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Businesses Programming The Almighty Buck Games

Copying Trumps Creating For FarmVille Creator Zynga 319

Posted by Soulskill
from the at-least-they're-honest dept.
theodp writes "The good news for Zynga is that it scored the cover of SF Weekly. The bad news is that the FarmVillains cover story starts out by describing the secret to the toast-of-Silicon-Valley company's success thusly: 'Steal someone else's game. Change its name. Make millions. Repeat.' SF Weekly says interviews conducted with several former Zynga workers indicate that the practice of stealing other companies' game ideas — and then using Zynga's market clout to crowd out the games' originators — was business as usual. 'I don't ****ing want innovation,' one ex-employee recalled Pincus saying. 'You're not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.' Another quipped that 'Zynga's motto is "Do Evil."' Valleywag piles on with an item on the existence of Zynga's underground 'Platinum Purchase Program,' reportedly geared towards making players known as 'whales' part with a minimum of $500 at a time for imaginary credits."
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Copying Trumps Creating For FarmVille Creator Zynga

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:19PM (#33563688)

    Screw Zynga. People need to immediately stop playing these money-draining pavlovian flash games

  • by powerlord (28156) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:20PM (#33563700) Journal

    Okay, I'm sad to say I've given more of my time then I'd like to Facebook games. I'm also happy to say that I've managed to reform myself. Finally broke myself free (and am in the process of "de-friending" people who I friended just for the player boost).

    This shouldn't be a huge surprise to anyone. Lots of games in arcades ripped off competitors. The only difference with Zynga is that its much more visible to people.

    Heck, between the limited game mechanics available, they actually only have one or two games, with LOTS of reskinning between different flavors of them. Hopefully this will encourage more innovation but the sad fact is, that it will only discourage innovation, since if you DO come up with something fun and innovative, there is the concern that someone like Zynga will come along and just rip it off lock/stock/barrel, so why bother?

  • by Orga (1720130) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:22PM (#33563722)
    I understand them not wanting to go through the hassle of wire transfers for everyone, that's where the ease of credit cards come in. I think it's good of them to offer this fee avoiding method to big time users. They're obviously passing the savings back onto the user in the form of bonus. As for the complaints about wasting money... how much do you pay for cable tv every month? At least these games are social and interactive. I don't play any zynga games myself but do play some free MMO's and pay-to-play MMO's as well and have no problem spending money on things I enjoy. And no.. I do not pay for cable tv, and only use my tv set for netflix and console.
  • by alen (225700) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:25PM (#33563760)

    my wife used to buy the scratch off tickets and once in a while i used to take the winning ones to the store to cash them out. i noticed that they scan the bar code to verify a winning ticket. and most of the people i see buying them scratch them off with hope and dreams.

    farmville is not that different than most RPGs except its freemium. most RPG's the game play is very repetitive with minor rewards along the way. farmville is free to start and you pay if you want the rewards faster.

    I think this idea started with Napoleon and his practice of giving soldiers ribbons for bravery in battle. people would risk their lives for a colored piece of cloth

  • Whales? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by brian0918 (638904) <> on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:27PM (#33563794)

    Zynga's underground 'Platinum Purchase Program,' reportedly geared towards making players known as 'whales' part with a minimum of $500 at a time for imaginary credits.

    They sound more like cows to me - prime for the milking.

  • by InfiniteWisdom (530090) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:29PM (#33563816) Homepage

    I don't understand the people railing against Facebook-based or other games because of the so-called issue of paying real money for in-game credits. People put in real quarters to play a video games at the arcade, they subscribe to World of Warcraft and other MMORGs.

    You're not paying for credits, you're paying for entertainment provided by the game.

  • Re:good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:33PM (#33563862) Homepage

    > Let's not forget all the FOSS clones of proprietary software too.

    Nearly all of those proprietary apps are themselves clones.

  • by alen (225700) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:35PM (#33563882)

    this goes back years. Microsoft used to do the same thing. they would visit a company, see a product, decline to buy it and then it would come up in the next version of WIndows. lately i see that Windows has a lot of third party licensed software. Apple is buying up small companies and last week there was news how Apple stopped doing business with a design firm that showed off an ipad lookalike. apple pays others to design products or parts of them.

    big companies with herds of MBA's take years to do anything and then it's so bad no one wants to use it. a few guys in a garage always innovate. look at YouTube, Facebook and all the current big names. AOL had a video service years ago and they used the actor from married with children to advertise it on TV. shockingly it died.

  • Zygna is the worst (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jandrese (485) <> on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:36PM (#33563892) Homepage Journal
    Zygna's business model, as the article says, is to just copy a game and then add a whole lot of "spam your friends" features. Unfortunatly, like AOL disks before them, this works and they've got the largest base of gamers on Facebook. The absolute worst part is that other companies saw the success of the "spam like hell and don't worry about the consequences" business model and immediately followed suit, so that all games on Facebook feel the need to post 4 or 5 messages a day to your wall/friends wall/friends messages/email/sms/friends email/etc...

    Even big names like EA got into the game. They bought up Playfish earlier and immediately started adding as many "spam your friends" features as they could think of to all of the PF games. Worse, as Facebook adds features to block (automatically or manually) said spam messages, the companies work as fast as possible to get around the blocks. Right now I have half a dozen posts from some damn fugly animal breeding game or something that make it through because they're posted as pictures in the account or something.

    Also, if you want to see what unbridled evil look like, pull up any of those games and check out the "free cash offers", which look like an inbox without a spam filter. "Sign up for an UzbeckBank Credit Card and get 100 fake "real money" coins!". Fill out this fake survey with tons of personal information for 10 coins. etc...
  • Settlers get rich. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:41PM (#33563968) Homepage Journal

    Pioneers get killed.
    Univac, IMSA, MITS, Digital Research, Visicorp, DEC, Control Data.....

  • Re:good (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ect5150 (700619) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:42PM (#33563978) Journal

    It does lead to an interesting debate regarding what we (the net) consider to be right and acceptable.

    Here we have a story of someone seeing someone else doing something and basically saying, "I can do that." Do we get upset when a new pizza restaurant opens up? Or perhaps another excavation company? What makes this worse than some company saying "Hey, I can do that cheaper."

    I realize there are issues with respect to intellectual property, but this IS an important point of discussion. When is the line crossed?

    I don't see people complaining when the "I can do that cheaper" turns into lower prices for those pizzas, or cars, or processors, or RAM, etc... I thought people liked having AMD to keep Intel's prices in check.

  • by mark72005 (1233572) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:45PM (#33564010)
    Actually, based on what I know of the people who are playing FarmVille, I'd prefer they were mindlessly pecking away within their houses at an imaginary farm than contaminating the rest of society.
  • Re:good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:53PM (#33564102) Homepage Journal

    Not the point at all. If A claims B ripped him off and sues him - and loses - that sets a precedent that can be used when B sues C, C sues D etc.

  • by Scrameustache (459504) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:56PM (#33564130) Homepage Journal

    You know there is nothing original in Star Wars, or in Avatar? It's all recycled material lifted from earlier, less rich&famous sources.

    It's the same for inventions, the guy who ends up with the patent isn't necessarily the guy who innovated.

  • Re:Yeah, so ? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mike Buddha (10734) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:58PM (#33564148)

    So it's unethical to copy a decent unpatented idea that's been ineptly marketed and turn it into a titan of the industry? I disagree. If they were so concerned, they could have applied for a design patent or a trademark. Problem is: there are already farming games out there in the world. FarmTown is just as derivative as Farmville, just marketed and developed poorly. Simply moving the farming game paradigm to a social network hardly counts as innovation worthy of protection, IMO.

  • Re:good (Score:3, Insightful)

    by spikenerd (642677) on Monday September 13, 2010 @02:58PM (#33564150)

    Nearly all of those proprietary apps are themselves clones.

    ...often of what was originally FOSS software. How's that for a vicious circle?

    Further, they often even derived from the same source code ...until the GPL became a popular way to prevent that.

  • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:01PM (#33564194)

    FWIW, it's pretty easy to block all messages from a single app (or user) forever.

  • by Mongoose Disciple (722373) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:06PM (#33564282)

    There's nothing stopping the originators from taking a page right out of Zynga's book and adding the social network hooks to their "original" games.

    You're misunderstanding the situation.

    These are social network games that Zynga's ripping off. FarmVille, for example, is almost (or was at launch) the exact same game as FarmTown. Both were on Facebook etc. Both had very similar social hooks.

    What's different is that Zynga at this point has inertia. When FarmVille launched, people who played any of their games were deluged with advertising and promos encouraging them to try out FarmVille for a month or more.

  • by Phrogman (80473) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:15PM (#33564398) Homepage

    There is a difference between:

    • Paying a subscription fee to play a game like an MMO - that is paying for entertainment. Everyone has to pay the same fee, and its remarkably good value for money if you enjoy playing the game
    • Paying money to get something that lets you win the game more effectively. That is unbalancing and ensures those with more money to blow get ahead of those who are unable/unwilling/not stupid enough to pay extra money to get the edge on their competition.

    To use an example from a more standard game (which I don't play at all mind you), how much fun would poker be if you got dealt 5 cards, but if you wanted to pay $15 more you could get a 6th card that other players didn't have? It would unbalance the game, and everyone who wanted to compete would be forced to also buy extra cards to keep the balance up. Only the rich would play and the real winner would be the house, selling off the extra cards. That is the model many MMO game companies want us to accept. Sadly there are a lot of players who see the fact that they have cash on hand as justification for their lack of sportsmanship and willingness to get ahead of other players who are better, by buying the edge required.

  • by blair1q (305137) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:19PM (#33564442) Journal

    What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
    -Ecclesiastes 1:9

    You think there's nothing new since that was written?

    The only thing that never really changes is that people think like that.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:19PM (#33564452) Homepage Journal

    Hundreds of thousands of people hunched in front of glowing monitors, clicking their mice and banging their keyboards. Not one of them actually talking to each other, just posting game-generated messages about game progress, wishlists, and canned in-game requests.

    Where is the "social" aspect of such games? Even FPS games with voice headsets are more "social" because they allow/encourage the players to yell at each other!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:21PM (#33564474)

    ABA wire transfer fees are comparable to so-called credit card discount rates at this size of transaction. They're only doing it because it can't be charged back once somebody receiving the bill wises up to the scam.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Monday September 13, 2010 @03:22PM (#33564512)
    But Zynga doesn't -care- about their games and won't move past a certain threshold of "fun". All Zynga cares about is getting hits to its page and getting people to purchase crap. A good version of, say, FarmVille that was basically like Harvest Moon and let you -do- stuff rather than point click, wait an hour, return. Could completely eat up FarmVille's marketshare.

    But it seems like so far no one has really done that. They all just want to try to compete with Zynga by doing the exact same thing they copy.
  • by hesiod (111176) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:14PM (#33565214)

    And then later, when it is seen that a whole bunch of tickets were scanned days apart from each other (most people I've seen don't scratch off the tickets at the store), something looks fishy. If the same person was working the register all those times, the game is up, and lotto fraud is a big-time no-no.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:19PM (#33565282)
    The main problem with these games is that they are specifically designed to be addictive because the game play/design is so poor. What is even worse is that not only is the player like a drug addict, but also like a drug dealer due to to the constant status updates and incentives to recruit your friends.
  • Re:Whales? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sohp (22984) <> on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:43PM (#33565546) Homepage

    Makes total sense, as Zynga's 'games' are far more like casino slots and other sorts of gambling than real skill- or puzzle-based games.

  • by cowscows (103644) on Monday September 13, 2010 @04:47PM (#33565590) Journal

    I would expect that scanning a ticket to check if it won would involve a check back to the lottery people's network/mainframe/whatever. I would think that if that's the case, any scanned ticket is marked purchased and used, and that being the case, the store is responsible for paying the lottery for it. And since the store's odds aren't any better than anybody else's odds, they should end up losing money.

  • Re:Hmmm (Score:0, Insightful)

    by sheph (955019) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:08PM (#33565814)
  • by bonch (38532) on Monday September 13, 2010 @05:18PM (#33565914)

    Open source software clones other software constantly. You even have the classic taskbar, start menu, "File Edit View Window Help" menus, and more. Why is it wrong for Zynga to do this?

  • by mattack2 (1165421) on Monday September 13, 2010 @09:46PM (#33568264)

    Umm, aren't all of these (Zynga) games free? Just because people _can_ pay for items, can't they play entirely for free?

A language that doesn't affect the way you think about programming is not worth knowing.