Are Social Media Games Reaching Market Saturation?

020909121934gameBig_farmville Social media is a fickle industry, and long-term success requires near-constant innovation and commitment. Yet social media games from titans like Zynga are drawing in millions of users while remaining fundamentally unchanged.

Could social gaming be in for its own version of the dot com bubble of the 2000's? Pixels and Policy investigates the risk of saturation in the growing social gaming market.

Continue reading Are Social Media Games Reaching Market Saturation?

Breaking: Evony Sues Blogger Bruce Everiss for Defamation

We just received a shocking message from a friend at Evony, formerly Civony, the online browser world apparently plagued by player criticism and now a major lawsuit. Evony has launched legal proceedings against veteran blogger Bruce Everiss of Bruce on Games after what they claim were failed attempts to get Everiss to remove his criticisms of the game.

From Evony's pending press release:

The developer for the popular online video game Evony has filed suit against blogger Bruce Everiss for posting defamatory and false statements online about the company and the game. The lawsuit follows multiple rebuffed attempts to reconcile the matter out of court.

Evony’s Australia based legal counsel has proceeded on multiple fronts internationally against the libelous assaults that Bruce Everiss has leveled against Evony, LLC (http://www.evony.net), its game “Evony: Age I”, and its corporate leadership on his weblog and in publications worldwide in recent weeks.

Everiss caught the ire of Evony's higher-ups after several allegations against the game, the most striking of which accuses Evony of violating the U.S. law against internet gambling. Everiss claims that, since "Evony Cents" can be purchased with U.S. Dollars and then used on an "Amulet Wheel" to gain items, this constitutes a violation of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006.

Among other claims made by Everiss against Evony: That its graphics, previous name (Civony), and game title font were blatant copies of Sid Meier's Civilization series. Evony also challenges Everiss's claim that it is a Chinese-based company by stating that it is registered as a United States corporation.

This accusation lacks substance, as much as it may appear sensible on the surface. The items won on Evony's "Amulet Wheel" are non-transferrable to other characters, meaning the items themselves have no cash value. This parallels the rise of Z Dollars designed to circumvent Second Life's much more realistic gambling capabilities.

Nevertheless, this is a bold move by Evony, and Everiss shows no signs of backing down. The press release is featured on his blog, and Everiss has struck a defiant tone in days past as the lawsuit became more and more of a certainty. 

More on this story as it develops.

The Guardian: Virtual Commerce Will Change the World

If today’s
tech article
by England’s The
Guardian is any indication, a veritable virtual world earthquake is
rumbling across the pond. Correspondent Victor Keegan gets the impression all
of this virtual commerce may be more permanent than the Furby:

Unlike the industrial revolution, the virtual one is led by
the East, not the West. Market researcher Plus Eight Star puts the virtual
goods market in Asia at more than $5bn, or 25 times higher than recent estimates for the US, though
they may be a serious underestimate.

Keegan pulls from data harvested by virtual researcher par excellence Edward Castronova of
Indiana University, who took on the heart-pounding feat of reading hundreds
of pages of Everquest 2 player transactions
in an effort to map virtual economic
trends.

It’s refreshing to see the growing virtual-to-real currency
conversion market taken seriously. What’s great about Keegan’s Guardian article is that it brings in an
area of virtual commerce that is exploding while remaining under the radar of
the graphical worlds scholars: Facebook and social networking games.

For those unfamiliar, Facebook is rife with free-to-play
games like Mafia Wars, Farmville (of
which your author is a recent addict), and Roller Coaster Kingdom. While these
games are entirely free to play, any serious player will find themselves
quickly limited unless they opt to invest real money in purchasing in-game
upgrades and currency. Mafia wars pic

Zynga, developer of
Mafia Wars, Farmville, and nearly every other big-name social networking game
on Facebook, draws a pretty penny from these “microtransactions” of anywhere
from one to five dollars, all the way to $40. 

These games aren’t a joke, and Zynga was right to bank on
the spendthrift tendencies of teens driven by immediate gratification. Zynga
recently closed nearly $50 million in revenue
on the backs of these easy-to-produce
browser games, and hauled in nearly 30 million active players. That’s a rough
average of a little over a dollar spent per player.

So what is the future of these virtual transactions? The Guardian shows no lack of hope:

First, the technologies behind virtual spaces are powering
ahead. It is even possible, indeed likely, that products will be constructed in
a virtual world and then "printed" out in the real world as a
tangible product.

While we may not be printing things out on three-dimensional
printers any time soon, Keegan is right to point out that technology shows no
signs of slowing. As the iPhone has shown, engaging games can be produced with
little start-up capital, increasing competition and raising quality. People are
willing to pay for the experience.

The economic world is changing, a dollar at a time.