Quote of the Day – Social Gaming in Hindsight

A lot of people now equate ‘game on Facebook’ to ‘spammy piece of shit,’ which I don’t think is an unfair or inaccurate estimation of the situation

Scott Jon Siegel, quoted at Gamasutra on social gaming

Gamasutra is moving into one of the things they do really well, which is looking at how things unfolded in some aspect of the gaming industry in hindsight by pulling in key players and getting them to talk about their experiences.

The topic of the moment is social gaming… which pretty much means games on Facebook… and articles like the one above are starting to show up to examine the phenomena.

Of course, it is tough to pick just one quote out of that article.  Gems abound, such as:

any Facebook game he tries will be poorly designed, lack invention, try to trick him into spending money and spamming friends, and start emailing him regularly without permission

And the especially damming:

You had a huge population of product managers, game designers, and developers making games that they themselves didn’t like

You hear a lot of “game studios are businesses” and “they have to make money” when anybody complains about monetization in games.  Those sentiments are true enough, if not exactly a defense against any particularly odious money making scheme.   But when your studio becomes all about the money and cashing in and being the next Zynga, well, something is wrong.

And a lot of the blame in the article goes on Zynga, both for their questionable business practices as well as for their huge initial success attracting copycats and wooing Facebook to tie themselves to the Zynga model.  In the end, so-called social gaming went from a giant cash cow, to a more modest one that now requires some originality to stand out.  You can still make money.  Look at Candy Crush Saga.

An interesting read, and one I am sure some people will take a great deal of satisfaction in.  “I told you so!” should spring to mind for some.

Additional fodder: These two videos about Cow Clicker and Age of Empires Online.

Extra Credit Question: Lord British was telling people they would be stupid not to make an MMO when World of Warcraft was the big, big thing.  He then jumped on the social gaming bandwagon and even attempted to hitch his star to Zynga at one point.  Now he has a crowd-funded project.  What does that say about crowd-funding?

Quote of the Day – Bored With All Games

Right now, I’m pretty bored with all games

-Mark Pincus, former Zynga CEO in a Wall Street Journal interview

On the one hand, his longing for the early days of FarmVille, to which he claimed to be “addicted,” is an understandable emotion, at least to me.  I certainly long to relive the early excitement of some games.

On the flip side… really, FarmVille is the pinnacle of your gaming excitement?

F-Ville

F-Ville

But I think it is clear from his history that Mr. Pincus was looking for a way to make money in life, not a way to make games.  I particularly like this old quote:

I did every horrible thing in the book, too, just to get revenues right away. 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

Yeah.

Well he made money and left his mark on an industry.  I still wonder what Lord British thought we was getting into before Zynga pretty much fell apart.

Hat tip: Game Politics

The Zynga Business Plan Moves Forward

My daughter and I were watching Spongebob together when we saw a commercial for this:

Hungry Hungry Herd

Technically, it is not a simple rip-off of some other company’s idea, the classic Zynga approach, because Hasbro owns Hungry Hungry Hippos, and Zynga and Hasbro are in bed together on this one.  But it certainly feels like a poor recycling job to me, with 50 Farm Cash thrown in as a “Digital Value for Parents Inside!”  I suppose at least they are pretending to feed adult addiction to the game rather than overtly suggesting the kids go log on and play.

Of course, in looking this up, I found that Hasbro and Zynga have recycled a few other classic games with a FarmVille theme.

I would add that there is even a CityVille version of Monopoly… but what brand hasn’t gone for their own version of Monopoly at this point?

With the Empire Crumbling, What of Darth British?

Zynga’s Emperor Palpapincus had only just recruited Lord British, turning him into Darth British (yeah, I decided to go with that just to keep things simple), with the promise of teaching him the dark arts of monetization and giving eternal life to half-baked cow-clicking games.

You’re right Mark, these helmets are great!

In the words of recently turned gaming jedi:

“Not just Zynga’s, but lots of social games use monetization strategies that, as a hardcore gamer, I find offensive, frankly,” Garriott admits. “I really don’t like games that constantly pester me to pay. I find it radically interferes with my suspension of disbelief. So, I’m devoted in the Ultimate RPG game to finding novel monetization strategies that don’t offend me like some of these do. Yet, it’s still really important to learn those lessons, and there’s no better place to learn them then by having Zynga as a partner.”

Richard Garriott de Cayeux (Darth British), on his partnership with Zynga

How often has a hero fallen in an attempt to learn the tricks of his foe by becoming what he opposes?  It certainly seems to come up a lot in juvenile pulp novels, so clearly it is a menace.

Failing to heed the warning of… well… many people… that once you start down the dark path with Zynga, forever shall it haunt your resume, the newly minted Darth British swore fealty to a new master.

And then, as the recruitment of this gaming luminary was nearly complete, Zynga totally took a dump on the living room floor.

There were $52 million in losses, layoffs, and the whole “EA is pissed and coming to sue you” dimension to what can only be seen as a setback for the Zynga empire.

Emporer Palpapincus issued a statement declaring, “While the last several months have been challenging for us, Zynga remains well positioned to capitalize on the growth of social gaming.”  He was then heard to mutter something about the second FarmVille being “fully operational” and there being “no civility in gaming, only ARPU” as he stalked off.

Which leads us to the next cliff hanger.

What course will Darth British choose?  Is he in too deep?  Has he signed in blood?  Has he committed his Ultimate Collector and Ultimate RPG to the fires of the Zynga sweatshop?

And is it ironic that EA, who he was totally trying woo… at least in the press… not only thwarted his Ultima aspirations, but has taken up arms against Zynga?

For whom will our hero(?) show a fondness next?

Question of the Day – What Will Lord British’s Sith Name Be?

The more I think about this, the more the Anakin Skywalker / Richard Garriott de Cayeux parallel fits.

So here we are.  As I posted yesterday, Lord British acknowledges that Zynga is evil, or at least really annoying.  And since they are annoying not only purpose, but to their own material benefit, how does one distinguish that from evil? (See Tobold definition.)  And what is the Lord British response?

I’ll use this knowledge for good!

Knowing the truth, and even acknowledging it publicly and repeatedly, Lord British has still partnered with, and has been accepted as the apprentice of, a card carrying Sith Lord, the man who has admitted in the past that the ends clearly justify the mediocre means (the ends being increasing his wealth and power, as opposed to, say, making good games), Darth Pincus.

(Not to be confused with Greg Pincus, though the methods may sound similar.)

In the words of Lord British, when reflecting on the evil of Zynga:

Yet, it’s still really important to learn those lessons, and there’s no better place to learn them then by having Zynga as a partner.

Holy crap!

As a rabid consumer of crap science fiction and fantasy in my youth… and my relative youth… and, well, into middle age frankly… I know that this can only end one way.

Offensive monetization strategy? Sounds great!

So the immediate next question for me is, what name will Darth Pincus bestow upon his new apprentice?

And here is where things get a bit fuzzy, as the whole Sith naming structure is pretty opaque to me.  Do they have some deeper meaning?  Are they some sort of subtle mockery of their past, pre-Sith life?  Are they just supposed to sound badass so as to strike fear into their enemies and make it easier for movie goers to figure out who the bad guy really is when they are off screen?

So I can only guess how Lord British will be restyled once his transformation has begun.

Darth BritanniaVille?

Darth CosPlay?

Darth SoyuzVille?

What do you think it will be.  Who will rise up to cast down Darth Pincus and redeem our misguided hero?  And will George Lucas get involved somehow and screw the whole thing up?

This whole thing needs a web comic or something.  And a better version of Darth Vader’s head pasted on Lord British.  I was short on time before work this morning.

Quote of the Day – Lord British and a Fondness for Zynga

“Not just Zynga’s, but lots of social games use monetization strategies that, as a hardcore gamer, I find offensive, frankly,” Garriott admits. “I really don’t like games that constantly pester me to pay. I find it radically interferes with my suspension of disbelief. So, I’m devoted in the Ultimate RPG game to finding novel monetization strategies that don’t offend me like some of these do. Yet, it’s still really important to learn those lessons, and there’s no better place to learn them then by having Zynga as a partner.”

Richard Garriott de Cayeux, on his partnership with Zynga

I suppose we will see who ends up corrupting/influencing who in this partnership.

How are things with Mark Pincus?

Lord British and his company, Portalarium, teaming up with the foundering “Ville” magnate made the news a while back.  I hope he learns the right lessons for his Ultimate RPG.

I guess he must be pretty happy now that EA and Blizzard “let” Zynga have the casual market… such that it is.

Lord British and Zynga – A Match Made In…

I am really having trouble completing that sentence… CrazyVille?

All systems go!

So, according to a very short piece at Gamasutra, Zynga, whose wave of mindless click games has crested and begun crashing to the point that it is bringing Facebook down with it, and Richard Garriott de Cayeux, the once mighty Lord British, who is getting pretty deep into the “what have you done lately?” column these days, are teaming up around the Portalarium game Ultimate Collector to bring it to Facebook, Zynga’s new self-run platform, and to a TV show hosted by Garriott de Cayeux himself?

My first thoughts were “April Fools,” followed quickly by “rebound affair after being jilted by EA and EA rubbing his face in it.”

But I think I have to go with this response:

In what “Ville” do you think this belongs?  And where does his Ultimate RPG end up living?

Zynga and Martha Stewart – Two Brands Racing to Jump the Same Shark?

I really just don’t know what to think of this.  It is like I don’t want to see it, yet cannot look away.

Martha Stewart comes to CastleVille!

A bit more information is available at GameInformer,  where I first saw this story.  But what else really needs to be said.  I unblocked CastleVille on Facebook just to go see if it was true.

All that is left is the discussion as to who is benefiting the most from this relationship.

On the bright side, I suppose I should be happy that they are being up front in making it clear that Martha is somebody distinct from the group of people you know as your friends.

Items from the Mail Bag – Whole Lotta Press Releases Edition

Once again we look into what has show up at the blog email address that didn’t warrant a post of its own, wasn’t a 419 Scam, or wasn’t an entry in the Azeroth Travel Poster contest.

  • Anthony from Gamingo sent me a note asking if it was alright to put me on his press release distribution list.  Being surprised that somebody actually asked in advance, I said yes just to encourage such behavior.  Unfortunately, a lot of his press releases have a short shelf life, while I only do this once a month, so a number of items I received won’t get any mention.
  • Vizo over at Mediocre Gamer dropped me and a few other bloggers a line to tell me that he and some other people have started up a new blog called Mediocre gamer.  So there.  Probably more mention than he got out of anybody else on the list.
  • WXP Games sent me an offer to get a review copy of Xotic for myself and my editorial staff (i.e. myself).  I declined via an apathetic non-response.  I was a bit surprised (and annoyed) that they did not include any links with this email aside from the one to their Facebook page.  What if Facebook had finally gotten around to banning me?
  • Gamingo sent me a press release to tell me that their game Cultures, which sounds like a build, explore, conquer sort of browser game is popular in both Europe and Chine.  Not so much in North America I would guess then.
  • Beau sent out a message to the MMO Voices mailing list that he is facing the decision to either shut it down or transfer the ownership to another individual.
  • Serendipitously, Zynga sent me a message the same day asking me to come back and play CityVille.  If I read the message right, it suggests that if I build an arena, Enrique Iglesias might show up.  Euphoria?
  • Riot games wanted to inform me that my League of Legends account has been inactive for a long stretch.  If I do not log in before October 30th, they will free up my display name for use by other players.  So if you were aching to be known as Wilhelm IV, you chance approaches.
  • Club Penguin wants me to know that their Halloween related events are starting.  However, Club Penguin is still a bad word for somebody in our household who still harbors shame and resentment at the whole past affair with them.  There must be a gene for passing on grudge holding abilities.
  • And, as with last month, the final mail bag update is from Jason Scott, who sent out an email about how he is now within striking distance of his Kickstarter goal to fund his planned documentary three pack, with less than $5,000 of the $100K target left to raise.  That means I am going to have to play up soon, but that is okay. (Between the time when I wrote this and the time I posted it, Jason Scott passed the $100K mark.  So his three new documentaries should be under way… in fact, he was already doing interviews for one based on how well things were going.)