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

posted by Armakuni on - last edited - Viewed by 465 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
  • @hamza721 said: facebook sucks

    Finally someone that agrees with me, rock on! :D

  • Beh, I smell a bunch of mainstream "hardcores" in here.

  • I've played facebook games for years and never spent a cent. When you consider how long they work on the games and that most people don't spend a cent (I assume, but maybe I'm wrong and I'm in the minority), they probably need to charge enough to get some profit out of it.

    None of the paying things are essential. Actually, I think it's in the facebook agreement that everything you spend real money on needs to also be achievable in a free way, or items need to have a free equivalent or be useless (decoration only). So it's not like you only get a small portion of the game experience when you don't spend money.

    I've never played the Wars games, so I don't know about these, but your scenario is of someone having to compete with people who spend hundreds of dollars. That's probably not how it goes though. I assume most people spend little or no money, so you can probably get by without spending anything. I've played a few games with battling other players in them, and I've been fine despite only using their free content.

    If you look at it from the point of view of someone using money for anything they can use money for, they yeah, it's expensive. But usually it's something like "spend money or you have to wait for an hour" and really, people who decide they prefer spend the money only have themselves to blame. Because there isn't really anything that's irreplaceable without money that I've ever noticed, so they're just being lazy, impatient or paying for practicality, and that's what people have been doing with money for years, so sure, why not?

    I remember how much I criticised WoW for years because they charge every single month instead of once when you purchase the game. But now I'm like, well, if people are willing to pay, sure, why not? The game probably costs them a lot in bandwidth and stuff. I actually wonder why Blizzard doesn't offer their gold for money. People would be willing to buy it for sure.

  • @Avistew said: I remember how much I criticised WoW for years because they charge every single month instead of once when you purchase the game. But now I'm like, well, if people are willing to pay, sure, why not? The game probably costs them a lot in bandwidth and stuff. I actually wonder why Blizzard doesn't offer their gold for money. People would be willing to buy it for sure.

    People DO buy it, from Korean gold sellers that Blizzard tries to keep shut down.

    The reason they don't sell gold is that the biggest use of gold in the game is used for purchasing things from other players via the Auction House, moreso then buying things from NPCs. If you only spent gold on items from NPCs, they probably would sell it. But since selling gold would ruin the player economy, they fight it. Blizzard actually puts in things to try to decrease the amount of gold out there, like super expensive but also totally unnecessary new mounts to ride on.

  • You mean "Mecret of Sonkey Island" was not an original?!

  • @Scnew said: But since selling gold would ruin the player economy, they fight it. Blizzard actually puts in things to try to decrease the amount of gold out there, like super expensive but also totally unnecessary new mounts to ride on.

    How does it ruin it? And these expensive mounts are exactly what people would pay for. Blizzard could very well also buy gold for a quarter of the price they sell it, therefore making a profit (or half the price (so double that) if you use it to pay for your subscription!). I don't know, it seems to me that it would be the biggest deterrent from buying from illegal sources: there is a legal one! I'm sure people buy gold under the counter because there is no way to do it otherwise.

  • I actually played Mafia Wars for a while, and all items that can be purchased can be acquired for free, it only takes a ton of time and leveling up. You know, since every two levels you get Mafia Points.

    To be honest, I get quite annoyed by people who essentially tell us how we should play our games, like, "Facebook games are for looooosers" or "casual games are crap" or whatever BS they can spout. Just because you like the more "core" games doesn't mean the other games are immediately crap. If anything it will make you look like a cocky douche.

  • The thing though is - most Facebook games really ARE crap, without any originality, challenge, depth, strategy, pretty much anything at all.
    The focus in lots of these games seems to mainly be nagging players to buy crap or nagging players to either post crap on their walls or send gift requests/gifts/etc.

    I know in Mafia Wars for instance, there are quests where the only thing you have to do is send and receive a bunch of various silly gifts.

    To me these things don't seem much like games, more like... activities, time-sinks, something like that... just something to click on to pass time.
    You could argue clicking is all you do in any game, but hopefully you see the difference and get what I mean :)

  • @Armakuni said: The thing though is - most Facebook games really ARE crap, without any originality, challenge, depth, strategy, pretty much anything at all.

    Most everything is crap. Then some isn't. When it's on the Internet, where there is so much more exposure, you get more of everything. Including the quality stuff, though.

    @Armakuni said: To me these things don't seem much like games, more like... activities, time-sinks, something like that... just something to click on to pass time.

    Hmmm... an activity you do just to pass time and entertain yourself... I wonder what that's called?

    Ultimately, games you play don't really get you anywhere. It doesn't really matter if you get the high score in whichever game you think is actually good. It's the same kind of things here. Sure it's pointless. Games are. Shows are. Books are. You use them to make you happier, which I guess could be considered a point, but ultimately it's not going to change the world if you play a game or not.

    Anyways, it seems to me you just don't like these games, and that's fine. I don't like FPS and I think they're a waste of time, but that doesn't mean they're a rip-off.

  • You can try to argue it away as much as you like, in my opinion it's indisputable that Facebook generally (with the exception of games with actual gameplay, like Tetris and such) lack any kind of challenge (making sure you show up every so often to do your clicks isn't something I count as a challenge), they lack any depth, they lack originality (nearly all FB games are copies of some other games), and they're also in many cases really buggy.

    They don't present you with any kind of storyline (maybe some lines here or there but nearly none) and no exciting gameplay objectives.

    Really, the vast majority of these games consist of little but repeating the same tasks over and over, basically just grinding, and they are dependent on having constant updates with new items and all of that... since there really is no fun gameplay and as such, if the developer stopped continuously adding new things to buy and all of that, and instead just left the game as it is... then the game in question would very quickly drop in popularity and get pulled.

    EDIT - another issue I have with these kinds of games is the 'freemium' model they're built on.
    Logically, what follows from using a model where people can play for free and money is only made from having people voluntarily pay for advantages in the games, is that they will introduce as many annoying 'gameplay features' as possible that require you to pay real money to speed up or skip entirely... obviously they want to have people start playing the games in the first place so they need to strike some sort of balance.
    One way I've understood this is often done, by the big name developers anyway, is simply to include very few of these annoying elements when a game is launched, causing the game to gain popularity quickly.
    The way games on FB work, it's very much a system of popularity causing more popularity, and once a game has reached a certain userbase, they gradually start introducing annoying elements.
    At this point, when the game has reached a certain size, its existing popularity alone will keep it afloat and there's no longer the same need to restrict the use of various annoying elements.

    There's little doubt this is part of the design behind these games. If actually doing everything 'manually', without paying any real money, was a lot of fun... then people wouldn't be very likely to pay to speed it up or skip it entirely.

    This is something that doesn't have to be a factor in 'normal' retail games, where you pay a price up-front and then that's it.
    If anything it's the other way around... they want to try and make sure you have as much of a good time as possible while reducing whatever might feel annoying... giving you as good an impression of the developer as possible and making you more likely to buy their future games.

    It seems to me Facebook developers are much less concerned with long time customer satisfaction, something I suspect is due to how they have such awesome access to so many people... it seems just bringing new people in, have them spend some money and then leave... rinse and repeat... is a model that actually makes some sense under such circumstances.

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