There's big bucks in farming (Farmville), whacking the competition (Mafia Wars), exploring the wild west (Frontierville), raising pets and dressing them up (Petville), exploring islands (Treasure Isle), and, well, hopefully by now you get the idea. Zynga's various 'villes and other social games have turned the San Francisco game company into a multi-billion juggernaut, according to an amended SEC filing, CNet reports.
Zynga and Facebook go together like peanut butter and jelly or beans and franks: it's hard to imagine one without the other. Who doesn't like to enjoy a quick game of Mafia Wars or Farmville when they're done checking in on their friends? But Zynga wants to point out that its an apple to Facebook's orange in one crucial way: privacy. Zynga suffers when users shun Facebook due to privacy concerns, so the company just released a new game called PrivacyVille to walk users through their privacy policies in an interactive way.
According to a report in the U.K.'s Guardian, a 29-year-old British man will spend two years behind bars for hacking Zynga and stealing 400 billion virtual gaming chips. Ashley Mitchell made off with more than $11 million in chips by muscling his way into Zynga's mainframe and stealing the identity of two employees before transferring the chips to his own account. It almost worked.
After the recent magnitude 9 earthquake/tsunami tragedy that struck Japan, the country needs every bit of help it can get. Fortunately, the gaming industry's doing its best to chip in and aid the relief effort. Absolutely key, however, is this fact: you – right this very moment – can help.
If you thought FarmVille was popular, get this. It's taken just 8 days for Zynga's new CityVille game to attract 6 million daily active users, making it the fast growing game the company has ever released, TechCrunch reports.
As a point of comparison, it took FarmVille 46 days to hit 6 million daily active users and FrontierVille 32 days. After 24 hours had passed, CityVille was inhabited with 300,000 players, and 3 million after a week went by.
Unlike FarmVille and FrontierVille, however, CityVille is the first game Zynga ever released on an international level. CityVille debuted in five languages, including English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian, and benefited from a bigger marketing campaign than either of the two other titles.
Facebook is testing a new payment option to encourage people to invest in Facebook Credits. The social networking giant is testing a "pay later" option on some games, Inside Facebook is reporting. Facebook has already negotiated with the top social game designers (like Zynga) to make Facebook credits the exclusive form of currency on the site. Apparently, the biggest barrier to users spending money was getting them to enter their payment information on the spot. That's where Pay Later comes in.
Users will be prompted to let Facebook bill them for the unpaid credits later. If they proceed, their account will show a negative credit balance with a link to "repay". An email will also be sent with a link to repay the credits. Users are not required to settle up before buying more content with Pay Later. It is unclear is Facebook will set a limit on Pay Later transactions.
We're not sure any of this is a good idea. Some users have a tendency to drop large sums of cash on social games. Letting them run up debts on Facebook could be trouble. What happens if people don't pay? Does Facebook hire some guys to "explain the situation"?
Show of hands, how many of you play Farmville? Now keep your hands up if you own or plan to purchase an iPad. Everybody else, go grab a gun and shoot everyone in the leg that has their hands up. We kid, we kid -- natural selection will take care of itself.
In the meantime, all you iPad toting, Farmville loving miscreants can have the best of both worlds, as Zynga announced its popular game is now available on Apple's magical tablet.
Farmville is already being played by more than 60 million people around the wold, with players receiving in excess of 500,000 virtual gifts in the game every 24 hours, Zynga says. But for all its success, Farmville has been tied to privacy concerns on Facebook, with the Wall Street Journalclaiming it's one of the titles blatantly ignoring users' privacy settings by sharing personal info with advertisers. Prior to that, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus admitted to sleazy business tactics early on in attempt to earn a buck, such as offering "users poker chips if they downloaded this zwinky toolbar" that he himself said he "couldn't get rid of it" once installed.
Zynga just can't help making a mess of things. Updates from games like Mafia Wars and Farmville nearly ruined the Facebook experience until the social networking site cleaned up the application spam. But out in the real world, cleaning up Zynga's mess is proving costly.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent a letter to Zynga last week threatening to hit the company with a lawsuit over a messy guerrilla marketing campaign. Apparently Zynga thought it was a good idea to glue fake $25,000 bills to select sidewalks in five locations in Hayes Valley to promote the latest version of its Mafia Wars game.
According to the city's Department of Public Works (DPW), cleaning up the mess involves bringing in a steam cleaner and is a 45 minute affair, plus administration time.
"We don't have any staff to spare," said DWP spokeswoman Christine Falvey.
The city is demanding that Zynga fork over all its information about the marketing campaign, including "emails, work orders, scope of work, contracts, marketing plans, or other records -- that show when and where the graffiti in San Francisco was placed, and by whom." In addition, the city wants Zynga to come up with a "proposal to fully resolve the issue," one that goes beyond just paying for the cleanup.
Google isn't particularly well known for keeping secrets, but according to TechCrunch the search giant has quietly pumped anywhere from $100-$200 million into Facebook developer Zynga to help develop a new "Google Games" web portal. If the rumor proves true Zynga would most likely play a key role in running the service, and provide Google with critical social graph information that would no doubt be beneficial in the development of "Google Me". The micro transaction approach taken in most Zynga products presents a huge revenue opportunity for Google in the gaming space, and would give them another application for Google Checkout, a PayPal competitor that has never gained any kind of critical mass.
Neither Zynga or Google responded to a request for comment, but branching out in this direction only makes sense for a company that recorded over $350 million in revenue during the first 6 months of 2010 and forecasts sales of over $1 billion by 2011. Even if you aren't a fan of Farmville, it's hard to not be impressed with Zynga's performance. With more than $500 million in seed capital raised over the last 12 months alone, we wouldn't be surprised to see virtual farms start popping up not just at Google, but even Yahoo or Microsoft portals as well.
It would appear PC Gaming is alive and well, and flash won't be going anywhere anytime soon. Sorry Steve.
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.