Michael Arrington from Techcrunch wrote a very insightful article titled "Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem of Hell," exposing Zynga and its scam-laden lead gen-type offers devised for their ever-popular Facebook games of Farmville and Mafia Wars.
I challenge one of the more ethical game developers to actually use Arrington's expose to develop the real thing - an
actual Facebook game called "ScamVille!"
Michael ArringtonArrington delivers a very in-depth account how Zynga has created a self-perpetuating business model for users to pay "real currency" for "game currency" so they can level up faster and gain quicker positioning and advantage in the game.
November 6th UPDATE: Since this blog was posted, a number of subsequent reports have surfaced to support Arrington's thesis. Most notable is a Time Magazine article titled, "Are You Getting Scammed By Facebook Games?" In that story, the elaborate on how lead-generation works with games such as Farmville: Advertisers lure players in with an offer to take a bogus survey or IQ
test. Once it's completed they require a cell-phone number to send you
the results. When you enter your cell number and create a password, you
have unwittingly subscribed to a service you never wanted but will be
billed for. If you're a kid, the mysterious charge then appears on the
phone bill of the parents, who often find that phone companies will not
cancel services from a third-party provider — even if the parent cannot
find out who that provider is.
The reason that Facebook, nor MySpace object to this cycle of deceit even though they are in a position to regulate this and even though Zynga is not adhering to the rules set up by these social networks is based strictly on greed. Facebook and MySpace turn a "blind eye" to these tactics because they're garnering such a huge cut of revenue back from these developers in advertising. According to Arrington, "if they turn off the spigot, they hurt themselves."
Marc Pincus, Founder of ZyngaWith recent announcements that Zynga's annual revenues this year will top $100 million and the company is primed to go public, Mark Pincus, founder and CEO brags about attracting users like a drug dealer handles the sale of drugs. "Once hooked, Pincus says, players spend real money on virtual goods to help them advance to higher level - thereby enriching Zynga." And since the game is never-ending with new levels continuously being added, addicted players come back for more and more... with no Rehab in sight!
So here's my challenge to game developers like Playdom and Playfish before they fall into the same trap as Zynga. I ask that they send their developers into a think-tank to develop "ScamVille" using some of the insights from Arrington's expose. The over-riding premise of the game would be to show how you can play a clean game by beating the evil lords of "ScamVille." With each new level, players rise through the court systems to finally expose "ScamVille" to the Supreme Court of Public Opinion.
Along the way, you'll be rewarded for small wins like surfacing documentation as to monthly and quarterly ad revenues of Facebook and income statements of Zynga. Higher levels will be obtained as more and more of your followers sign protests that are presented to Facebook and MySpace. Players will also ascend to higher levels of play by exposing companies like Offerpal and SuperRewards that are ripping off people by pitching them to add offers to their apps.
The ultimate goal of the game is for all players to collectively motivate Facebook and MySpace to change their ways. This will be accomplished when the players show enough protest so that the two networks make the right moral decision to enforce their own rules on subscription and scams.
There's an old saying that says "you play the game you know you can win." If ethical online game developers are good at what they do, I ask them to take on this challenge and fight fire with fire. In stead of caving into the tactics of Zynga, expose them for what they are on the turf you are so adept at! Show them you can beat them at their own game on an even-playing field!
Who's up for the ScamVille challenge? If so, a company named Pectopah may have already security the rights to the domain name! Check them out at http://www.scamville.com which will re-direct you to their web design company, out of Toronto, Ontario.