From the beginning, the profitability and viability of popular Facebook social networking games Mafia Wars and Farmville were predicated on the backs of scams, boasts Zynga CEO Mark Pincus in this video. “I did every horrible thing in the book just to get revenues,” he crows in the clip to a gathered bunch of fellow scumbag app developers.
In games like Mafia Wars, Farmville, YoVille and Vampires Live, you know, some of the major sources of all those garbage announcements cluttering up your Facebook, players compete to complete missions and level up. By leveling up, you can complete more difficult missions and fight off weaker opponents. You can wait for your various energies to regenerate naturally over time, or you can purchase with real money in-game boosts. Or, you can complete various lead generation offers, many of which are of the “answer page after page of questions and opt in and out of receiving various kinds of spam” variety. Some of them install malware and adware that is impossible to remove. And some of them secretly subscribe you to monthly recurring $9.99 credit card charges.
Couple this reckless profiteering with in-game incentives for recruiting more players into your network and a constant blast (if you let it) of promotional messages to your friends, and it’s like Amway discovered Facebook and threw a gangster-themed house party.
Here’s Mark’s spiel:Here’s the pertinent transcript of the talk the CEO gave to some other developers at a mixer:
I knew that i wanted to control my destiny, so I knew I needed revenues, right, fucking, now. Like I needed revenues now. So I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues right away. I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this zwinky toolbar which was like, I dont know, I downloaded it once and couldn’t get rid of it. *laughs* We did anything possible just to just get revenues so that we could grow and be a real business…So control your destiny. So that was a big lesson, controlling your business. So by the time we raised money we were profitable.
I’m sorry, but if you need to scam people to keep your company going, you have a flawed business plan.
After getting reamed in an excellent multi-part TechCrunch investigation by Michael Arrington, Mark Pincus pledged to more aggressively remove scammy offers.
That’s great, but c’mon. Now that they’re funded and raking in the cash, they can act all contrite and go “oh! you caught us! you’re right, we’re bad, we’ll fix that. Lah dee dah.” How convenient that now you can afford morals.
By the way, nice work, TechCrunch! Now, if only we could get Arrington to apply the same level of discipline to re-evaluating his gushing praise for Cash4Gold.