Down In The City

21 11 2010

They are without doubt the most annoying aspect of my Facebook experience. Farmville, Mafia Wars. Online Poker. You name it. Social gaming may be huge, but it clutters the social graph.

Unless, of course, you actually happen to like playing those games and telling everyone about it.

Apparently a lot of people do, because Zynga, creator of Farmville, Frontierville and others, is now recognized as the premier gaming company, valued at a mind-boggling $5.5 billion. It just announced plans to launch CityVille in 2011 in hopes of further endearing itself in the hearts and minds of social network fans. Instead of tractors, livestock and crops, players will be building skyscrapers and managing city services.

So why all the buzz?

Simple. These games bring with them not just a ton of advertising possibilities (think: branded locations, products, etc., within the games), but also potential sales of game enhancers (like farming tools). Toss in all of the diverse personal data these games collect about the players and their friends, and you quickly realize that Zynga is sitting on a gold mine. In terms of game enhancers, Zynga has about one-fourth of the $1.7 billion US market.

While I will probably never be a fan of these games, I respect those who do. I also respectfully hide all of those apps from my News Feed, but that’s another story. To ignore this aspect of social networking, though, is foolish, for it represents a huge portion of the people who use the networks in the first place. Some of my friends post nothing other than their game updates. And while I would much rather read the story of their lives than the latest development on their fantasy farm, I recognize that maybe those farms are their stories. Again, I am OK with that.

All told, some 320 million people worldwide have played a Zynga game; 225 million play at least once a month. That’s a lot of eyeballs. And we all know that in this game, the battle is all about eyeballs.

Which brings me to my point (in case you were wondering). This would be the perfect acquisition for Google. Thus far Google has not been able to even come close to launching a social network, much to their embarrassment. So why not pull out the checkbook and just pony up the cash? This would actually give Facebook something to worry about, because as it stands, Zynga is actually working to FB’s benefit. It provides no threat whatsoever to FB’s dominance, for Zynga is not interested in creating its own social platform.

But Google is.

If Google bought Zynga, it would be little different from China buying an increasing number of US banks and corporations. This is not about getting one’t foot in the door; no, this is about being in all the way up to the hip.

Irony can be funny that way. What is probably the most annoying aspect of my FB experience could, if Google is smart, become the most annoying in Facebook’s own experience. Plow through that thought awhile.

Dr “Green Acres” Gerlich


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