This is an opinion piece written by my husband, whose adventures in Cityville have left him with an interesting opinion of Zynga. Hope you enjoy.
Zynga, our relationship is… complex.
Have you been watching Zynga lately? I am sure everyone is aware that Zynga did an IPO?
Are you also aware that their stock has slid to less than 3 dollars a share? It’s still falling too.
Now I am sure some people are overjoyed with this. Zynga, after all, HAS done some things to its customer base that some would consider…distasteful? (I best leave it at that I don’t want to get sued!) But I have to ask, if Zynga goes belly up, what are your plans?
That’s what this series of posts is all about. Because, believe it or not, WE can save or damn Zynga. We just need to decide if we want to or not.
Now personally, I am of the inclination that Zynga can be treated exactly like its little mascot. We’ll rub its nose in its mistake, hit it with a rolled up newspaper, and correcting its bad behavior, move on to a happy relationship of catch or something.
First I am going to explain what is going on with Zynga. They have some really unique problems.
Did you know that out of Zynga’s entire player base only about 1-3% of them pay for game items? Actually let me tighten that up. 1-3% buy enough stuff to make Zynga profitable. They are regular customers. The rest of us play for free, or spend cash so rarely that we don’t really contribute significantly to Zynga’s well-being. So they have a revenue problem. This problem is made worse by Facebook which has decided to hold up every gaming company who uses their platform for 30% of their revenue.
Zynga’s second problem is again…Facebook which is constantly changing how they handle their traffic. These changes often times mean you are not seeing what’s going on in Zynga games. You know that old saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder?” It is the opposite for games. They need to constantly remind you to play them, and spend money, and please oh, please love me? (This paragraph here should give you an idea of why we now have Zynga.com as an independent game platform. Zynga would just love to be rid of Facebook.)
Zynga’s third problem is…lack of content, (oh look, another goal. Collect this, click that building, beg friends for something nobody cares about. Yay how exciting *yawn*), and their games. I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but because of a quirk of fate almost all of Zynga’s games look like some other developers games. (Just coincidence, I’m sure) Their unique games have generally been…disappointing. Zynga has lived on “borrowing” core elements from other peoples games. They see no value in creating their own content so it should be no surprise that they do poorly at something they do not believe in.
In my opinion, these are Zynga’s 3 biggest problems. They have others but these 3 have to be managed for the company to succeed.
So, I have to ask again. How do you feel about Zynga? If they go away would you miss them? Do you want to fix their mistakes so they can be a happy and productive member of your household?
They can be like MY dog. I bet you didn’t know I was a dog person!
Heel boy! Heel!! Good boy, now shake.
Ok, getting back on track let’s talk about my first point.
Customers who pay. Zynga has started rolling out a new option for game cash. We’ve seen it in Cityville and some people have seen it in Café World. It is basically a recurring subscription. You pay 17 bucks a month and get 50 game credits a week, 50 energy a week, and a free expansion. (For Cityville at least. Misses Facegamer told me it’s like that for other games too) This is a nice start, but honestly falls short of acceptable. I use to play World of Warcraft. For 15 dollars a month I played that game so much it was like a second job. Zynga, you are NOT more compelling than World of Warcraft.
Zynga would be in great shape if they could get all their players to pay a monthly subscription, but they need to get this idea they are worth so much out of their heads. I’d say…5 bucks a month, and make the credits cross platform. (Which you should have done in the first place to convince people to try out your games.)
Would you pay 5 bucks a month for 200 game cash, 200 energy, and an expansion? Especially if this keeps Zynga around so you can keep playing their games?
Skipping my second point, let’s go to number 3: content.
Content and money go hand in hand. I would think a lot of people are tired of paying for the same content over and over again. (Oh look! Another house with a 1,100 population. Just like the 12 before it.) Zynga needs to understand the value of creativity. They need to think of new ways to express content. Here is a freebie from me to you Zynga. Short events, when Halloween starts have an event people can give to their friends. Pay 10 game credits and pick a friend. When your friend accepts some trick-or-treaters show up, and go from home to home trick-or-treating. A reward drops every once in a while for the friend to receive. Let the kids TP a house or 2. If you have monster homes let a monster chase the kids around the city. Make a nice little 1 minute event. I bet people will buy, and send these to their friends for the various holidays.
Zynga, you DESPERATELY need this kind of creativity. The game needs to be re-invigorated not only to keep people, but entice new people.
This is just 1 idea from me to you. I know your fans have tons others. Reach out to them and get their input. Hit the fan sites (Like this one! You know Zynga has never talked to us? I cry myself to sleep at nights. I feel so unloved.) Get someone whose only job is to talk to the fans where they go. I know you have your forums but seriously, it’s a weak outreach to the people who keep your game going. You should really kick it up a notch.
Now for the problem we skipped….the dreaded Facebook. I’m sure everyone knows Facebook has had an IPO as well? It started at 38 bucks! Currently Facebook is selling at … 20 dollars. A bargain right?
Not so much. 12% of Facebook’s revenue comes from Zynga. Zynga does not like Facebook. They want to be freeee. If Zynga does escape. Facebook’s stocks will sink even more. They have really stunted the growth of other game devs so when/if Zynga leaves, Facebook won’t have anyone to step into their shoes.
It’s sad when the big kids fight. 🙁
As I said before, Facebook skims 30% off the top of all games it hosts. A big slice of the pie. I believe they did this to boost revenue before their IPO. It was good for the numbers! Problem? It is really bad for everyone else.
This big bite out of profits is:
- Stunting growth for all the game designers.
- A driving force for companies (read Zynga) to bail on Facebook if at all possible.
I think when these chickens come home to roost Facebook will be trading at like 5ish dollars? How’s that for a prediction! I used my special algorithm to calculate this.
Of course, nothing is set in stone. Facebook and Zynga might kiss and make up (not!) Facebook might succeed in getting big in mobile (I have doubts) or something else might come along. As it is now though, I don’t think I’ll buy any Facebook stock any time soon.
Now the Facebook problem is out of our control, but not the content and money. So right now we need to decide. Do we like Zynga enough to have an intervention? To rub their noses in their mistake, and set them on the straight and narrow?
If we do we need to tell them “Hey Zynga! Go to 5 bucks and I’ll subscribe, and here is a good idea for you to use. Kick your game up a notch!”