Obviously to me there is a bunch of up front costs, art assets, game play design, etc. But once you've got the basic HTML5 code going, and the art assets in place, what are your on-going costs?
Clearly there is going to be bandwidth at scale its like $2 - $3 per megabit per month, you've got power/cooling in a colo, so that's going to cost you maybe $3K/month for a 42U rack's worth of servers. And presumably you've got a couple of opsen types tending and feeding that rack. But they are split across say 100 racks so 1/100th of their salary/benefits per month, lets call it $160/month . So lets give the game 500Mbits of bandwidth a month (that is 4.3TB of data transfer per day) We can put 20 beefy servers in our 42U rack with 20TB of disk space and 1/2TB of flash in each (we do this at Blekko)So 400TB of disk space and 10TB of flash, and if you wanted 3.8TB of RAM (192GB/server) and 480 threads of execution.
Now I'm making a huge assumption here, and so I'm calling it out, but my assumption is that the "game" is essentially a front end on a database, where player actions become database transactions, and those transactions show up as changes in the game 'world', further those transactions are both shared (everyone in the game can see them) and private (only you see the changes). So a system that is slightly less beefy than our setup (the Sun setup) gets 10M transactions/minute in the TPC-C benchmark . At that level it suggest our stack-o-servers might support 1 - 2M players.
So our monthly cost is on the order of $6,500 and we're hosting say 1.5M players. That means we need to extract something like a half cent per month out of those players in order to pay for running the hardware. For a gross margin of 50% that is about .86 cents.
I may be completely off here somewhere, please point out my math or configuration errors! It seems like one could essentially run a game 'forever' until that average number got too low and then you would have to wind it down, but one wonders about how hard it is get get someone to pay a penny a month.
I did leave out the maintenance (warranty) cost of the servers, a recent quote from a server vendor had 'everything covered, onsite tech' for $175/server/month. So if you wanted to add that in then there would be another $3,500/month to cover.
It looks like a license to print money but clearly there is something here that sucks all that money away. Curious what it is.
 That is two ops people with a combined salary/benefit package costing $200K/year or 16K/month which divided by 100 (1/100th of their work) is $160.
If they get bored, they find a new game to play. As long as the game is at least profitable, run it until it isn't.
The only other reason for closing a game prematurely like this would be to minimize people complaining about the lack of support for a game, which could translate to "Zynga sucks, they haven't added anything in months, clearly they've stopped caring about their customers!" by players who either forgot about or didn't get the memo.
Eh, no. It's specifically the new updates that people get hooked on. The new updates are what drive people to do the microtransactions. Without such updates, I'd expect income to drop by a few orders of magnitude: well below profitability.
If you've done that and still don't understand, I can try to explain further. It's not about support. It's about regularly asking for money. The moment you stop asking is the moment you lose revenue. Think of it like church. Every Sunday, they pass the collection plate. If they don't pass the plate, they don't get paid.
These games have to have some type of limited-time element. You have 2 weeks to get the special "one-time only" pink zebra and if you don't earn it in two weeks you'll never be able to get the pink zebra again.
Or you can just buy some credits to buy the zebra for $20 in USD.
These games require limited-time only things to make money. Every holiday (valentines, easter, 4th of july) is a big event. The cost of the game is not servers, it's 5-10 full time staff to run it.
There seem to be a similar tiny minority of fans that could keep these Zynga games barely alive for much longer, so why isn't Zynga doing this? My guess is they view hardcore customers as suckers and would rather have them spending $20 a month on a new title with new content then $1 a month keeping a near dead title just over break even. Carrying the example math forward even if they lose 95% of these hardcores it's going to be worth it if they can move 5% of them to a new release.
It's a reason to continue paying money.
> Zynga games have the same ability to run the grind ad nauseum, interact with other users, etc.
No, they don't. In an MMO, if you get to level 80 as a cleric, you can go back and redo all the zones as a warrior. In a Zynga game, this isn't available: it's what MUD designers called single ladder advancement. You get to level 80 and that's it: you can only keep buying more stuff, or only maintain what you have. That's very different. There's no reason to make a new Facebook account and start over.
In an MMO, there are a plethora of interactions, mostly related to group activities. In a Zynga game, interactions are pushed into status updates. To bring in another analogy, an MMO is like a bar. You can go there, sit down, and chat with people. You can buy a beer if you want, but you don't have to. A Zynga game, however, is a beer. You can talk with people over said beer, but that talking isn't an intrinsic part of the experience of the beer. And at the bottom of the cup, it says, "Tell your friends how great this beer was to get more beer!"
> If Joe Customer wants to log in and keep feeding 25 cent cookies to his Zynga dog every morning he could keep doing that forever.
Yes. But are there enough of him to justify keeping the servers running?
In MMOs, the answers tends towards yes, because the interesting activities tend to be group-friendly, which naturally pushes up the number of people playing and paying. You can't say the same about Zynga games.
The assumption in that though is that game $Y cannibalizes $X. Which is to say if you also release a new game $Y your returns on $X go away.
And while I see that as true with similar/derivative games "CashVille 2" is just like "CashVille 1" but with unicorns or something, I am not sure I'm persuaded that we do accrue an opportunity cost against different game. This is the root of the reasoning in my print money comment.
The reasoning is that if this config pays for the development cost and then generates marginal $ over time, you just add another stack to increase the marginal dollars you get. A writer releasing a second book doesn't 'cut into' sales of the first book, if nothing else they can sometimes increase the revenue of the first book by getting wider visibility.
I'm interested though in how we might reason about the opportunity cost here.
As was also mentioned elsewhere, players are always hungry for new items, and my guess is that Zynga has plenty of metrics to indicate that new items is where the money goes (a hefty dose of behavioral economics like scarcity is used on those ones). Simply leaving a game open, or closing it to new players, is probably leaving money on the table. That said, I think there's a big risk in teaching players that their virtual items really do just disappear into the ether.
My guess is it's the right move for Zynga to make, but Indiana Jones and Mafia Wars 2 is a huge blow to them. They were flagship products, and both of them are only a year or so old.
If you somehow knew I was going to buy exactly one book, you'd do your best to make it a hardcover and pull the paperback off the shelf.
Zynga had copied ideas from competitors, wasn't Cityville a Sims rip-off? Not only that but competitors were ripping off Zynga ideas as well.
I understand the need to constantly change the game to attract new customers and sell new items to the existing customers. I had played Playdom's Marvel Avenger's Alliance, but recently quit because the bugs were very serious and each new thing they added created problems in the PvP mode as well as more bugs. In order to be competitive in that game you need to buy gold to buy rare items on sale for a limited time. My problem was that they have a "Maintenance"/Refresh bug and after I bought gold and paid $20 that I was not given the gold by the game. I filed a tech support ticket with Playdom over it and gave them my Facebook account name and Paypal address. They just ignored it for weeks. Eventually I had to file a complaint with Paypal for not receiving goods that I paid for and was awarded $20 in my dispute with Playdom. Then a few weeks later Playdom had my Facebook account banned claiming "unauthorized credit card use" but that was not the case, it was failure to deliver goods paid for. After trying to resolve the issue with Facebook and Playdom, I eventually quit and removed the game from my profile. I refuse to play any more Playdom or any of its competitors because of bugs so serious that you don't get what you paid for, and they refuse to give you what you paid for or refund your money. I heard from other players that Zynga does that as well. Basically it comes down to this, if they ignore the request for a refund for 30 or 60 days, Paypal or the credit card/debit card company cannot issue a refund after a certain amount of time after the transaction.
I have never in my life seen such buggy software as these so called online social network games. I have never seen such sh*tty tech support as these online social networking games. I'll bet that this is what affects their profit margin, once users get burned in buying premium content they will either play the game without buying anything else, or they will like me quit playing from that company or all companies.
I havent paid to play a social game so I'm really curious as I havent played any Facebook games before.
Any company with shtty tech support and pss poor customer service is going to lose customers by making them unhappy and then spiral their stock out of control into a bankruptcy. That includes Facebook themselves, who even after proof that I didn't get gold in the game for my $20, sided with Playdom in banning my account for a day for "unauthorized credit card use" of my own Paypal account.
Here is another thing, Paydom's TOS says I must file a support ticket with them, I did and nothing happened and they ignored the problem, Paypal's TOS says I have to resolve disputes with them which I did by creating a ticket, and then Facebook got upset because their TOS says I have to resolve disputes with them. Which one gets priority? Playdom and Facebook refused to do anything and then banned my account anyway even if I did nothing wrong and I was the one who was punished for a bug in the game that doesn't give me gold I legally paid for with my own account. That is all kind of messed up there and if this is what happens to a typical user who needs a refund due to a bug in the game not giving gold or whatever they paid for, then this whole industry is going bankrupt into another Dotcom bubble burst. You never do this to your customers, never!
It is hard to explain, but in order to play the game better you need to keep buying stuff. Zynga games are like that as well. If you don't buy stuff then you suffer in the game and other players can beat you up better.
It would be an unfortunate charity to give little to no attention to attracting new players but instead letting the current player-base stagnate, and it's troublesome to keep assigning hard-working developers and artists to maintain the slow and steady decline of a game.
Make no mistake; killing off the stagnating games is in the best interest of the artists and game developers in the same way that it is financially sane.
This is a critical point for me. I was a huge World of Warcraft fan, played a lot, and would still play a lot if it wasn't a complete waste of time :-) I also play 'Settlers of Catan.' (SoC) I've played SoC since it came out, and while it has had a couple of expansions, I don't play them, I still play the original. Once I got the box and tiles and cards there was no additional participation of any game designers or artists. The game continues to grab followers, the marginal cost of shipping a new one is some injection molded plastic and printed cardboard.
Why aren't there computer games like SoC ?
They are doing a great job at maintaining a balance between attracting new players and maintaining existing players, particularly in the recent Cataclysm expansion and Mists of Pandaria expansion.
The Cataclysm expansion was massive in that it revamped the existing world in addition to adding new content and I believe this is highly undervalued by existing players. Furthermore they have applied the same attention to detail to an entirely new expansion (MoP), and the gold-trim is really starting to shine through -- especially with regards to how well received the pet battles are (appealing to new and returning players) and how well received the challenge modes are (appealing to existing players).
Since Cataclysm was such a huge under-taking it took an astronomical amount of time and effort and they have adopted a policy of more regular intervals between expansions and patches, and in that regard Cataclysm was an opportunity to stream-line their entire workflow (from art design to player-facing content) -- an impressive feat in itself for which they are currently reaping the benefits.
The amount of over-head involved in making making new content and engaging consumers is expensive in all fields from offline single-player games to online multi-player games and from movies to music, and Zynga's shotgun approach to new games has been expensive and it's starting to hurt them.
Blizzard is a complete mystery. I paid for a copy of Starcraft: Brood War when it first came out (1998), and I've played on Battle.net using my original serial on and off ever since. Their servers are still up and running silky smooth, 15 years later.
I first bought my battlechest in 2000 for $30.
So 14 years after the release of the original game, it still moves enough copies for Best Buy to have it on the shelves.
Last patch is from 2009 and the game was released 1998, http://forums.battle.net/thread.html?topicId=14498532341
By killing off the oldest games, Zynga causes a significant segment of its customer base to substitute newer games for the older ones. These customers are probably the most profitable (they likely buy stuff in game), and they will likely make purchases in the new games as well.
This has another benefit for Zynga in that it lets them play games with the user metrics for their newest titles (thus making the stock holders happy). Having a long-time customer start playing a new/trending game is just as good as (or better than, see above) a brand new customer.
(IMO, in the context of Zynga and similar, the idea of pay-once-play-forever games is off topic in this discussion!)
...times several thousand copies if it's going to be worth firing up the presses and machines.
To be fair, I'd like to see the same for the KixEye games as well - as they are making money hand over fist (according to a good friend who works there).
If I'd put 4 years into a pet on Petville, only to have the game basically deleted from under my nose, there is no way I'd ever become involved in anything Zynga does again.
[Disclaimer, I've never actually played any Zynga games, so this is based on second hand conversions/observations]
One of my rare compliments to Zynga: they aren't stupid and it is highly, highly unlikely that the live teams' business analysts made a worse decision based on the data than an outsider would make based on a press release.
Pretty much all the big name MMOs released in the past 10 years have gracefully downsized and maintained maintenance for the player base.
Well no, not really. I mean, yes, I guess it technically did. Then it got decimated again. And then it got decimated 12 more times.
And the way it was administered was not to pick the strongest men. Instead, they used a lottery system like drawing lots to choose which 10% would be killed.
Since it was a form of military punishment, it would not have made sense to kill the strongest men. That would have reduced the deterrent effect, and also would have unnecessarily crippled that unit. Since the whole point of the practice was as a replacement for executing the entire mutinous unit, it would have been absurd to do so by destroying the cream of the crop.
1. Kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage of.
2. Drastically reduce the strength or effectiveness of (something): "plant viruses that can decimate yields".
Lots of words change meanings, and hundreds of years is usually enough time for a new meaning to become totally unobjectionable. But I think the main issue here is that the word so clearly derives from the Latin for "ten" that it just sticks out like a sore thumb.
The Spanish word diezmar, shockingly enough, also means to destroy (or cut by a tenth), even though it looks like it's got a ten in there, too.
Diesmo, on the other hand is quite common and I guess you can say that diesmar is the act of giving the tenth of your profits to the church. Still, diezmar is a dead word.
Instead we use decimo for tenth and decimar for destroy.
You're wrong. And you're the worst kind of wrong: pedantically wrong. Please stop.
There are other, better, words available that can take its place.
Because, I mean, if you're going to be That Guy etc. etc., being right is close to the only thing you've got left.
Now, don’t get me wrong, the etymology of words is intensely interesting. It always makes me happy to learn how words were originally used and how that meaning changed – but all that doesn’t help you decide what a word actually means right now.
Argue against using the word. Don’t dare argue that it has a different meaning than it actually has.
Also, I think I will increase my use of decimate. If it pisses off those annoying pedants (who are perfectly aware of what is being communicated and won’t be the slightest bit confused) I will be happy. I successfully communicated and pissed off people I don’t like. Yay!
You'll make a lot of friends with that attitude.
But I like you...
Type either "blob" or "binary lob." PLEASE!
There is one correct use, and three other uses talking about "binary blobs" without a negative connotation.
My opinion is that the layman term got mixed up with the database term and thus we got this mess (should I say blob?)
He's just talking about of how are blobs in drivers evil for BSD, taking advantage of the evil amoeba concept.
[I agree, the word binary is redundant (nobody complains about source blobs), but not because it's an acronym. The phrase "unfree blob" would also be redundant, since blobs are unfree by definition.]
Anyway, BSD's usage is not actually the general use of the word, as you can see in the link I've posted somewhere else in this nitpicking thread, people usually mean a bunch of bytes, without connotation.
I understand better the origin of the confusion, though.
I am! I didn't even know blob was meant to be an acronym (or, in fact, anything other than what the word "blob" suggests) before this discussion, so, to me, binary blob always meant binary lump of goo-like stuff.
But I'm kinda curious what you thought it stood for?
In the context of 'binary blob' I think it would be clear it just means an amorphous mass of bits and not some Jargon File definition (which in turn is clearly a play on the regular word in itself).
Most (traditional) relational database servers do not support arbitrary sized (often >255 bytes) fields in a single row. The solution was to have a separate Large OBject heap, and store references to those LOBs in the actual rows.
Starkey claims that he invented the term, and that the acronym is actually a backronym. I've heard conflicting stories on that score.
I expected most people here to know this. I've been proven wrong.
Language is constantly evolving, especially as it pertains to words taken from other languages.
Take the money and run. Now it might be too late.
And if Zynga didn't steal game mechanics or the business model from KoL, what did they take? While KoL was an early browser-based game, it certainly wasn't the first (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_multiplayer_browser_ga...).
Should be 76.7%. 3.52% was the amount it was down on Friday,
December 28th, 2012.
So, is it really that hard to port the player's data in to a stand alone desk top application that at least the character can sort of be preserved in, or more? Perhaps let the open source minded folk perhaps keep "feeding" the application? Or something like that. I would imagine that players would be happy enough to pay a reasonable amount for that. Or perhaps do a data dump for players so that some representation of the character exists.
I kinda think developers should have something like this in mind before they start, especially where kids and money are concerned.
They could either spend more time (and money) on letting people port their virtual corn to a local machine.. or they could cut the product and immediately start moving toward profitability.
When your stock price is $2.33... it really isn't much of a choice.
Makes one really want to buy Sim City 5 (which will do calcuations in the cloud and not be playable without internet connection). Today EA shut down games like Fifa 2011!
Also, it's doubtful that the company would be interested in open sourcing them, because they don't really care about gaming or gamers, they just saw a quick way to make money.
There's nothing wrong with having money be your top priority (to each their own) but in Zynga's case it's obvious that it's their only priority.