Zynga Thinks Games Should Be Free

Zynga Thinks Games Should Be Free

What is the value of video gaming? And how should we be paying for the privilege? Five, maybe ten, years ago the answer to that question was simple and static – nowadays? It’s completely in flux. As more and more titles move towards the free-to-play model, Zynga has now put its two cents in and, predictably, is claiming that games should be free.

As Zynga prepares to issue stock, Zynga owner Mark Pincus addressed “potential Zynga shareholders” and attempted to sell the vision of Zynga as a company.

Here’s what was said…

Games should be accessible to everyone, anywhere, any time. From the beginning, we have strived to lower the barriers to play in people’s lives. We want to build games to play with our parents, our children, our co-workers and our best friends.

Games should be social. Every week our teams test new features to make our games more social. Historically, our players have created over 4 billion neighbor connections. And, currently, our 60 million daily active users interact with each other 416 million times a day.

Games should be free. Free games are more social because they’re more accessible to everyone. We’ve also found them to be more profitable. We have created a new kind of customer relationship with new economics—free first, high satisfaction, pay optional. This model aligns shareholder value with delivering the best player experience.

Games should be data driven. Our culture combines the creative with the analytical. We develop and operate our games as live services with daily, metrics-based player feedback. This allows us to continually iterate, innovate and invest in the content our players love.

Games should do good. We want to help the world while doing our day jobs. Through Zynga.org our players have purchased social goods, raising more than $10 million for those in need from tornado-stricken communities in Alabama to earthquake survivors in Haiti. With programs like our Sweet Seeds for Haiti, our players have touched people around the world.

It’s an interesting read, particularly in the context of discussion from Iwata and others, who worry about the value of video games being reduced by companies like Zynga, and the relatively cheap cost of mobile gaming. As a consumer I’m tempted to say ‘the cheaper the better’ – but is that really viable in the long term?


Zynga: ‘Games Should Be Free’ [Industry Gamers]


  • “Yeah i’m being self indugent while saving lives in Haiti!”
    They sound like the Greens. ‘Feel good’ ideas which don’t actually work.

  • If games were free/cheaper, advertising in games and identity-related information collection would increase 1000x fold.

    All comes down to: what do we want from our games?

    • this.

      It can also be argued that the average Zynga game is not really a game at all.

      Cow Clicker is a good satire of this.

    • Yes it is. You can ignore the micro if you really want to, and there for pay nothing. Leage of Legends is the same. And TF2 now its gone free.

      Free = can play the game without paying for it.

      You can play any of zynga dose that. Some people will pay for micro-trans stuff, but not everyone. And Zynga have ways in the game to get the fudge money, so you don’t have to spend money to get some of the micro stuff without spending any of your money.

      • Have you played a Zynga game and seen just how intrusive and goddamn annoying their constant up-sells are? Asking you to pay a few more cents every couple of minutes? Do you understand how this can possibly impinge on a player’s enjoyment?

      • You don’t gain an advantage over others when buying stuff in LoL or TF2. In Zynga games you do gain an advantage.

    • Totally agree. Free-to-play games always feel either incomplete if you don’t pay or just annoying if you do. I hate that feeling of constantly but subtly being told to buy stuff. Instead of enjoying the game I worry about whether I should buy more.

      If the free-to-play model is the future, that’s extremely sad. Count me out.

  • Games of ****ville quality should be free, especially considering their low production values.
    It’s like tic tac toe should be free.
    But games like Red Dead Redemption, Bioshock and Beyond Good and Evil actually entertain and challenge.
    Zynga games offer a way to waste some time and a false sense of accomplishment.

    • “…games like Red Dead Redemption, Bioshock and Beyond Good and Evil actually entertain and challenge.
      Zynga games offer a way to waste some time and a false sense of accomplishment.”

      Hey, I like video games as much as the next guy, but come on: video games almost by definition “offer a way to waste some time and a false sense of accomplishment.”

      Or are you actually doing important stuff when you pick up that controller and get that high score/headshot/5 star rating/flawless victory/etc?

  • Yeah free like Zynga games.

    Every 10 seconds have a popup saying SPEND MONEY TO DO ANYTHING USEFUL!

  • Yeah agree with the above. Free games sure, love it. But between pay once on purchase games and micro transactions, I’ll take the former every time. Micro transactions are more profitable for a reason.

  • Easy to say that all games should be free when all they release are crappy browser-based games aimed at facebook addicts.

    Oh wait, most flash games are free.

  • Thats the problem with this business model. Just cos its free to play does not necessarily make the game cheaper.

    They’ll make more money off micro-transactions, which you can easily lose track of, than just getting a $60 – $100 one off payment for a new game.

    Just another way to exploit the consumer.

  • Honestly I’d love for games to be free, I mean if you look at tv shows which we are getting for free in exchange for some 10minutes of ads every hour I have no problem with ads, especially since there are some games that are loading for around 1minute *cough* Mass Effect 2 *cough* I’d actually welcome and enjoy an ad rather than the same loading screen.

    As for the rest of what they say it doesn’t apply, games are an incredibly diverse media much more so than movies, and limiting them just seems like a bad idea.

  • Zynga games are the new poker machine, eg: breeding animals in Farmville to hopefully strike a rare breed, it’s just random odds… But if you really want that rare breed, you can buy it will real money.

    I’ve never played it, but the GF is quite addicted, it just seems like a grind from the start and doesn’t exactly seem fun at all.

  • It may have “optional” microtransactions.. but they are still optional. As per the linked, mode7games, article: “F2P titles rely on generating a very large audience of players, a percentage of whom are willing to pay for specific in-game experiences or status.” And that’s simply how it is… you can play for free but the fact remains that many people CHOOSE to make micro-transactions.

    When these “very large audiences” range in the millions of users and only a very small percentage make a few small transactions per month, it is still a very lucrative game.

  • There is *nothing* ‘social’ about Zynga’s games other than that they are attached to Facebook.

    And the day that games are stupid depthless free to play excuses for raising ad revenue is the day I quit playing games.

  • Farmville and the gimmicks that zynga makes aren’t games. So he’s in no position to say anything. The amount he spends to make a game, a similar game to farmville reskinned is nothing.

  • Zynga ‘games’ are free in the same way a puppy dumped on your doorstep is, minus the unconditional love and companionship. So it’s really a time/money sink that eats and shits.

  • As people have said, I can tolerate cosmetic micro transactions (Ala TF2 and League of Legends), but the pay-to-win model is a big no no. If this means I have to pay an upfront fee, then so be it.

    The kind of model Zynga is talking about relates only to casual games, core gamers shouldn’t worry so much, there will always be the paid AAA titles

  • All that talk of “player-metrics” and aligning shareholder value with player experience gives me a case of Kotick Cringe.

  • Free models mean that the game has to be supported through micro transactions which I believe is a great way to ruin a game. I can only think of maybe 2 games with a free to play model that isn’t tipped towards paying for better items. The rest are just ridiculous. I have a similar hate for monthly subscription fees – I’d much rather a pay for how many hours you play model if some sort of subscription fee is absolutely required.

    In the end, I don’t want a free game, I want the abolishment of regional pricing.

  • “Yes, we At Zynga Believe That All Games Should Be Free. Now, Can We Intrest You in This Ultra Limited Gold Plated Wheat for Only 3 Farm Cash?”

    Play For Free.
    Pay For Fun.

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