.

Yes, Valve, whose work has kept hundreds of thousands of webcomic artists employed for over a decade. Who has graced us with our lord and savior that metal covered, intelligent, clanging messiah. Of course you know whom I speak of: The Companion Cube.

The various "wars" games should not be beating out Portal alone.

I suppose this article is right about how gaming ignored a market of non-gamers. I'd just prefer we give them something that isn't provided by a company with shady business practices. It just sends the wrong message about success in the industry.

ProfessorLayton:
snip

Sir, I not only love you for that name, but for that avatar. Thank you for making my day brighter.

Mcface:
But how can you defend them against real gaming devs, with real gamers voting for them?

That slightly bothers me, because you can't define a real gamer. You can define a hardcore gamer, but just a gamer in general? Hell naw

Well I can play Stairway to Heaven...
And it only took me a week. Then I moved on to Battery. That's taking longer.

Saying that Zynga are superior to Valve because their games are cheaper, more comforting and adapt better to your limited time schedule is like saying that hookers are better than wifes for...well the exact same reasons.

The sentiment of "oh, but it's good because it will attract more people to gaming" is one that I've seen expressed pretty frequently on this site. But that just seems to assume that alone the fact that more people are playing will somehow benefit players of bigger (and better) games such as myself.

But so what? What advantages do I draw from an increase of people playing games when the only games they'll play is boring, repetitive garbage like this? (And yes, I have tried Mafia Wars.) All I can see that will lead to is that developers of other, better games to also start making boring, repetitive garbage.

Very similar arguments were presented in favor of the Wii and the new, casual audience it attracted. So what if it did? All that accomplished was for other developers and companies to move to gimmicky, shallow motion controls: Natal and whatever the Playstation motion abomination is called.

To be honest i don't think march mayhem shows us diddly-squat. All it's shown us is how epicly polls can be trolled by vote-bots and the like.

Zynga are the worst end off the mass market and the fact that they are watered down enough to be ultra popular and achive "Viral" status like so much numa numa shows us the same thing that the winner of x-factor being at the top of the charts does about music (well unless you get taken down by RATM)

i.e. shit can be popular if it's unnoffensive enough.

I don't think there is a 'new gamer', alll we are seeing is an extension of mini-clip and people being bored on the interent. The only reason to play farmville is if you have ntohing better to do. It's the gaming equivealnt of posting thst you have just taken a shit on facebook.

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