Brilliant article on how Facebook games, rather than try to be fun, try to be addictive. They feed on the compulsive until they give up their cash. Amazing statistic in this article, that some people spend $10k in one game in less than a year. Entire article extremely worth reading, but an excerpt below:
In a game with an “energy” mechanic, you need one energy point per profitable action. When you run out of energy, you can either pay money for more — usually you can fill your meter for two dollars — you can spam your Facebook friends’ walls and mailboxes, begging for more, or you can sit patiently and wait for the meter to recharge.
What the “energy” mechanic does is limit the player’s time. This is how you know Zynga employed psychiatrists and psychologists and psychomathematicians in the honing of this concept: you give the player only a few moves at a time. The player uses all of these moves. Now he can’t play anymore, unless he:
Pays some money
Begs his friends
The first of these options leads to the game’s victory. The player has paid something, so the game wins. It takes the money, puts it in its pocket, tells the player his “kidnapped” daughter is already safe at home, and walks away.
The second of these options leads to increased viral exposure of the game. Of course, this is incredibly effective. Remember: the “average” player who spends $1.40 is a Math Ghost. In order for these games to profit, they need to have as many players talking about it as possible. What better — and more brilliant! — way to get players to talk about a game than to make talking about the game a way to earn currency in the game? I’m sure we all know how brilliant a moneymaking idea this is. We can all agree that it’s sinister, though let’s stop for a second and reflect on how amazingly simple it is.
The final of these options is the one the psychomathematicians grinned most sinisterly about. The player who does not want to pay or scream must now wait. He can take some actions without expending energy — he can move his furniture around, or what have you — though he can’t do anything in the name of progress.
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