tl;dr – Zynga, you don’t need to rely on non-stop advertisements and pyramid schemes to make money. Really.
Seeing how I had written some pretty nice things about CityVille and how they can be adapted as life lessons in my previous post, I figured it’s only fair to also mention the not-as-nice elements in CityVille that are driving me up the walls.
To be fair, I actually don’t have any issues with the game’s paying elements for the most part. But a lot has to do with how Zynga (the company behind CityVille) has chosen to implement its notifications as well as a number of specific in-game challenges that leave me a poor impression of the game, and more importantly of Zynga, in general.
As cute as the cartoon characters may look, an ad is still an ad. And there are plenty of them in CityVille. Are you out of Energy Units? Why don’t you buy some (using real money) from the market. Are you waiting for your friends to send you some marbles for the new community building? Why don’t you use your City Cash to buy some? Oh, You’re out of City Cash? Why, you can buy some at the market!
These ads are never-ending in the game. For example, each time you’re out of Energy Units, not one but two pop-up windows will come up in the game. The first one to ask you to ask your friends for the Energy Units (by posting on their facebook profiles), and the second one to ask you to buy some directly at the market using real money.
On top of that, these ads do not have the same size. You can’t simply click on the big red x to quickly close them all. There are no keyboard shortcuts and you have to move your mouse to the top-right corner of these ads in order to close them. They’re not annoying the first time, but as social games that actively encourage you to check in everyday for progress, the way they designed these advertisements are beyond annoying. They’re troublesome.
It’s shit like this, Zynga
In the beginning the challenges are easy to complete. Harvest strawberries 5 times. Visit your friend’s city 2 times. These challenges are not time consuming and do not require much commitments. It was only earlier this week did I get the bookstore challenge, in that I would have to add 2 new friends as my CityVille neighbors or have a total of 25 CityVille neighbors.
The game designers did a very good job at sugar coating these requests and advertisements. But beneath the surface, this challenge is at best a pyramid scheme; at worst it would be a video tape from The Ring.
Again, you can spend 20 City Cash to easily bypass this particular challenge. But because this challenge arrived so late in the game and that CityVille would only award players 1 City Cash per level, I didn’t save up enough to pay off this particular challenge. If this challenge is one of the mandatory ones (though only some of them are), I would assume players would have to either beg their friends in joining the game or plunk down some real money in exchange for their in-game City Cash.
When I first saw this challenge, it was making me so angry that I seriously considered stop playing altogether. I understand Zynga is a business and as a business it has to make money, but there are better ways in creating a win-win experience for both consumers and companies alike. Maybe they should look at other freemium games like Maple Story as inspirations, last I heard they were also making money by the millions.
UPDATE: Days after my initial post, Zynga has since incorporated the two “Get More Energy!” pop-ups into one. While that’s certainly an improvement, there are still so many more of these ads (from Adopt a Lost Puppy to Tell your friend You’ve Visited) that make my original issue with them valid.
What about you? How are you liking CityVille and how do you feel about these design elements in the game? Are there other social games that you think got it right?