Console gamers must deal with the Activision effect. The browser gaming world must deal with Zynga. Developers, will you lose your soul too?
We all know how gamers feel about the Zynga effect on gaming: Facebook wall spam (market the game to your friends to have more features), pay real money to grow or don’t play, scam the players, or just not care about their privacy and wait for a fat class action lawsuit. And this is on the side of regular scammers from within the game.
For gamers, recent trends are a sign that the next industry crash is on its way. Gamers fear the trend-following obsessive behavior in the video game market will be lured to the embellishment that is monetization addiction. Pay for what you used to get for free. Or worse: pay up constantly or don’t get the full experience of the game. Don’t want to pay? Bring in everyone you know, like a pyramid scheme. Truly, some marketing departments have gone creatively bankrupt.
But what do developers feel on the matter? After all, they are our game creators and have to put food on the table. Certainly they see the same things we do, right? Certainly they see Facebook pages on how to turn off game-related wall spam. So my question is, what goes on in your mind when you read about desperation maneuvers to exploit players? What do you feel about the concept that ‘selling out’ wins? i.e., companies that milk their customers the hardest are better able to afford higher marketing budgets and thus spew out the same pattern of new game/customer exploitation? Do you believe it to be sustainable or follow the path of the Guitar Hero?
Onto the main event:
So developers, what DO you feel about Zynga’s business practice? Is it ethical? Is it desired? Are you jealous of its wealth/sucess, or would you rather spend a day in hell than choose to sell your soul?
Anonymous Developer 1: “Zynga’s success is both undeniable and troubling, on a philosophical level. As a game developer I very much consider game creation to be an art. Games have a lot of power and the potential to bring good to the world. Zynga, however, strip the soul from their games that appeal to the lowest common denominator with mundane mechanics that exploit the Facebook platform, and some very questionable business / development practices. The fact that they are making money hand over fist with these products, while other brilliant games (and I don’t even mean my own) are lost in oblivion, really makes you wonder.”
Anonymous Developer 2: “Zynga is the indisputable master of watered down social gaming. While harvesting legions of people that have never played an electronic game in their life it does possibly also zombify them by using simplistic and superficially addictive game mechanisms. I do hope that there are those who manage to break free and evolve to higher forms of games… whatever they may be.“