Zynga's Wringer

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Zynga's Wringer

Seems like everyone these days is playing Farmville. Let's fix that.

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I heartily agree with the sentiments expressed in this article. You might however want to fix this part:

Shamus:
All that needs to happen is for someone to apply the Zynga social model to something more entertaining the Farmville.

Somewhat missing the N. Yay pedantry!

it does feel like people are wanting that market, and, I am all for it. As long as they can improve on the formula.

Ill admit, I played Farmville for a couple weeks, and, at first i did enjoy. I then saw what it was.

IF something with more depth can be made, something which isnt so mindless dull as tending to chickens, it might even appeal to a wider audience.

My eyes and money is on Popcap, they know the social and easy going market well.

I think a good game to introduce people to is, well, anything by PopCap. I've been playing games for like twelve years or more, and I still find the occasional game of Peggle, Insaniquarium, or Pizza Frenzy to be really fun. Call me crazy. PopCap just combines their visual style and their simple-but-fun gameplay in a pretty awesome way, and there's also some humour and a lot of personality in their games. (except maybe Bejeweled, that game doesn't feel very alive, it feels like you're a cryogenically frozen machine arranging gems somewhere deep in space.)

Gildan Bladeborn:
I heartily agree with the sentiments expressed in this article. You might however want to fix this part:

Shamus:
All that needs to happen is for someone to apply the Zynga social model to something more entertaining the Farmville.

Somewhat missing the N. Yay pedantry!

Actually, that should be "than."

it seems after the March Madness thing, everyone here sees Zynga as some sort of Mafia, Warring with the actual gaming crowd.

Careful when you try to make games more popular by making them easier. GAMES are fun because somehow, somewhere, there is a challenge in it. If one's Farmville l33tness is they pwn at keeping a regular schedule of tending crops, then that's the game.

Ross Perot:
it seems after the March Madness thing, everyone here sees Zynga as some sort of Mafia, Warring with the actual gaming crowd.

It tends to do that after March Madness. Whenever some obscure company surpasses the popular ones, controversy pops up. Afterwards, we tend to study the companies themselves. We just need to wait a month and everyone will move on.

Note* Although, I'm wondering "what if Zynga had won?".

Pacing really seems to be the problem for me; and that the two mechanics I find irritating really only exist for money's sake.

I tried my hand at Mafia Wars, and a few similiar types (not Farmville, specifically, I started one because my wife wanted me to play, but I had learned by then); but the overall pacing of Facebook games is really annoying to me. You can't sit down in one session and get as far as you want, you have only so many actions you can do, and you can do them all in about 5 minutes, but there's an hour (more or less) cooldown before you can do anything again. The most efficient way to play is come back every hour on the hour (see more ads), or buy the "tokens" that let you advance faster (cash money). These cooldowns really only exist so they can make more money off of it, and the gameplay suffers; at least for me.

Then, advancement in most of these games involves inviting all of your friends and having them play (viral advertising). You can't proceed to level 20 until you invite 50 friends and they all sign up. You can buy friends for your guild/town/coven (whatever the group may be), with points that are either very slow to grind (over cooldowns), or can be bought with cash money.

Also, with these Facebook apps, holy crap! The notices! You can progress further by either inviting more friends, and then by sending crap to your friends and having them send crap back. All the invites and notices finally just ticked me off and I removed all the apps and blocked them.

Shamus, don't give away my secret ultimate master plan to change the internet forever!

Anyways, I think that if you added achievements to Farmville, or similar game, you woud be able to draw people away. What's the only thing better than getting virtual money from virtual crops? Being told that you are really good at it. I'm pretty sure you could release Farmtown or some such and include achievements and some activity to do while you wait for your cropsto grow and you would probably kill Farmville.

You could also go the Pokemon toute and allow people to customise the appearance of their crops.

Defining Farmville by old washing standards is, in my opinion, an unfair analogy. My rationality with this is based on the idea that there are different kinds of gamers. Hardcore gamers would look at a super casual game like Farmville, with disdain. So for this reason such an analogy would make sense to a hardcore gamer. Though you must consider that to the super casual gamer, Farmville is better than MW2. It fits their lifestyle, their niche, if you will. Thusly, preferences are the crux of the argument. That being said, I don't think Zynga has anything to worry about, as far as competitors are concerned. They already have a ton of competition, and they are still doing fine. There are a ton of games like Zynga games, and some people have already copied a few of their games, such as playfish (with which mutual borrowing has occurred) and mobsters (which came after Mafia Wars) just to name a few examples I am aware of. It's already been stated that the social gaming industry consistently borrows from itself. So it would be fair to say that others will come along and try to copy whatever Zynga is doing. Though with the massive user base that Zynga already has, there should be little to worry about, in my opinion. So for this reason, Zynga will do fine for many years to come. Granted their graphics are limited, but they use a flash as their gaming platform because they are a Facebook application developer. Now, whether or not they may try to make stand alone games like popcap, is a matter of conjecture. I would like to see something of the sort, kinda like Plants VS Aliens. Though, I am unsure if Zynga would ever want to go that route. They already make pretty good revenue off their current games, and I don't see that they need to change. However, it would be nice to see more complex games. Something that involves strategy, but still retains the charm and colorful graphics that many Zynga games are known for.

That being said, with MM, many of the gamers here disapprove of Zynga. To a point where it became a matter of fighting Zynga at all costs. Zynga came here to participate in a competition, and was largely attacked for it. For this reason, I would take it that there are still hardcore gamers looking upon casual gamers, with malice.

Gildan Bladeborn:
I heartily agree with the sentiments expressed in this article. You might however want to fix this part:

Shamus:
All that needs to happen is for someone to apply the Zynga social model to something more entertaining the Farmville.

Somewhat missing the N. Yay pedantry!

In fact, that "e" should be an "a".

OT: Great article as always, Shamus. Nice to know that there's still some intelligence on the internet.

After Ms. Arendt's article the other day, I'm wondering if a more palatable Farmville would actually be something a lot like Harvest Moon. At the core, the two aren't really very different gameplay wise but Harvest Moon has so much else going on on top of the plant->wait->harvest cycle that it is a much deeper experience. None of the extras it offers, however, are things that I feel casual type would have issues with... and they are also things that would just maybe make the game appeal to more hardcore types too.

Waif:
Defining Farmville by old washing standards is, in my opinion, an unfair analogy. ... Hardcore gamers would look at a super casual game like Farmville, with disdain. So for this reason such an analogy would make sense to a hardcore gamer.

I don't think Shamus is saying that hardcore games are the 'better' alternative. I think he's saying another company could make much better casual games. Basically Wriger:Dryer as Zynga:Popcap.

Hopeless Bastard:
I keep trying to read this bullshit, but I just can't.

Literacy and adulthood will come with time.

Keep practicing!

"if you can't make something more entertaining than Farmville, you probably shouldn't be trying to make videogames to begin with."

Hear hear!

I liked this article. i like that there are multitudes of new potential gamers coming. What I dont' like is how Zynga is makin ga mockery of the whole deal.

BDBracket:

Waif:
Defining Farmville by old washing standards is, in my opinion, an unfair analogy. ... Hardcore gamers would look at a super casual game like Farmville, with disdain. So for this reason such an analogy would make sense to a hardcore gamer.

I don't think Shamus is saying that hardcore games are the 'better' alternative. I think he's saying another company could make much better casual games. Basically Wriger:Dryer as Zynga:Popcap.

There already are better casual games. Hell, any game is a better game than a zygna product.

Zygna's crushing success is based upon the lack of moderation of facebook. Facebook users have to deal with spam on their own. Its been proven countless times that ignoring/muting/blocking a problem simply makes it worse. Zygna's success should be the final bit of proof pushing that theory to absolute fact. Instead, morons are misunderstanding exactly what happened and acting like zygna's success can be recreated without doing the exact same thing.

The only reason most who use zygna products even know zygna products exist is the sheer amount of spam zygna generates and the laissez-faire moderation of facebook. Imagine how Live/PSN/steam would look with games of a similar design.

Plurralbles:
"if you can't make something more entertaining than Farmville, you probably shouldn't be trying to make videogames to begin with."

Hear hear!

I liked this article. i like that there are multitudes of new potential gamers coming. What I dont' like is how Zynga is makin ga mockery of the whole deal.

Except there are no new gamers coming from zygna. They're never going to move on to any actual games because as far as they're concerned (to use the article's moronic analogy), they already have the automatic washing machine. They do a few simple actions, spam a few friends, and are rewarded with more actions to perform, and more shit to spam friends with. While actual games appear as complicated and unnecessary as the "wringer." "Why learn how to use that, when I already get the same thing from zygna."

Shamus Young:

Hopeless Bastard:
I keep trying to read this bullshit, but I just can't.

Literacy and adulthood will come with time.

But maturity aside, there's a point in his posts. There are already much better casual games. The thing that Zynga uses and Popcap doesn't is aggressive, obnoxious spam.

BDBracket:

Waif:
Defining Farmville by old washing standards is, in my opinion, an unfair analogy. ... Hardcore gamers would look at a super casual game like Farmville, with disdain. So for this reason such an analogy would make sense to a hardcore gamer.

I don't think Shamus is saying that hardcore games are the 'better' alternative. I think he's saying another company could make much better casual games. Basically Wriger:Dryer as Zynga:Popcap.

Well I do suppose that is possible. Though it was from the analogy that he made, is where I had drawn my conclusion. I had the idea that he was referring to upmarket games in general, and not one specific company. Though I do see your point, it is likely possible that he was referring to Popcap in his analogy. Which would have been more fair. So thanks for clarification ;).

BDBracket:

Shamus Young:

Hopeless Bastard:
I keep trying to read this bullshit, but I just can't.

Literacy and adulthood will come with time.

But maturity aside, there's a point in that post. There are already much better casual games. The thing that Zynga uses and Popcap doesn't is aggressive, obnoxious spam.

Well, as far as spam is concerned. The only thing you'll get from Zynga is when a user posts what they are doing on whatever game they are playing. Though you can always block that stuff pretty easily. That being said, these kinds of posts are intrinsic part of every social gaming application, particularly on Facebook (not so much Myspace, from my understanding). Zynga isn't the only one to do this, countless other Facebook apps do this as well such as Playfish, Zoo World, even tiny stuff like Astrology apps. Its how the business model dictates advertising. While it could be said that the consistent posts from all the many numerous applications are spam, it's not the company that's doing it, its your friends who either want to give rewards to their other friends who play the same application. If you don't want to see these posts in your feed, just hide them. All things considered, I think I have at least 100+ applications hidden from my feeds. Numerous ones, mostly quizzes, and I do understand why some people would call it spam.

Ross Perot:
it seems after the March Madness thing, everyone here sees Zynga as some sort of Mafia, Warring with the actual gaming crowd.

Not really. We're just a little upset that
A) these gamers are playing the lowest quality game available (wringer to washer, seriously, best analogy of the situation I've seen), due to lack of gaming knowledge and incorporation into a widely used social networking site. (Can you imagine who'd play this stuff if it weren't on facebook? NOBODY)
and
B) Zynga is a terrible dev with shoddy upkeep, questionable copyright issues, and near nonexistent customer service. Yet because they're taking advantage of "not-yet" gamers by latching on to Facebook, they've made kajillions of dollars while simultaneously ousting legitimate independent devs from any spotlight available.

Waif:
Well, as far as spam is concerned. The only thing you'll get from Zynga is when a user posts what they are doing on whatever game they are playing. Though you can always block that stuff pretty easily. That being said, these kinds of posts are intrinsic part of every social gaming application, particularly on Facebook (not so much Myspace, from my understanding). Zynga isn't the only one to do this, countless other Facebook apps do this as well such as Playfish, Zoo World, even tiny stuff like Astrology apps. Its how the business model dictates advertising. While it could be said that the consistent posts from all the many numerous applications are spam, it's not the company that's doing it, its your friends who either want to give rewards to their other friends who play the same application. If you don't want to see these posts in your feed, just hide them. All things considered, I think I have at least 100+ applications hidden from my feeds. Numerous ones, mostly quizzes, and I do understand why some people would call it spam.

So you're saying spam for zygna's products isn't actually spam because zygna isn't personally involved?

Bull. Fucking. Shit.

The "social games" business model is all about turning your users into free advertising. The closest parallel is a pyramid scheme. The top being zygna, the middle being facebook, the bottom being the users. Except in an actual pyramid scheme, its possible to actually get something out of being on the bottom tier.

Ross Perot:
it seems after the March Madness thing, everyone here sees Zynga as some sort of Mafia, Warring with the actual gaming crowd.

It doesn't help that Scamga are getting so much advertising from The Escapist either. It really can't be such a slow week in gaming that there should suddenly be a bunch of articles about their crap.

I watch the pigeons pecking each other in the tree outside to pass the time until the Escapist gets some actual game news to write about instead of putting up another billboard for a bunch of liars and cheats. I don't think there will be enough pigeons to last that long though.

Random Argument Man:

Ross Perot:
it seems after the March Madness thing, everyone here sees Zynga as some sort of Mafia, Warring with the actual gaming crowd.

It tends to do that after March Madness. Whenever some obscure company surpasses the popular ones, controversy pops up. Afterwards, we tend to study the companies themselves. We just need to wait a month and everyone will move on.

Note* Although, I'm wondering "what if Zynga had won?".

No don't think about that its like say what if Hitler won? Imagine the uproar from certain groups on the site. MM would be made out to be a big farce by these groups than it is already made to be.

OT: The problem I have with all these socials games is the waiting times and the lack of depth. If someone could get rid of these I could give them another chance but I tried them for a month and this waiting killed me off them.

Your point about letting people play when they want (More Flexible Usage) is true, in that letting people have that freedom may well make them enjoy the game more, but you'd have to be careful not to lose the viral crack marketing scheme that is the one thing that I think we can safely say Zynga has done... efficiently (I hesitate to call it "right".) Part of the addiction of their games is that you'll lose everything you've invested in it if you let it alone for long enough to get hooked on something else, and part of the effectiveness of the spamflood contagion school of marketing is that you will be spammed by each and every friend who plays one of their games _every_ day, not just every once in awhile.

The folks coming to steal a slice of Zynga's pie will have to manage the herculean task of making a better game [/sarcasm], but they'll have to do it without messing with all of the things that made Zynga popular in the first place - many of which are exactly the things that people hate about Zynga in the first place. To defeat them, you may have to become them - <obligatory Star Wars joke>.

If it acts as a bridge from casual to hardcore, I don't care what Zynga and Popcap churn out. I swear this is becoming my mantra.

Zynga's not about making games, or quality products. They're about making money.

It's a pity to see how much more popular FarmVille is than Farmtown, which was around first and is FAR superior. But Zynga released a product with a similar name, and marketed it aggressively. This has led not only to a ton of new players, but also a number of people who were recommended Farmtown by their friends and don't realize they're playing an inferior clone.

P.S. Thanks

I agree wholeheartedly with this article. And the newer, better versions of these facebook games aren't just 'around the corner' as Shamus says. The fact is that a lot of them are already here, they're just not as savvy as Zynga in the advertising department. About 6 months ago I started playing a facebook game called "Treasure Madness" and was instantly hooked. It's a search game where every tile on the island may hold treasure, treasure comes in sets (lots of them) and to get the treasure, you have to play a short minigame like tetris, bejewelled, and actually quite a few others. And it's constantly growing too, it's like a smaller, more facebooked version of Puzzle Pirates.
The thing is, is that this is one of the most balanced facebook games I have ever seen. The wait for more health is quick, one hour should almost refill your bar, and addictive.
Zynga has already tryed to copy THIS game, with their new Treasure Isle. They still miss the mark though, with the ephasis on island creation and not on games. Truth is I play them both, and as a 'h-core' gamer (gawd I hate that label) I should be ashamed of myself, but it kills time... time that should be spent working... time that I spend here... i hope i'm not fired

I agree, Dammit Shamus, I was worried you were a Zynga sympathizer with your last article, glad to see this one!

We should all go to t5he Farmville players we know and show them the sheen of PopCap

I certainly hope another developer comes along to knock Zynga on its butt as far as Facebook apps go. I'm getting a bit tired of seeing this strange domination that they have on there with their games. Where is Sid Meier to save us?!

Castle Age is a Facebook game very similar to Mafia Wars that outclasses Zynga at every turn.

Some of the things I like better:

Lovely artwork.
Quests are actually story driven, making you feel like you're really progressing.
Unique ways to craft items and summon creatures to aid you.
A bit of strategy (what general to use, how to build your army, etc)
Purchase magic abilities.

And, like the early days of Mafia Wars, special bought items are nifty, but far from necessary (company's gotta make a little extra money, right?).

It's a good game, with actual story development and a developer that isn't trying to milk its users for all their cash.

Jaded Scribe:
Castle Age is a Facebook game very similar to Mafia Wars that outclasses Zynga at every turn.

Some of the things I like better:

Lovely artwork.
Quests are actually story driven, making you feel like you're really progressing.
Unique ways to craft items and summon creatures to aid you.
A bit of strategy (what general to use, how to build your army, etc)
Purchase magic abilities.

And, like the early days of Mafia Wars, special bought items are nifty, but far from necessary (company's gotta make a little extra money, right?).

It's a good game, with actual story development and a developer that isn't trying to milk its users for all their cash.

As I keep screaming in every one of these threads, it doesn't matter if other people make better games than zygna, they'd have to match zygna's business model step for step to even come close to being as successful as they are. As zygna's success is due entirely to the amount they encourage their users to spam everyone (and the unmoderated nature of facebook).

And once again, I'm threatened for exposing flaws in an anointed writer's arguments. Hoo-fucking-ray. (or maybe it was me misclicking the report button, lets hope).

Hopeless Bastard:

Jaded Scribe:
Castle Age is a Facebook game very similar to Mafia Wars that outclasses Zynga at every turn.

Some of the things I like better:

Lovely artwork.
Quests are actually story driven, making you feel like you're really progressing.
Unique ways to craft items and summon creatures to aid you.
A bit of strategy (what general to use, how to build your army, etc)
Purchase magic abilities.

And, like the early days of Mafia Wars, special bought items are nifty, but far from necessary (company's gotta make a little extra money, right?).

It's a good game, with actual story development and a developer that isn't trying to milk its users for all their cash.

As I keep screaming in every one of these threads, it doesn't matter if other people make better games than zygna, they'd have to match zygna's business model step for step to even come close to being as successful as they are. As zygna's success is due entirely to the amount they encourage their users to spam everyone (and the unmoderated nature of facebook).

And once again, I'm threatened for exposing flaws in an anointed writer's arguments. Hoo-fucking-ray. (or maybe it was me misclicking the report button, lets hope).

The spam is a real issue. Through family members (sadly) I've seen just how bad their brainwashing goes.

As pretty much everyone that uses Facebook has probably noticed, now posts that come from the same app, or numerous updates in a short space of time, get put together in a link of similar posts.

This apparently led to a rage among Zynga's players that the links was making it easy to miss updates from other players (irony: Zynga players complaining that clicking on links on their homepage is hard). So they did a 24 hr boycott of Zynga.

It's ridiculous how much people will swallow. No thought to quality in what they do. At least if word about games like Castle Age can get out, we can hope to at least thin the mindless herd of Zynga followers.

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