Andy's Workshop

Game chat and stories along with some articles probably for the more geeky among us,
all written by me, Andy.

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Thursday 1 December 2011

Lots Of Little Pies Or One Big One...?

This has been a subject I've so far avoided talking about, firstly because it's not funny and I prefer to have a joke, secondly because it's a very divisive issue and thirdly because usually I'm either described as a Zynga Stooge or criminally Anti-Zynga, often both of them at the same time.

But, I've decided to do it. I'm going to blog about Horseshoes.

I think, in our lucid moments, we all agree Horseshoes, Crowns, Farm cash etc is a necessary evil. It's how Zynga make their money and it's what keeps the game alive. No shoes, no money, no Frontierville, they're a business.

A world where everything is available for easily obtained coins is a cute little utopian thought but unrealistic (as I fear, are most utopian ideas... yes, I'm a cynic.)

But what I do often wonder is whether Zynga might be better served looking at having lots of little slices of lots of different pies, and not a few larger slices of one big pie.

Let me explain without food related analogies... Every time I look at the prices of stuff in the market or when Limited Edition animals come out, one thought comes to mind, "too expensive".

[Boring bit, I'm going to use UK Pounds... for reference £1 = US$1.57 | C$1.60 | Aus$1.54 | 1.17 Euros]

Now, at the moment Horseshoes cost 8-10 pence per Shoe (unless you buy the daft 1000 pack, then it's just over 7) and because I'm disturbingly sensible about money, that's the way I tend to think of it.

Take these new Australian limited edition animals for example. Altogether they cost 200 Horseshoes which ranges from £14 - £20 depending on which package you bought. Now me, personally, that's a little above my "impulse buy" threshold.

How about some other "real world" prices for market items?

Pardoned Turkey - 100HS - £7-£10
24 Hour Master Farmer Boost - 130HS - £9 - £13
Melons - 2HS each - 14p-20p each (they're like Pringles, who'd only have one?)
Dr Cluck - 80HS - £6-£8
Gold Fountain - 60HS - £4-£6

How about the most expensive item in the market? The Jungle Gym is 250 HS, that's £18 - £25 for that one decoration.

To me, even though I agree with the IDEA of Horseshoes, this doesn't seem to tally up with real life when I look at the actual COST, not in fantasy money but real money.

If those items in the market were for real cash, there is no way I'd even look at them. My working life is not going so well that I could sit and think "couple decorations, couple animals, field of Melons... yeah, it's only 100 quid or so..."

I will happily admit I have an impulse buy limit, and I do buy add-ons etc for games from the Playstation Network (my other gaming platform) but for ME, a single item in a game needs to cap at about £1-£2 at most.

To provide some balance, some things in the Market DO go under that, and are what I'd suggest are ok pricing. Badgers for example are 5HS each, and 30p-50p is what I'd call a sensible-ish price for an item like that, but even then... I'd say to reach most impulse buy limits you should probably get a couple for that money.

And so, finally, to the point. In marketing you have a couple ways of selling things.

If you make something big and exclusive, millionaire playthings (luxury yachts, sports teams, Bugatti Veyrons) you can afford to make them expensive and aim for an exclusive clientèle.

On the other hand if you make normal things (toy boats, sports video games, Fiat Puntos) you look more at smaller profit margins and mass sales.

You're pretty much choosing between expensive to a few people, or affordable to many.

To me, I think Zynga need to lean a LOT more towards the second option, and they might find it pays them in the end.

Ask yourself this question: Which is better, one person spending £50, or ten people spending £5?

Hands up who said the one person...

Hands up who said they're both the same...

Hands up who said the ten people...

Congratulations to the last group, they're the right ones. Even though the gain at that time is exactly the same, those 10 people may well return, they may well tell friends, they may well suggest to others to go spend money.

Even if the cost of horseshoes stayed the same, my own view is Zynga could see an upturn if they just became a little more sensible with their pricing. Instead of 200 Horseshoes total for the LE animals, what about 50? Instead of 250 HS for the Jungle Gym, what about 25?

Give us more for our money.

Buying items in games like this is almost 100% impulse. Like grabbing a chocolate bar in the supermarket or ordering that Green Day CD you find marked down on Amazon. Just like impulse buys the more you do it, the more addictive and easy it becomes.

Give people quick, simple cheap ways to spend horseshoes and it becomes easy to click here for a badger, there for a boost, anywhere for a mission requirement. I'm talking things that cost one or two horseshoes. Yes, I'll use the phrase again, IMPULSE BUYS.

Zynga get more people buying horseshoes which will likely level out the difference in prices and we get more boosts, decorations and cute animals to play with. Win-Win scenario.

There aren't that many types of Horseshoe person, the types are:

Will buy it no matter what - These people will continue to buy Horseshoes, whatever happens. They won't go away if Zynga make them cheaper, in fact it's more likely they spend the same money. Most folks I know don't buy Horseshoes for a specific reason, they're just a treat they buy for themselves each month or so.

Won't buy at all - Zynga can totally ignore the this set of people in marketing considerations. Some folks just won't buy at all. Anything from these folks is a bonus, but I'll tell Zynga something for certain. You won't get them to spend by keeping things the same.

Would buy if it was cheaper - Ding, ding, round one. Here's the market in the middle that would be the place to look because THIS is where extra buys would come from. Group one won't stop, group two won't start, Group three is undecided.

I would argue a lot of group three people would look at horseshoes if everything in the Market that's desirable wasn't so damn expensive.

So, Zynga, let me appeal to your capitalism if nothing else.

What do you have to lose by dropping the pretty daft prices on a lot of market items? What it won't do is stop people who currently buy shoes from buying them. What it CAN do is make new people buy them.

Horseshoes are necessary, we get that. But they also don't have to be an expensive plaything.