There's been some discussion on the blogosphere recently about Zynga's apparent decline. Ted at Terra Nova thinks the novelty is wearing off. Spinks thinks it's part of the end of the MMO era.
About 4 years ago when Farmville was at its peak many commenters on MMO games publicly deplored it. Our hobby seemed to have slid down some spectrum towards brain dead accessibility from complicated virtual worlds like Ultima Online and Star Wars: Galaxies via WoW to games that were essentially just clicking to see a number go up. Why oh why, people like the Common Sense Gamer asked, do people play games that only require 5% of their mental processing power?
The answer, of course, is simple.
Because those games require only 5% of their mental processing power.
The question that doesn't get asked enough then, is what were these people doing with the other 95%? Knowing the answer to this is the key to understanding whether Zynga's business model is about to die a miserable death.
I don't actually know. But here's a guess.
Facebook is for many people about sex. It is a way of meeting and chatting up strangers that for a lot of people has become an element of modern courtship. I think many Farmville players were using chat programmes to flirt with some people and gossip with other people about who they flirted with. But online chat has dead times. Rather than stare at the screen waiting for a message people alt-tabbed and played a Zynga game. That's their business model.
Of course they don't want to raid with WoW players or pvp or any of that stuff - they're not actually gaming, they don't think of themselves as gamers and the last thing they want is to be lured into some activity that demands attention over what they're really doing (flirting and gossiping).
Speculation about Zynga's falling revenues and outlook needs to take into account two things:
- is Facebook still a popular element in modern courtship behaviour?
- are there better things to alt tab to?