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Facebook games and the companies behind them... such blatant ripoffs

posted by Armakuni on - last edited - Viewed by 219 users

First off I guess I should qualify that I've never been interested in playing Facebook games, actually I'm not very interested in Facebook in general.

But some of the people I know on there do play some of the various crappy games you can find on there, and I did some reading on what these things really are some time ago.

I already suspected these games were a bit scammy, but I was surprised as to just how much so they are.

The biggest game developer on Facebook is a company named Zynga, and in many ways they seem like some of the worst of the bunch... their games (the few I read a bit about anyway) seem to be overflowing with blatant, cheap ways to get people to open their wallets.

Here is where I was the most off in my impression of these games compared to how they really are - I always knew these games were based on the "freemium" model where you can play the game for free but if you want any of the 'cooler' items and other advantages, you need to pay.
Well, I always figured the prices they asked for various items were really low, and that the only way to end up spending any kind of real money was if you went a bit crazy and bought a lot of items.

However, I soon discovered that the prices are in fact *really* high!
As an example, in a game called Farmville, which most people have heard of one way or the other... you can buy lots of various little items, sometimes poorly animated but often not.
These little useless flash objects is something you probably couldn't imagine selling for much at all, but from what I read - it's not at all uncommon for just ONE of these little items to cost as much as $10 USD... *each*!
It's completely nuts, and still they keep selling more and more of that crap :o

And of course the games all use various techniques to make items seem more appearling, such as releasing new 'limited edition' items every week or so... items that they remove from the in-game shop after a little period has passed.

Another very common feature is various ways of 'gambling' for items... in Farmville you have this board full of balloons you can pop using darts, and you get a random selection out of a group of items from each popped balloon.
However, each dart costs a couple of dollars :D
Of course, this is a way to get people really addicted to the games to keep spending money on darts until they have every limited edition item available each week... or at least until they've gotten some specific item they might really want, etc.
As you can imagine, the amount of cash you end up spending on this if you're addicted to a game like that very quickly grows quite large.

Then you have another game by the same company, called Mafia Wars.
It's basically one of those old simple text 'rpg' things, where all you do is press buttons to 'do jobs' which costs 'energy', and when your energy is depleted you have to wait for it to very slowly refill (or pay real money, obviously).
This game also has tons of really expensive, useless little items you can buy... but it has a 'feature' that seems even more sleazy.

Just to give some context, after you've done enough jobs, you gain a level up after which you can distribute some new skill points in typical categories such as attack, defense, energy, etc.
Seeing as you only get these skill points when levelling, it takes quite a while to build up your 'stats'.

Also, apparently one of the very popular things to do in that game is go around 'attacking' other players... which basically mounts down to comparing your stats to theirs... if your stats are better, you win every time... if they're worse, you always lose.

In other words, this game is set up to be highly competitive, and here is where the really sleazy part comes in - you can buy skill points directly!
By paying them real money, you can boost your stats up as high as you wish, there's no limit.

Add to that something called the 'Loyalty program', in which you gain some special in-game items and other little advantages, depending on which tier of the program you reach.
And the way you reach levels in this program is obviously to spend real money.
The crazy thing here is just how much money is required for these levels... I can't remmeber the exact amounts, but the highest level you can reach there requires you to spend quite a bit more than $1000 USD over three months time or so... and then to maintain this status, you have to keep spending hundreds of dollars monthly :eek:

So anyway, after reading about all of this, my impression of these games changed from that of annoying little games to that of really sleazy, disgusting, blatant scams that tons of people amazingly enough fall for, every day.

They show no responsibility when it comes to people getting addicted to their games to the point where it's very clear the people in question have real issues... they gladly accept any amount of money you throw at them.
It's apparently well known that there are quite a few people having spent in excess of $80 000 USD on Mafia Wars alone, mostly to boost their stats! :eek::eek:

This all seems really shady to me, leaves a sour taste in my mouth when I think of it... sort of feels a bit like a really sleazy casino or something of that sort.

Any thoughts on this madness? I'm curious if people share my impression that this is really scammy behavior by these companies, or is this a perfectly decent, fully legitimate business and I'm just overreacting?

20 Comments - Linear Discussion: Classic Style
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    puzzlebox Telltale Staff

    It's no worse than trading Steam games for imaginary hats, or people who pay businesses to level their WoW characters. It all seems very silly to me.

    If someone can build a successful business model out of exploiting the inanity of others, who can complain? People are free to spend their money on whatever they choose, and if that's what makes them happy then I say leave them to it.

    The only cases in which I might have a real problem with it is like where someone has a genuine addiction and children are going hungry because of it... even then though, I'd have difficulty mustering much sympathy for someone claiming "Farmville made me spend all my money".

  • True enough, people obviously have to take responsibility for their own actions.

    Nonetheless, that still doesn't change the fact that I'm left with a rather unflattering image of the companies behind these things... every company is of course trying to make money, etc, etc, but when I look at various companies out there, it doesn't seem difficult for me to find companies I have more respect for.
    I guess because of different strategies employed... some companies try to provide what seems like at least a somewhat reasonable value for money spent, and employ a strategy of building a satisfied customer base and such.
    That's a business model I can have much more respect for.

    The dominating strategy on Facebook seems to rather be trying to provide as little as possible for as much as possible.
    Also, about people spending crazy amounts on these games... that by itself is one thing, what I take some issue with is how the companies behind some of these games seem to actively try their hardest to get people to spend insane amounts of money.

    You can say that every company tries to get its customers to spend more money with them, but I feel it's on a bit of different scale with companies like Zynga, with their thousands of dollars a month 'Loyalty' programs and that... it's not the idea of some sort of subscription on top of the existing freemium model I take issue with, it's more the amounts they ask.

    Instead of trying to gain customer satisfaction, it seems to me these companies in many cases try to do the opposite... get their users to lose all perspective and trick them into spending huge amounts of money on something they will be sure to bitterly regret later on.

    I'm not saying it should in any way be illegal, or anything remotely like that... and I'm not trying to take responsibility away from the people actually wasting such insane amounts of money on this stuff... I'm just also saying I find these companies somewhat sleazy for working so hard to 'trick' people.

    And of course I also find the prices for just normal items outrageous but I guess the market dictates... I still think it smells a bit like a ripoff, though.

    I guess I probably wouldn't make much of a good businessman :p

  • @puzzlebox said: It's no worse than trading Steam games for imaginary hats, or people who pay businesses to level their WoW characters. It all seems very silly to me.



    Reminds me of the time I got magicka(which I could never play stupid integrated graphics) for my big kill.
    Better get my vintage lugermorph out. $200 on steam games seems pretty nice right now:D

  • I played, and I use that term loosely, the Assassin's Creed facebook for a while due to my love of the series. Then I realized how frickin' boring it was.

  • They're just providing a service that they know will earn money. If people wanted to quit, they could just, you know, quit.

  • I refuse to play facebook games because pretty much every game that I own is more interesting than they are. Even the boring games.

    And I hate getting messages from my friends asking me for ducklings and stuff.

  • @Alcoremortis said: And I hate getting messages from my friends asking me for ducklings and stuff.



    qft. I have all the games themselves ignored, but I have a friend who plays some pony-raising-game and makes her OWN posts about her pony related needs. Arrrrrgh.

  • I only have two apps on facebook. Project Legacy(an awesome tie-in for the AC franchise that isn't out to get your money) and the BttF: Blitz Through Time app.

    I generally hate Facebook apps so I am very careful choosing them.

  • @Origami said: I only have two apps on facebook. Project Legacy(an awesome tie-in for the AC franchise that isn't out to get your money) and the BttF: Blitz Through Time app.

    I generally hate Facebook apps so I am very careful choosing them.



    ...these are also the only two I use. Well, used, I guess because I haven't touched Project Legacy since AC Brotherhood came out.

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