Seven Lessons Activision And EA Could Learn From Zynga

Seven Lessons Activision And EA Could Learn From Zynga

Zynga’s massive billion dollar public offering came packed with plenty of insight into the company behind FarmVille and Mafia Wars. There’s even a few lessons that Activision and Electronic Arts could stand to learn… or relearn.

According to Zynga founder Mark Pincus, the company’s success is built on encouraging “entrepreneurship and intelligent risk taking to produce breakthrough innovations”.

Here’s how he did that. Pay attention Activision and Electronic Arts, here’s how you can make (more) billions too!

  • Make games easy and fun: You (and I) may think FarmVille gets old very quickly, but hundreds of millions of casual gamers love it. That’s because the games are easy to get into and easier to share with friends.
  • Don’t forget about a game once you publish it: Unlike some major console game publishers, Zynga never seems to forget the games they make or the people that play them. CityVille, FarmVille, FrontierVille, Words with Friends and Zynga Poker: They all get regular updates still.
  • Make new games, not just sequels: Sure Zynga could sit back and bask in the flow of cash rolling in off of games liek FarmVille and Words with Friends, but they don’t. Just last month they launched an entirely new franchise, Empires & Allies, and it’s already number two on Facebook.
  • Facebook is fine, but what about mobile phones: Zynga’s bread and butter is Facebook, without it they would go under. But that doesn’t mean they ignore other platforms, like the mobile phone. Why? Because it makes them even more of a household name.
  • First the US, next the world: Zynga’s massive profits are almost entirely driven by the United States. They haven’t even begun to localise, but they’re going to.
  • Silky smooth online play: Zynga knows that good online games are only as good as the technology making sure people can get to a game quickly and play. So they invest heavily in infrastructure.
  • Why stop at a billion when you could hit a trillion: FarmVille, CityVille? They’re really just money printed machines…. don’t tell anyone. Sure Zynga pulls in the loot through billions of micro-transactions, but they could make even more money through sponsorships, in-game branding and advertising, so they will.


  • There are other lessons that EA could learn from Zynga but I’d rather have another Tree of Life or Game of Thrones than another Tranformers or Twilight.

  • At a high level all of those points gives us a better experience and gives the developer/publisher better monetisation. The problem is when you take those high level points to their extreme – ala Zynga – that you turn a game into a poker machine.

    As a side note I can imagine in 5 to 10 years time the AU government passing legislation to force people to apply for a licence to play Zynga games because of the detrimental effect they’re having on society.

  • Are you kidding Australia lives poker machines, it’s only now when you have a state like new south wales that has more poker machines than all the other states combined that the government turns around and goes… We should Probs do something

  • I’m some what offended by referring to zynga apps as “games”. Games are designed to be fun, regardless of success – farmvile et al are designed to be fun for about five minutes, then annoying enough that the money options seem worthwhile. While both(games and zynga apps) are psychological in nature, there is a difference between designing for pleasure release, and pleasure restraint. I have to wonder how long before designs like this come with health warnings, or legal ramifications.

    Those casual gamers aren’t gamers – they’re not there to game, they’re there because they can purchase what they perceive as status symbols and self=gratification. One could easily make the argument the games prey on low self-esteem, and by creating a community aimed at these people, actively contribute to it as well.

    They’re well designed considering they’re actual aim, but I can’t see why anyone who examines them for more than a moment would call them any form of game. It’s chance-less gambling; pay, get shiny lights, funny sounds and 5% of the input as outcome.

    I’d like to think, despite the funless games they often produce, the goal of EA/Activision/etc is still fun, if profiting from fun. Zynga, clearly not so much.

  • So flash games that are knocked together in a few months with bare minimum of expense are now comparable to AAA titles that take years and tonnes of money to make?

    Also, half those points would alienate a good portion of the customer base they already have as it would take time and money away from the AAA titles that are their bread and butter.

  • What Zynga games could learn from EA and Activision
    – Reward players for playing, not for paying
    – Offer your customers a deeper experience than building e-peen
    – Reskinning a product does not count as a new game, new mechanics, ideas and story do
    – Story is more fun to experience than filling a bar

    • – Reskinning a product does not count as a new game, new mechanics, ideas and story do

      I was going to make a point here about modern warfare, then I realised some point would argue it has a story.

      – Story is more fun to experience than filling a bar

      Is it? Is LA Noire more fun than Super Mario Bros? Is Final Fantasy 9 more fun than Street Fighter 2? Is Poker more fun than MacBeth?

      Or is it completely subjective and therefore impossible to categorise how ‘fun’ something is based on it’s emphasise on story?

  • I take issue with the “easy and fun” part because when big publishers decide to make a game “easy and fun” you get Dragon Age 2. Or C&C 4. Or Call of Medal of Battlefield Duty of HonoUr. Bloody Americans.

  • I think all of the fore mentioned companies should die a rotten death! They are all guilty of being dirty money grubbing machines.

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