CEO of Facebook game maker Zynga, Mark Pincus, has taken the interesting move to tell a group of investors at a Garage Geeks event in Tel Aviv, that he doesn’t have a favourite game at the moment, because he’s pretty much bored with gaming in general. What’s would get him excited again though? That addictive play that he got when first playing Farmville.
This was in response to a question from an audience member on what his favourite game was at the moment. According to the Wall Street Journal, the questioning audience member than suggested a series of current Zynga titles, as well as mobile and social games from other developers as current winners, but Pincus wasn’t fussed.
What’s interesting and perhaps telling of Zynga’s current financial woes – having spent $200 million on OMGPop last year, Zynga shut it down just a few months back – is that the experience Pincus wants to recapture with future Zynga titles, is the addiction he felt when he first played Cityville and Farmville, those click-happy time sinks.
To this writer at least, this seems like one of the varied reasons Zynga is struggling: it’s focus on addictive gameplay instead of intriguing. It’s like Cookie Clicker (don’t click that link if easily distracted), but with micro-transactions. If your sole purpose isn’t to entertain your audience, but to addict them, not only are your running a company with a reprehensibly exploitative business practice, but you aren’t going to inspire loyalty in your customers or replayability in your titles. Nobody is going to remember a game that they got hooked on because it tapped into the reward/progression part of our brain, you remember it for the challenges you overcome, the experiences you have along the way and the story.
Games based around addiction don’t make you feel good after playing them. If anything they make you feel empty and worthless, because they’re hollow. It’s like watching vapid TV programming, or a bad movie without friends to laugh at it with. You’re just killing time until you die and in Zyngas case, probably paying them for it.
KitGuru Says: Fortunately this sort of mentality has come back to bite Zynga really hard, with its player numbers and revenue tumbling along with its stock price. However, it recently took on Xbox One PR nightmare creator, Don Matrick, who will be looking to turn around the company’s fortunes. Hands up; who has confidence in him to do that?