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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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  • So? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:10AM (#30631744)

    In my Civ 4 game I built more battleships than the US ever produced in its history. Know why? Because it's a fucking game!

    I fail to see how they think that their number for tractor sales has anything to do with the fact that it is a borderline scam, and a crap game to boot.

  • My rule of thumb. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eric S. Smith ( 162 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:26AM (#30631828) Homepage

    I know nothing about this story, but I just always assume that anything built on Facebook is a scam, whether for money or ID theft. Go sell your virtual cheese elsewhere, vampire gangsters.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:34AM (#30631876) Journal

    Of course its different and I'm sure he didn't really mean its comparable like that, but just gave an example (a car one too!) of the scale. It's also a far better business model than advertisement, since people like to feel better in games or have some advantages. Is it really that useful? Maybe not, but its entertaining for them, so let people do what they find entertaining.

    I agree somewhat that the scammy ads thing was uncalled against Zynga, since those ads were given to players by their advertising company and their advertisers. You should instead go after the people who make scam products, otherwise they'll just move to other avenues and scam different people. Go to the source of the problem.

    What I found interesting from the comments was

    Electronic Arts (ERTS) market cap is $5.8bln. Zynga is rumored to be around 1/6th. I'd like to be Zynga right now as they are built around the new model in the gaming industry.

    Even if we all here on /. hate twitter and facebook and such social sites (you have to interact with people!), social games on them seem to be a really big business. And it won't change from the "but they aren't real games and they're dumb!" yelling, because casual people like to play them and theres huge untapped revenues there.

  • by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:44AM (#30631926) Homepage Journal

    I agree with sopssa, it's a game. I think the minimum of what needs to happen to make a legitimate economy is that money has to voluntarily change hands. I don't see a virtual item is necessarily any different than some other worthless trinket. Non productive things such as games, movies and music are the same way, it now costs almost nothing extra to make more copies, but someone did have to make the original work.

    There's also a point where you don't need more real things, after you have your needs met and you're living a reasonably comfortable life, you don't need more things above food, water, energy and other maintenance items. Which I think inches closer to some visions of a utopia where we spend our time in a culture of art, albiet it's generally mass produced art these days.

  • by selven ( 1556643 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:47AM (#30631942)

    How is owning a big house IRL superior to owning one in a game? Seriously, if you spend a lot of your time in the game anyway, isn't it more logical to make yourself wealthy in the game than pimp out yourself in real life?

    I understand the need to give ourselves basic needs like food, water and internet but at some point there really is no difference.

  • by Xelios ( 822510 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @11:52AM (#30631980)
    It seems ridiculous to you and me, but to the millions of people who aren't as versed in technology as the average /. user maybe not. A few weeks ago I finally caved and opened a Facebook account (albeit with fake info), solely to keep in touch with friends back home after moving to Europe. Quite a few of them are into the Farmville thing (mostly the women), so I checked that out and my first thought was "Wow, people actually pay money to buy things in this game?". I never would, but some of my friends have. I asked them why, why pay money for such ridiculously simple [crappy] games? "Why not?" they said.

    I thought about it for a while, and I really didn't have a good answer. I've paid monthly fees to play MMOG's before. I pay money for a usenet account. To most of my friends spending money for these things would seem just as ridiculous. It's all a matter of perspective. For them, that tractor in Farmville is about as far as they've ventured into the gaming world outside of consoles, so why not spend a little money for it?

    Now the really scary thing happened when I first opened my Facebook account. All the info I gave was fake, including my name, except the email address. I entered a really old Hotmail address that I stopped using years ago. Since then it's been my disposable email address for anything that wouldn't accept 10mintemail addresses. From this one piece of real information Facebook built a list of probable friends, and 80% of them were people I know. How they managed to pull this off with a 6 year old Hotmail address is beyond me.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:02PM (#30632020)

    from other dump people who shared their address book with facebook.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:27PM (#30632168)

    My guess is it is two things:

    1) Novelty. I think the whole facebook games thing is novel to many people and thus why they are popular right now. I also think the market is more or less doomed in the long run. I think the novelty will wear off and given that most of the games are fairly poor quality people will go elsewhere.

    2) People who want to play at work. Flash games are a lot more obvious than facebook.

    I don't think the number of players are because it is good, I think it is just a fad.

  • by karnal ( 22275 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @12:35PM (#30632226)

    I'll elaborate on the AC that posted a reply to you. In my experience, Facebook does 3 things to find friends for you:

    1. Look through your address book and attempt to find people who match that are already in the system by e-mail (and sometimes name)
    2. Dig your e-mail address out of other people's address books that they've harvested from e-mail accounts. (this may or may not be a true statement, but judging by your comment...)
    3. Offer up "Friends of Friends" - chances are, you're friends with other people's friends, so they offer those too as suggested friends.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CharlyFoxtrot ( 1607527 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @01:28PM (#30632576)

    Alpha Centauri would had been great otherwise, but future scifi thing wasn't that interesting for me.

    I liked the whole living planet thing but then again I'm a big Frank Herbert fan so I was probably part of the target audience.

    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.

    Interesting. I'm the exact opposite: I like building up a civ but lose interest when the game reaches modern times. Maybe that's why I liked AC with its focus on terraforming.

    They should do a 15th year anniversary edition for next year, like Blue Byte did with Settlers 2.

    Sounds great but if it's going to be anything like what they did to Colonization with Civilization IV: Colonization I'd rather they didn't. Unfortunately I think they are completely invested in the new Civ IV UI so the next iteration is probably going to be based on some updated version of it.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zach_the_lizard ( 1317619 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @02:57PM (#30633380)

    Sounds like a typical American fskin religion where the pastor periodically asks the sheep for more money

    That pattern has been going on for centuries, and is not unique to the US. Religions of all kinds have demanded money all over the world.

  • Do some real farming (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pubwvj ( 1045960 ) on Sunday January 03, 2010 @07:17PM (#30635348)

    How about investing in real small farms.
    You don't have to be a huge investor.
    Make a small loan. Buy pastured pork.
    Build a future of real food.
    See below.


    Sugar Mountain Farm
    in the mountains of Vermont
    Save 30% off Pastured Pork with free processing: []
    Read about our on-farm butcher shop project: []

  • Re:So? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 04, 2010 @12:45AM (#30637574)

    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.

    I was banned from Steam because my copy of the orange box had its license key either stolen by a retail employee, or discovered/cracked by someone online. I went home, loaded it up, signed up, etc. and was promptly banned. Customer service was horrible, and when I offered to actually send them the game WITH my receipt and a credit card record of the recent purchase, they accused ME of distributing my own license key online.

    I managed to sucker a clerk at the store into letting me exchange it for a different game, so I didn't lose out any money. But I'll never support Steam or any of their games ever again.

This login session: $13.76, but for you $11.88.