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Paying for Those Games – Facebook Credits April 9, 2010

Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in Casual Games, entertainment.
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One of the things all of these Facebook games want you to do… in fact need you to do, if they are to survive… is give them some money.

That means establishing some sort of financial relationship with a company you might not know enough about about, or one that you might know a bit too much about, to feel comfortable forking over credit card or PayPal information.

So when Facebook popped a little message onto my main page about Facebook Credits being the easiest way to pay for things on Facebook, two things popped into my head.

The first was the thought, “Now wouldn’t that be convenient, what with well over a thousand games on Facebook!”

That was quickly followed in my mind by this scene from The Simpsons.

Homer: One adult and four children.
Woman: Would you like to buy some Itchy and Scratchy Money?
Homer: What’s that?
Woman: Well it’s money that’s made just for the park.  It works just like regular money, but it’s, er…”fun”.
Bart: Do it, Dad.
Homer: Well, OK, if it’s fun…let’s see, uh…I’ll take $1100 worth.

In the show, that exchange is immediately followed by this visual.


So what was going to be the story with Facebook Credits?  Convenient universal currency or Itchy and Scratchy Money?

Well, lucky for me and my meager sense of investigative journalism, Facebook has a help page about Facebook Credits.  And one of the items on the page answers the magic question, complete with ending preposition, “What applications can I use Facebook credits with?

There are 20 applications on that list, not including the Facebook gift shop, and I would seriously like to avoid the Facebook gift shop.

20 applications out of the thousands on Facebook?  That is leaning seriously towards the Itchy and Scratchy Money end of the spectrum.

But there at the top of the list was FarmVille.

Good.  At least the #1 game on Facebook is there, since nothing else from the Top 20 seemed to be there.  Potentially 82 million players are covered.

Because FarmVille being there is like… and I’ll apologize in advance for continuing to force the theme park analogy here… making Itchy and Scratchy Money usable for hamburgers.  You wish it could be used for more, especially if you have Homer’s $1100 worth, but lots of people buy hamburgers.  You could almost get away with it if they were hamburger vouchers. (It is an analogy, back off vegematarians, or consider garden burgers included.)

That’s not so bad.

Then I started looking into it.

You can buy 56 Facebook Credits for $9.99.  Why that ratio?  I have no idea.  But ten bucks gets you 56.

You can take those credits to FarmVille and spend 50 of them on 25 units of Farm Cash or 7,500 Farm Coins.

Or, to put it another way, you can take approximately $9.00 worth of Facebook credits and buy $5.00 worth of FarmVille currency.

The FarmVille Currency Exchange

Some might say that if you’re going to go buy virtual currency, you might as well do it in the most idiotic way possible since you’re probably brain dead as it is.  Me, I like to keep my idiocy as frugal as possible.

And you won’t get to frugality going this route.

So while I have to admit that Facebook credits aren’t quite Itchy and Scratchy Money, they aren’t exactly a viable gaming currency on Facebook either.

Or as the LOLCats say, “ur doing it wrong.”

Homer: One adult and four children.
Woman: Would you like to buy some Itchy and Scratchy Money?
Homer: What's that?
Woman: Well it's money that's made just for the park.  It works just
       like regular money, but it's, er..."fun".
 Bart: Do it, Dad.
Homer: Well, OK, if it's fun...let's see, uh...I'll take $1100 worth.

Comments»

1. Toldain - April 9, 2010

It sounds like Facebook has made a bet on the math abilities of Facebook users, and it isn’t bullish.

There will certainly be people who end up dropping money for a while, but as dumb as the American consumer seems to be sometimes, they usually catch on to stuff like this after a while.

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2. p@tsh@t - April 9, 2010

“2 tens for a five?” never gets old. Brilliant!

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3. Cuppycake - April 9, 2010

Facebook Credits are going to be the only way to buy in games at some point. It’s in beta testing with specific apps, but eventually apps will not be allowed to charge users in anything BUT Facebook Credits.

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4. Wilhelm2451 - April 9, 2010

Such cynicism. I’ll have to go re-watch “Paper Moon” now… or maybe “The Grifters.”

I did find out that the list Facebook provides is not definitive, which doesn’t seem to help their case much. They’d like you to use their funny money, but so much that they want to let you know where you can spend it. More “ur doing it wrong” I suppose.

@Cuppycake – Is that fact or opinion? That might explain why Zynga is pushing players to get off of Facebook and play on one of their dedicated sites like FarmVille.com.

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5. SynCaine - April 9, 2010

Is that what Zynga is doing now?

So since FB stopped their scam practices, they are trying to move their ‘games’ off FB to continue the scams unabated? That’s rather rich. I’m sure that will go well for them though, it’s not like they got big because they tapped into a waiting audience with nothing better to do than click a few times while reading “I ate toast today, yay jelly” insight. No no, it was all about the great, original, and inspiring gameplay they came up with.

Is the fad over yet?

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6. Wilhelm2451 - April 9, 2010

Whenever there is an issue, Zynga’s messages include something about going to FarmVille.com. Now they’re running a banner message that suggests if your game is running slow or you are experiencing any issues, you should play at FarmVille.com for an “improved farming experience.”

Of course, FarmVille is a success because it is on Facebook with an audience that is already committed to that as a platform and which supports the wall spam that is the social interaction element of the game, so I’m not sure how successful they’ll be… well, not biting… but shying away from the hand that feeds them. We’ll see. They’d probably be happy if just the paying players went.

And the fad will only be over when the next one begins.

I’m almost done. I think I have two more posts on the subject in me.

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7. bluelinebasher - April 9, 2010

Bluelinebasher likes SynCaine’s status.

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8. Brian 'Psychochild' Green - April 10, 2010

Wilhelm2451 wrote:
Is that fact or opinion?

I’ll answer that for Cuppy: that’s the obvious future. Zynga is valued at $5 BILLION last I heard, and Facebook knows that it more or less holds the keys to the kingdom for all the social network games. It’s only obvious that FB make a play to get a part of all that juicy revenue going around. They didn’t launch Facebook Credits out of the kindness of their own hearts. I assume Zynga is charging enough to get the same income from either way; if this is true, that means FB is taking about 45% of the ticket price.

This is the same ploy as it always has been. At one time game publishers were about publishing games that developers had made and getting them to retail stores. Slowly they took over the process until they became the gatekeepers and could demand essentially total control over a developer’s livelihood (their IP, etc.) Same with portals and casual games. It doesn’t take a magic 8-ball to see that Facebook is going to try to do the same. Why? Because it’s incredibly profitable, as game publishers and casual game portals have shown.

The FB gravytrain is almost certainly over, at least for the small guy. Large firms like Zynga might be able to negotiate a better deal. We’ll see.

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9. Stabs - April 10, 2010

Hmm, it may be obvious Brian but it’s also a gamble on how many Facebook gamers are willing to move off Facebook to follow their game.

I’m sure there are some hardcore farm builders but most players only play these games because they are right there on Facebook.

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10. fromnickpick - April 10, 2010

Facebook 1, General Public 0. If FaceBook is trying to take over its game market, it is going to destroy all creative games that grace its presence. That’s OK, though. There aren’t many and it will make alot of money in the process, however.

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11. Wilhelm2451 - April 10, 2010

@Brian – Thanks for that link. You always seem to have an interesting and relevant read tucked away somewhere. It really has been the same old battle since Software Arts and VisiCorp were split up as developer and distributor for VisiCalc. Only the distributors seem to have locked in the dominant position .

And while I accept your opinion on Facebook credits as highly likely, there being little to argue against it from the Facebook point of view, I was actually wondering if Cuppycake, whose company is getting in bed with Facebook, was in possession of fact, actual word from the mouth of Zuckerberg on the subject, or if she too was just indicating what seems to be the most likely outcome in that regard.

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12. Brian 'Psychochild' Green - April 10, 2010

Wilhelm2451 wrote:
Thanks for that link. You always seem to have an interesting and relevant read tucked away somewhere.

I analyze a lot of information to keep current. I love that link because it really shows how business works in the game industry. Of course, I’ve probably missed a lot of otherwise great (short-term) opportunities because I’ve been a bit too cautious and seeing the clouds instead of the silver lining.

I was actually wondering if Cuppycake, whose company is getting in bed with Facebook, was in possession of fact, actual word from the mouth of Zuckerberg on the subject, or if she too was just indicating what seems to be the most likely outcome in that regard.

I suspect the official answer is that she can neither confirm nor deny any allegations at this time. ;)

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