Saturday, November 28, 2009

Gaming and Social Networking,9171,1940668,00.html - an article in Time Magazine that I recently read which made such an impression on me, I had to write about it.

Mark Pincus, founder of the social-game company called Zynga, is a genius. In July of 2007, Pincus founded Zynga, which as of today employs 600 people. And what are they known for? Facebook games. That's right. They make their money by making games for Facebook. Among these games are Farmville, Cafe World, Mafia Wars, YoVille, zyngapoker, and Roller Coaster Kingdom.
Just when I thought Facebook couldn't become any more addictive, Pincus stepped into the ring and proved me very wrong. Again, the man is a genius for being among the first to add games to Facebook.
Now, I quite honestly refuse to take part in any of these games. There have been enough times where I have spent unnecessary amounts of time on Facebook, and I am certain that if I allow myself to play any of these games, it's no doubt that nothing will get done. Hey, I'm only human. Stick something engaging, fun, and relaxing in front of me (like the opportunity to manage my own cafe, as seen in Cafe World), and I'll forget about that essay that's due in a matter of hours.
Here's how the ingenuity part comes into play. Facebook was created to network socially. With the accumulation of friends comes the inevitable accumulation of information about those friends, and easy access into their lives. We are curious creatures. We want to know about that trip our girlfriends took, or the hockey game that our cousin went to, etc. So look at the pictures, message them, write on their wall, anything to stay connected. The obsession to stay connected with people and to ingratiate ourselves in their personal lives is contagious and widespread. Now, couple that with these games, where you can invite friends to play with you. It becomes an excuse to further connect with your friends, and is also a means by which you can play around like a child. But hey! It's ok, because all of your other friends are there, too, farming and planting and pretending to be a Capo in the mafia. According to the article in Time Magazine, the game Fishville "hooked 9 million users in a week". 9 million users in one week! Pincus is clearly on to something. The article went on to say that people "feel safer playing with their friends". It's also probably more fun!
And while you're playing, make sure to check out the ads which congregate in your side bar (I believe they are located on the right-hand side). As stated in the Time article, "ads and virtual goods bring in most of the revenue" to keep this company afloat.
There have nevertheless been a share of scams swimming around. The article explained that a Farmville user named Michelle took a quiz (I suppose on Facebook, or she clicked a link which was advertised on her Facebook page; the article didn't go into detail) which required her to type in her cell phone number to obtain the results of the quiz. She did so, and when she received her bill, noticed that she had been charged a mysterious SMS fee.
Needless to say, not all the kinks have been worked out. But with Zynga's $100 million annual revenue, I'd say they're doing pretty well for themselves.

- All information taken from Time Magazine, from the November 30, 2009 issue, pages 59-60, the article entitled "Zynga Harvests The Cyberfarmer", written by Belinda Luscombe

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