So here's the deal - icing rival mobsters, rising in the ranks of the mafia, robbing your opponents, doing battle with flame throwers, and everything else portrayed in Mafia Wars is fair game. But pit bulls? Now you've crossed the line, Zynga.
Such is the stance the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have taken, and following a complaint by the organization, Zynga has decided to remove pit bulls from its virtual mafia landscape.
"Depicting 'man's best friend' as a fighting machine can encourage the wrong type of people--those with no heart and no understanding of a dog's needs--to treat these wonderful animals as inanimate objects," PETA executive Tracy Reiman said in a release from the company last month. "If Mark Pincus--who named his company after his own beloved dog, Zinga--can't portray dogs as loyal and loving members of the family, we'd rather he left them out of the game altogether."
According to CNet, the ordeal reeks of PR shenanigans, at least in part. A blog post from PETA points out that in YoVille, another of Zynga's games, proceeds from purchasing a virtual bulldog are donated to the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In addition, PETA said it is "sending vegan chocolates to Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus to thank him for his compassionate decision."
PETA may want to hold off on sending gifts, however. Other animals have either made their way into Mafia Wars, or soon will, including lions and tigers in "Vicious Crates" and a "bloody horse head" item.
Facebook was reluctant to setup a payment platform in the past due to security, resources, and third-party competitors. However, that’s all out the window and they have got their sights set on the big bucks now that they’ve teamed up with Zynga, makers of Farmville and Mafia Wars.
Zynga’s games have hooked over 75 million monthly active users, with a third of those people online harvesting or “pulling jobs” on a daily basis. Facebook’s plan is to pull a 30% fee off every transaction made using the Facebook payment structure. The virtual goods market in the US alone is forecasted to reach $1.6 billion dollars in 2010. $835 million of that comes from social gaming products, such as those developed by Zynga.
It is unlikely Facebook needed another revenue stream, but they aren’t going to ignore the low hanging fruit dangling from the social gaming money tree.
Facebook is the answer to a question no one asked: “How can I waste more of my time?” Compared to social network gaming, however, Facebook itself is as useful an invention as the cell phone.
Actually, I do like Facebook. I’ve used it to reconnect with dozens of people I used to know. Two of them are even people I like. A year after I first joined Facebook for the sole purpose of sharing pictures of a new puppy, I find myself updating my status, making comments, and listing things like the “Five TV Characters I Wish Were Real So We Could Hang.” (Dr. McCoy, Emma Peel, Hurley Reyes, Simon Templar, and Gomez Addams: another answer to a question no one ever asked sober or outside of a college dorm.)
I used Facebook for a year before I caved in and tried any social gaming. It held no appeal at all. I ignored the messages from friends asking me to join their Mafia, become part of their vampire clan, move in next door to their rutabaga farm, or contribute to efforts to elect Ron Paul president. (Oh, you mean they were serious about the Ron Paul thing?)
Facebook games like Farmville and Mafia Wars carry a rep for being diabolically addictive, but who knew they were just downright diabolical? Apparently, the productivity-whacking timewasters were birthed in a hive of scam and villainy. Straight from the horse’s mouth:
“I knew that I wanted to control my destiny, so I knew I needed revenues, right, f***ing, now. Like I needed revenues now. I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues right away," said Zynga CEO Mark Pincus. "I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this zwinky toolbar which was like, I don’t know, I downloaded it once and couldn't get rid of it.”
Fortunately, Pincus recently vowed to turn his games into sleaze-free zones, which will involve removing offers that ask for players’ addresses, phone numbers, and things of the like.
“We have worked hard to police and remove bad offers. Nevertheless, we need to be more aggressive and have revised our service level agreements with these providers requiring them to filter and police offers prior to posting on their networks. We have also removed all mobile ads until we see any that offer clear user value,” Pincus said.
As a result, other Facebook/MySpace gaming companies -- like Offerpal -- have begun cleaning up their acts as well. This is especially surprising for Offerpal, who – before a recent CEO switcheroo – was vehemently denying its involvement in any backdoor dealings.
Honestly though, people, if you willingly gave your address and phone number away to a game called “Mafia Wars,” you only got what was coming to you. Just sayin'.