Zynga recently released a “preliminary financial results” report that isn’t a happy one. In short, the company said it is expecting to earn quite a bit less this quarter than it did last quarter. That’s never good news for a company, and is the opposite of what investors want to hear. I’m not actually surprised by this news, though, because I’ve been of the belief that Zynga is doomed for quite some time now.
In my opinion, Zynga made a fatal mistake by connecting their games so intrinsically to Facebook. Want to play that Farmville game you have heard so much about? You can’t, unless you have a Facebook account. People who do not have a Facebook account cannot play any Zynga games at all, even if they go to Zynga.com. No Facebook account means no Zynga games for you. This limits their potential market to only the people who currently have an account on Facebook.
Yes, there are thousands of people who use Facebook. Not all of them are gamers, though. There are plenty of people who use Facebook to connect with family, or to chat with friends from high school, and who have zero interest in playing games. This limits Zynga’s potential market even further.
What about the people who are on Facebook and who do like playing games? This brings up another problem. You cannot advance in any of Zynga’s games without posting something on your Facebook page that asks your friends to send you virtual goods. This dynamic tends to cause a lot of frustration in gamers who cannot get enough of their Facebook friends to participate. In my experience, this is one of the biggest reasons why people stop playing Zynga games.
Post too many of those requests, and you will annoy your Facebook friends with what I have referred to as “Zynga Spam”. Seeing a wall of Spam, day after day, is an effective way to make a person who had a small interest in playing Zynga’s games lose all appetite for it – before they even start playing. There goes more of Zynga’s potential market.
There is a feature in Facebook that allows people to filter what they see from their Facebook friends. It isn’t difficult to select a particular friend and filter out all of their game related posts. Just like that, Zynga loses the ability to reach people who might, one day, want to try Farmville.
What’s left is a group of loyal players. The next problem with Zynga’s marketing strategy involves a series of “nag screens”. You can play Farmville for free, but you won’t get to play it until after you click through a series of pop-ups asking for money.
Buy a special item, that will only be around for a limited time! Not everyone wants to spend real world money on virtual goods. Those that do have to stop playing the game long enough to get out their credit card and put in their information. This dramatically drops the chance that people will make an impulse buy, because Zynga has given them three or four clicks to think about whether or not it is worth spending money on. Zynga shot itself in the foot when it connected with Facebook, and has since continued to take aim at each of its toes.