Everybody knows that person, for whom you feel duly embarrassed, who has found themselves succumbing to the bottleneck strategy of the Zynga company.
For those of you who don’t recognize the company title, just go on Facebook and you’ll see some of your friends playing their games: one of their most popular is the relatively harmless Words with Friends.
More insidious, however, are their “ville” titles: FarmVille, CastleVille and CityVille. I always stayed away from them myself, but I have seen acquaintances on Facebook simply aching for one more chicken, or block of wood, or whatever the hell it is that they need to play “ville” game. How do I know this? I get notified through my Facebook notification inbox. And of course, I check out my notifications regularly because I’m usually expecting a sexy private message from your mom, so imagine my horror when, instead, it says “John Ramirez Ngyuen Doe Ramahari the 3rd has requested your help in CastleVille.” Poor John; I can’t help but judge him. What has happened to the straight-A engineering student I used to know in college? He’s now sitting in a cubicle playing CastleVille. The shame.
The reason I bring this up is that these notifications are part of Zynga‘s nefarious marketing strategies, which are described in great detail by Leigh Alexander of Gamasutra: First, a game like CastleVille sets you up with a lot to do. There are a lot of rewarding experiences and making progress is easy — then, gradually, it becomes more and more difficult to gain access to the same type of rewards. The gameplay becomes repetitive and demanding. Eventually, to make any progress at all, you either have to pay (in U.S. Dollars, not CastleVille crowns) or get your friends involved, usually by sending them annoying notifications or posting on their walls. Does this kind of service seem abusive of its customers? Alexander seems to think so:
Here’s where the drug-dealer metaphor gets funny. Zynga, in response to the growing social stigma surrounding their “ville” games, is considering opening its own social network. Isn’t this social network going to be (and please pardon the crass way I phrase this) the crack-house of the internet, where the community of Zynga users don’t have to face the addictive nature of their problem in the face of society? If comparing CastleVille to crack seems feasible to you, this is just the next assumption. I’ll tell you this: I want nothing to do with it.
Image Source: CastleVille Cheat Sheet