All good things must come to an end. All kings have their reign and then they die. For the past several years Zynga has been “the” company when it came to social gaming. But as of late, the once dominate social game maker has been faltering, gamers are no longer glued to their farms on Farmville or popping caps in people’s asses in Mafia Wars. Instead, they’re finding new games, from different companies who offer a different type of experience.
Since Farmville, Zynga has relied on the “Freemium” model to make money. They offer the game for free—luring in hapless souls who need constant entertainment—and get you addicted with simple, mindless gameplay. Just when you think you’re doing great and have the best farm ever, they announce a new house, building, tree or a horse with butterfly wings and a unicorn horn sticking out its ass, ah, but there’s a catch. If you want these new tantalizing objects that have absolutely no real world value whatsoever, you’ll need to cough up “real” cash, as in the cash that’s in your bank account. This is the Freemium model, the game is free, but the best objects come at a premium price. Zynga has decided to use this business model for practically every game they release. The problem is that while some of their games are fun, after a while they become annoying. Players become frustrated because all the best stuff costs real money, sometimes more than a typical paid app would ever cost up front. So they leave and find a new obsession.
That’s one reason why gamers are leaving Zynga in droves and why their [Zynga's] second quarter earnings were abysmal. The other reason is their lack of creativity. How does creativity affect their bottom line? Simple, when you alienate a large group of people, because they despise your business practices, they’ll refuse to buy or download your games. So how did Zynga alienate current and potential customers? By purchasing studios and ruining them or better yet, ripping off hardworking studios by stealing their concepts, designs and gameplay.
Last year, Zynga released a game callled Dream Heights, this was a tower building “sim” game that allowed users to add new floors, each with their own theme, be it; food, retail, entertainment and more. These locations then drew in little people or citizens that would move into apartments and work at these shops, restaurants or entertainment venues. The more money you made, the more floors you could build. The problem was this concept had already been done by a company called Nimblebits, who created “Tiny Tower,” which had already received Apple’s award for the 2011 iPhone game of the year. Dream Heights practically stole everything that made Tiny Tower great, this made Nimblebit co-founder David Marsh very upset. He called out Zynga, but of course Zynga just fired off the typical PR response objecting to Marsh’s claims. You can read more about the Dream Heights fiasco here and here.
Dream Heights isn’t the only game that Zynga has modeled after other successful properties, their Words with Friends and Scramble with Friends games are essentially online mobile rip-offs of Scrabble and Boggle, respectively. While there are a few more examples in Zynga’s library, their most recent title, “The Ville” has caused quite a stir recently, as many people believe that it is a virtual clone of EA Games’ s The Sims Social, which is a Facebook version of their ultra-popular PC series, The Sims. EA has recognized this fact and has recently filed a suit against Zynga, claiming that the social game company, knowingly and blatantly, ripped off their Sims Social game. EA argues that Zynga’s game could cause harm to EA’s property as consumers could easily be confused between the two.
It’s getting tiresome watching companies like Zynga grow large and dominate off the hard work of others, but it looks like they’re getting a heavy dose of karma, as their profits and stock value have plummeted and now they find themselves in a new lawsuit, which they may not win. If you ask me, it’s time Zynga be put down. Their games have become stale, their profits are sinking and they can’t develop an original property anymore, at least one that can stay profitable and retain customers. They continue to rip off games from smaller studios, knowing full well that they can’t afford to sue (which should be illegal). That may be one reason why David Marsh’s Nimblebits didn’t sue Zynga, they knew they couldn’t outspend them, Zynga could just drag out the proceedings, basically draining Nimblebits bank account.
LIke I said, some of Znyga’s games may be entertaining to some degree, but that doesn’t let them off the hook for stealing concepts and details from competitors and getting away with it. They need to be held accountable for their actions and EA might just be the one to put the dog down.
That being said, don’t get me started on EA’s business ethics…