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VC Defends Farmville, Touts Virtual Tractor Sales 148

theodp writes "In a blog post, venture capitalist Fred Wilson gives his thoughts on ripe areas for tech investment in 2010 — mobile, gaming, new forms of commerce/currency, Cloud platforms/APIs, education and energy/environment. Asked to comment on scams and social gaming (he is an investor in Zynga), Wilson defended Zynga's Farmville: 'Zynga makes almost all of its revenue on virtual goods. I said in my etsy/san telmo post the other day that more tractors are sold every day in Farmville than are sold in the US every year. That's where the money is in social gaming. The "scammy ads" thing is total red herring that everyone got excited about but is almost entirely irrelevant.'"
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VC Defends Farmville, Touts Virtual Tractor Sales

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:13AM (#30631758)

    Too many non productive "things" are becoming parts of a virtual economy. What is this? We are still living in RL, this isn't the Matrix and even if, the Matrix still has an RL "dynamic" that keeps it running.
    Real products (hard machines or what have you) need to be produced and sold to make an economy (and indeed humanity) better. Not virtual "stuff"....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:23AM (#30631812)

    This needs to be the year that those of us with even the slightest degree of technical knowledge take a stand against the goddamn "Cloud".

    It sounds fantastic in theory, but once in the real world, Cloud Computing falls flat on its face. My development and ops teams wasted too much time dealing with Cloud providers over the past year. So my resolution this year is to tell anyone who proposes the use of anything Cloud to cram it. We aren't doing it any longer. It's a failed approach.

    Just last week, during the holidays, we had to scramble after one of our Cloud providers ran into some hardware problems and couldn't get our service restored in a timely manner. After the outage exceeded my threshold, I called up my best developers and had them put together a locally-hosted solution in a rush, and payed them quite a bit more than usual due to the inconvenient timing. Then I called up the Cloud provider and basically told our rep there that we are done using them and their shitty service. Then I called up the manager in our company who recommended them, and told him to basically go smoke a horse's cock.

  • by lucm ( 889690 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:28AM (#30631840)

    Buying virtual tractors for a game seems ridiculous, until you compare it with buying virtual fish for a screensaver...

  • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:31AM (#30631854) Homepage Journal

    What's a scam about it? They explain to you in simple language that it costs money to have certain items. I play farmville when I am waiting for my brain to function enough to play AlphaC in the wee small hours of the morning (sometimes by way of Pioneers) and it's amusing enough. There's a cute little sense of community, gift-trading with friends. And it has cost me nothing but time (and a share of my internet access bill, I guess.) Don't hate the game, hate the stupid, stupid players who spend actual money on it.

  • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xouumalperxe ( 815707 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:34AM (#30631882)

    and a crap game to boot.

    That's your opinion (and mine as well, actually). But what are we when faced with the sheer amount of people who do play it, and when enough of those play it hardcore enough that they'll pay for virtual property to keep a company afloat?

  • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:38AM (#30631900) Journal
    Why should you hate the "stupid" players that spend actual money on it?

    They pay for the servers you use to play your game for free.
  • by alcmaeon ( 684971 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:40AM (#30631910)
    I agree with you. In this age where the Chinese have decided to base their economy on the old methods of building real products for real people and America's economy has turned to shit, thank God capitalism and that entrepreneurial spirit are still alive in America to save us. Now we can sell virtual tractors for our virtual farms. Take that, you commie gooks!
  • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <sopssa@email.com> on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:45AM (#30631932) Journal

    And even more so, why should you hate or think the people are "stupid" just because they pay for entertainment they enjoy? I wouldn't pay for it. I don't think it makes that much sense either. But if they like it and think it's worth it, just let them do what they want. It doesn't make them more stupid, they just have different priorities or things they enjoy.

    Just as well as they probably think you are being stupid to buy that newest $800 graphic card or spend so much configuring your linux when you could just run windows or mac.

  • by Posting=!Working ( 197779 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:52AM (#30631976)

    Might as well compare the number of virtual Nazi's killed in games vs. actual Nazi's killed in WWII. I'm guessing there's probably a few gamers who have exceeded that on their own. And, like virtual tractor sales vs. actual tractor sales it's a very potent comparison that proves....I mean, shows that.....I mean, suggests....I mean, that vaguely resembles...ummmmmmm...absolutely nothing.

    Might as well compare these:
    Cartoon cranial anvil assaults vs actual cranial anvil assaults
    "CSI" crime solving rate vs. actual crime solving rate
    Virtual car theft vs. actual car theft
    Porno movie pizza delivery guy sex rate vs actual pizza delivery guy sex rate

    BTW, his claim is BS:
    "Andrew Trader, co-founder of Zynga, said the company makes about a third of its revenue from advertising and another third from virtual goods transactions. The last third comes from companies that provide commercial offers, trading Netflix memberships and marketing surveys for in-game cash."

    1/3 is not almost all.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <sopssa@email.com> on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:13PM (#30632084) Journal

    Alpha Centauri would had been great otherwise, but future scifi thing wasn't that interesting for me. Not really the history part in Civ's either tho, I always just rushed to modern day with technology, but it's the necessary evil to build up your civilization for the modern days.

    Some mix between Civ 2 and Civ 4 would be great. Better AI, better diplomacy and other little improvements, but the interface should stay the same. They should do a 15th year anniversary edition for next year, like Blue Byte did with Settlers 2.

  • by pmontra ( 738736 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:18PM (#30632108) Homepage
    People buy many useless "real" things. Any of us does. If that useless stuff is good for the economy so are the useless "virtual" things of many games.
  • This is not the same as virtual tractors sold for real dollars. In farmville, if you play the game it earns you points you can use to buy a tractor. This would be like saying that more shields were sold in Zelda for NES than were ever sold in real life, and that this fact somehow made Zelda a great game. (Zelda is great for other reasons)

  • by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:30PM (#30632186)

    I'm not sure what is stupider: Your retarded post that shows extreme ignorance of economics and manufacturing (here's a hint: the US is still the world top manufacturing economy) or the fact that you screwed your racial epithet up. Gook is an epithet for Koreans, not Chinese. If you are going to be racist, you could at least try and get your terms straight.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pherthyl ( 445706 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:47PM (#30632286)

    >>Don't hate the game, hate the stupid, stupid players who spend actual money on it.

    Why are they stupid? I bet most people here have spent money on games. I spent a few hundred buying games through Steam, does that make me stupid? How is spending money to get in-game items for a free game any dumber than spending money to buy a game in the first place? In both cases you get nothing that has any relevance in real life, and in both cases you do it for entertainment.
    I don't play Farmville, but just like the Sim* series was popular I can see the attraction, and if a tractor helps you along in the game I can see the logic in paying for it with real money, just like back in the day I bought SimCity with real money.

  • by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:53PM (#30632320)

    "Real" stuff like pet rocks, virtual pet rocks, virtual pets, beenie babies, prayers, etc,

    Every generation has their "What the hell did we spend money on?" product. This one seems to have virtual products.

  • by voidstin ( 51561 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:39PM (#30632682)

    So, if the revenue really comes from honestly entertained consumers trading money for an enjoyable experience, fine. Do that. Stop it with the text message scams and toolbar downloads. [gawker.com].

    But, since $9.99/mo in hidden text message charges > $1 for a tractor, it seems to me that the tractor is the red herring, in order to get you to the far more profitable malware. But Zynga can easily prove me wrong by stopping these practices....

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:57PM (#30632840)

    Farmville, and games like it, are just the beginning of a new wave of social engineering and virtual product testing. As these virtual worlds become more common, governments will step in and test new policies before implementing them in the real world. Not sure how that new tax is going to affect your national economy. Build a big game and try it in your virtual economy before going live.

    And for you naysayers who will claim no government agency would ever create a virtual game, may I remind you that both the military and NASA have created video games already. It's only a matter of time before the Fed makes a virtual banking game, or a SIM Stock Market. When Trillions of dollars are at stake, testing before implementation is the only sane answer.

    This also goes for product testing, political campaign testing. The virtual worlds can tell you a lot about how people will react to product pricing and uses.

    I'm not saying that Farmville or any of the current MMOs are ready to do this yet. But soon we'll start seeing games where the true purpose is testing the reaction of massive numbers of people -- something that virtual world gaming lends itself to.

  • So? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 03, 2010 @02:36PM (#30633234)

    And even more so, why should you hate or think the people are "stupid" just because they pay for entertainment they enjoy?

    Exactly. I play FarmVille but buy nothing for actual money. I also play the slot machines at the local casino once in a blue moon though this does cost me real money (20 dollars for about 3 hours of entertainment). Both games are equally useless on the large scale in my life but both are fun for different reasons.

  • by nloop ( 665733 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @04:05PM (#30633772)

    It sounds fantastic in theory, but once in the real world, Cloud Computing falls flat on its face.

    Try explaining that to the 11 million people who play FarmVille. Or to Google. Sure, you don't like cloud computing, I don't love it either, but falls on its face? Nah. Epically popular? Yup.

  • Re:So? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bigstrat2003 ( 1058574 ) * on Sunday January 03, 2010 @05:12PM (#30634264)
    More importantly, as I recall Valve has in the past banned someone from playing online, which also locked them out of all their games. Not that I condone cheating online, but "nuke all the games they bought" is not the answer to that, and it really makes me uneasy that Valve would do such a thing.
  • by nelsonal ( 549144 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @09:31PM (#30636414) Journal
    http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-top-manufacturing-countries.htm [wisegeek.com] The US still manufactures almost 2x what China does. Keep in mind that when things say made in china, that doesn't neccessarily mean all the components were made there. The US also manufactures large amounts of goods that aren't bought by individuals (like tractors, heavy equipment and airplanes). Just because we don't dominate toys and t-shirts doens't mean that we don't make plenty of other goods.
  • by RedWizzard ( 192002 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:29PM (#30637138)

    Now, to specifically answer the question: Although tractors, seeders and harvesters are coin based purchases, the fuel refills are not. Now, you don't need to buy the fuel, you can wait a day and get a free refill, but if you have one of the larger farms, you will not be able to harvest, plow and seed all of it on the one refill. And since you have a very limited supply of FVD that you earn.... It becomes a habit that must be paid for.

    Except tractors, seeders and harvesters only reduce the number of clicks you have to do. They don't have any significant bearing on the game - you don't actually need them. Also a bit of planning can let you use them for free even with a large farm: just plant smaller plots with selected crops that will be due for harvest when you know you'll have fuel (this is actually just about the only scope for strategy in the whole game). So it's easy to avoid getting addicted to buying fuel if you don't want to.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by uninformedLuddite ( 1334899 ) on Monday January 04, 2010 @02:29AM (#30637972)

    I suspect you are an I-hate-DRM-fanboy and 90% of your games most likely come with root-kits instead of DRM (that may even be the reason that 'your' CD-Key was distributed online (I hear that mega-warez-IV distributes your CD-Keys for you as a helpful gesture).

    Managing to sucker a store clerk into letting you exchange the game just screwed over the next purchaser and means you aren't even worthy of me bothering to disrespect you. You suck.

    No wonder you posted anonymously I would be ashamed if I was you too.

    Of course you might have just made all of this up in an attempt to be one of those hip, happening, anti-DRM zealots who defend their rabid piracy by invoking the word 'freedom' in some catch-all phrase that appeals to all of the other 12 year olds who think they are hackers because they can use Winzip.

    BTW I don't like DRM at all but Steam seems to be the lesser of the plethora(yes kids IT IS a biscuit) of various evils out there(no one mention Crysis: Warhead)

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