Zynga: A Class in Search of an Action

Mark Pincus Zynga's CEO doesn't look particularly worried about the recent bad press. Perhaps he should be.

Attorneys, start your engines.

The Business Insider has an article that begins,

The company behind Mafia Wars and Farmville doesn’t like to talk about the sad addicts who fuel its profits. But it does quietly run a special store for them, where imaginary credits are bought with very real bank transfers.

According to the article, the minimum purchase in this super hush-hush program is $500.   In exchange for $500 real dollars, you get to buy a smorgosbord of virtual goods for any of Zynga’s popular facebook games.

$500 in exchange for something that doesn’t even exist?!?  Are people out of their minds?

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus apparently has perfected the art of preying upon the addicted gamer.  SF Weekly reports,

Zynga’s games look cretinous. Gameplay in FarmVille, FishVille, or Café World is based almost exclusively on what social-game designers call a “compulsion loop.” Players perform basic tasks — clicking on crops to harvest them, clicking on stoves in restaurants, clicking on fish to feed them — earn fake money, enhance their farm or restaurant or aquarium, and repeat. In Zynga’s hands, the art of snaring users with such gimmickry has become, quite literally, a science: Pincus told Time magazine last year that Zynga employs a behavioral psychologist.

Even the folks that work at Zynga think it is a pretty bad place.  In the words of at least one former senior employee at Zynga:

Zynga’s motto is “Do Evil,” he says.  I would venture to say it is one of the most evil places I’ve run into, from a culture perspective and in its business approach.   I’ve tried my best to make sure that friends don’t let friends work at Zynga.

Zynga, by the way,  is sitting on a giant pile of cash.

Photo Credit:  Joi

~ by siouxsielaw on September 13, 2010.

7 Responses to “Zynga: A Class in Search of an Action”

  1. This post just makes me doubly glad I ‘hid’ Farmville the first time someone asked me to tend to their bush while they were on holiday.

    Oh, hang on, that was another email I got.

    But still, I’m glad.

    Thanks for getting the word out!

  2. Zynga’s newest game is going to be Lawsuitville. Well, I guess they are already playing that one, but this is going to be a new level for them to complete.

  3. Znyga just sounds like an evil company – go ahead, say it out loud, “Zynga” – pure evil. I wish someone would sue and shut them down!

  4. What would the basis of the suit be, exactly? The BW article doesn’t suggest one, just that Zynga is scummy (which they are).

    Selling something people enjoy (stupid and “addictive” as it is)? That ain’t illegal yet, is it?

    Zynga games are boring and awful, but that ain’t illegal.

    Nor’s selling stuff that nobody else sees the point in.

    Even designing products and games to make people want to keep playing them or buy more stuff for them isn’t illegal (and shouldn’t be).

    (When BW had to deploy the “even some people who are poor or disabled play lots of the games!” to try and build sympathy against Zynga… it actually just made me angry at BW.

    Is Zynga meant to somehow ask everyone who plays Farmville if they’re disabled and on the dole, and then cut them off if they say yes?

    That would be a better way to get sued, I imagine.)

    • You make a lot of good points. Obviously, if I knew what the basis of the lawsuit would be I wouldn’t be blogging, I’d sue them myself. The string of bad facts about Zynga make a great introduction to a cause of action.

      As to whether designing a product to make customers become addicted is illegal, it depends on the product I suppose. Casinos and tobacco both have been vulnerable to such claims.

      Interestingly, there is a video game addiction case that recently survived a motion to dismiss. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38890853/ Probably a very tough road ahead for the plaintiff, but who knows.

      Thanks for the comment.

  5. […] Zynga may be evil, but it is hard to blame them for this atrocity.  The whole evil strategy behind Zynga is to have […]

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