Sorry Zynga, Farmville Needs Facebook

By  |  Sunday, May 9, 2010 at 11:42 pm

There’s apparently some drama happening between Facebook and Zynga, maker of the wildly popular social games Farmville, Cafe World and Mafia Wars.

The beef is primarily about Facebook forcing game developers to use Facebook Credits for in-game purchases, says TechCrunch’s anonymous sources. Facebook takes a 30 percent cut of all Credits transactions, and Zynga makes a lot of money by selling items that speed people’s progress through the game. You can see why there’s tension.

In case things go from bad to worse, Zynga’s reportedly preparing its own social gaming site, and is prepared to leave Facebook completely.

I agree with CNet’s Daniel Terdiman that both sites need each other. Facebook relies on Zynga for daily traffic — as of December more than 26 million people played Farmville every day — and Zynga uses Facebook as the primary platform for all those users. Moving them would not be easy.

Still, Zynga depends more on Facebook than vice versa because of the very nature of its games. Farmville’s biggest critics note that the game is not fun, per se, but it’s addictive. In a fascinating essay on what’s wrong with this game, SUNY Buffalo professor A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz explains:

The secret to Farmville’s popularity is neither gameplay nor aesthetics. Farmville is popular because in [sic] entangles users in a web of social obligations. When users log into Facebook, they are reminded that their neighbors have sent them gifts, posted bonuses on their walls, and helped with each others’ farms. In turn, they are obligated to return the courtesies.

Without Facebook, Zynga loses this crucial layer of interaction between friends, the meta-game that makes Farmville worth playing. Zynga Live could try and replicate it, but it’ll never be as tightly woven as Facebook’s existing network.

If Zynga leaves Facebook completely, as the company has reportedly threatened, it would be suicide. Farmville is not a good enough game to stand on its own. It needs the social structure of Facebook more than Facebook needs Zynga in particular. After all, there’s no shortage of imitators who would love to take Farmville’s place atop the app charts.


Read more: , , ,

8 Comments For This Post

  1. Bouke Timbermont Says:

    I’d love to see Zynga take the risk and leave facebook… and fail bigtime. I mean: when Farmville started Zynga was perfectly happy with their 70% cut, but only now, when Zynga for some reason started thinking it’s bigger than facebook – which it isn’t – it starts complaining.
    This is the very definition of greed: wanting more just because you think you can get more, not because you think it’s fair.

    Zynga owes everything to facebook: the only reason FarmVille, Maffiawars, and every single other facebook application gets populair, is because facebook offers a huge customer base which makes it easy to share games and events with friends.

    If Zynga thinks it doesn’t need that: great, leave facebook. But I know it does.

  2. Cathy Says:

    I recently left Farmville, after they demanded that I give them my email address as a condition of playing the game.

    Leaving Facebook (which has it’s own problems now, would be a mistake for them. While a proportion of the Facebook players might follow them, recruiting more players would become a problem, I think.

  3. Tom B Says:

    They need Facebook. They also need to drop Flash. The performance in Farmville is a HUGE issue. You can sit there a minute or more switching over to visit a neighbor’s farm.

  4. Mike J B Says:

    Zynga has no talent. The class of games they make anyone could make.

    Zynga has no creativity. Apparently “Mafia Wars” ripped off “Mob Wars”, “Farmville” ripped off another farm game, etc. They’re just good at Facebook-spamming. How will they carry that over? Switching to email spamming? Maybe they should integrate with iGoogle. 😛

    Zynga has a massive ego, thinking they’re the next best thing in the game industry, when they’re probably more like a passing fad. Honestly, they only care about profit: I don’t see how they’re any better in morals than the greedy bankers who brought down the housing market.

    Facebook games are annoying and one of the reasons (next to privacy) why I hate Facebook. “John Doe has found a duckling that wants a new home, do you want to give it a new home?” “Jane Doe has found a penguin that wants a new home, do you want to give it a new home?” (And those would be two different games.) “Bob Smith needs you to join his Mafia to set up his new operation in Salt Lake City.” Every time I block a game’s notifications on my friend feed, two more pop up. I joined a social networking site, not a flash gaming site.

  5. dana Says:

    I just think that Zynga should remove itself from facebook because there are many users who love playing farmville, but do not want to log in to facebook or do not want a facebook account for privacy concerns. so will they not be able to play farmville at all?? this is not fair. everyone should have a fair chance and it should not be mandatory that one has to have facebook account to play farmville.

  6. Mel Says:

    Facebook is making it very difficult to play these games with the stuff they're implementing. Such as having to know someone personally in real life & have to have mutual friends to be able to add friends or else be blocked from being able to add friends for a while. That's nuts … it's a social network site but yet they don't want you to network & make new friends.
    I, personally, would follow farmville away from facebook as long as they didn't charge to play.

  7. Lori Clark Says:

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. The ONLY reason why MANY people put up with Facebook AT ALL is to play FarmVille & other Zynga games. If FarmVille was dependent on Facebook, it would be just another floundering app with a lousy 20-30k users. App stories don't even appear in the newsfeed anymore and there has been ZERO impact on FV's popularity. If Facebook wants to cater to imbeciles who cannot adjust their settings properly, more power to them. Zynga does MUCH more than Facebook to address malware, privacy and safety concerns.

  8. blogc2011 Says:

    This blog seems to get a great deal of visitors. How do you advertise it? It gives a nice individual twist on things. I guess having something real or substantial to give info on is the most important thing. free credit report

3 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Monday links: sound and fury Abnormal Returns Says:

    […] The social gaming industry is consolidating quickly.  (FT also Technologizer) […]

  2. Facebook, Zynga Buddy Up For an Internet Eon Says:

    […] because Farmville needs the daily traffic Zynga creates, and Zynga desperately needs Facebook’s existing social network, the companies worked out their differences. Facebook keeps its 30 percent cut, but sweetened the […]

  3. And That’s What You Missed on Technologizer Says:

    […] Jared was skeptical about rumors that Zynga thought it could live without Facebook. […]