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 23 August 2012

The Bother of Business

[As usual, all thoughts in this blog are mine and mine alone. They do not necessarily represent the views of the admins or members of Frontierville Express. To set the scene regarding my personal situation of it, I've only bought horseshoes once and they weren't for me, it was a contest prize on the site.]

As it's a Thursday Lord knows I have a few things to write for the site but I thought I would just take a moment to share some thoughts regarding something that's recently become a fairly emotive issue. The inescapable fact Zynga are a business and, if we're honest, we'd rather they weren't.

I'm not sure why, mentally, we tend to lean more away from paying for stuff on the internet, obviously I don't mean shopping, but services.

Logically Zynga need the same consideration as Ford, or Starbucks or McDonalds. They provide us something we want, and we can pay for it. Strangely it doesn't seem to work that way though, and there's a mildly illogical annoyance over Zynga wanting to get us to buy Horseshoes.

Perhaps it's because it's via the medium of Facebook, a free service in itself, or because it's an online game. Perhaps because there's adverts... although there's endless adverts and trailers when we go to the cinema and we still have to pay for a ticket.

Of course, it could be that even Zynga themselves slightly misuse the word "free", understandably so. The game IS free to play, and for most of us that's all it'll be. But a more precise definition is "FreeMIUM", specifically what the industry call Effort Limited Freemium and Feature Limited Freemium.

In other words, the game is free to play and you never HAVE to pay, but there's a fair bit of effort involved and you can bypass that with the moolah. You can also buy special little extras to put on your stead that looks pretty or give money back.

I mean, the point is worth making, it's not just Zynga. These Freemium models have been around for many years and are almost the staple now of mobile or Facebook games. Games take developers, support staff, community teams... they cost wages.

So, this is the compromise solution as I see it, and it'll take different things from BOTH sides...


Players? Join me in the Lounge, grab a sofa, tea and biscuits on the table (that's cookies for the Americans).

Ok, can we all agree Horseshoes isn't a dirty word? The step WE need to take is take a deep breath, admit Zynga are a business and allow them some steps to make money. When we see Horseshoes, don't automatically go with the obvious "Zynga want to make money" (of course they do) and take a look about whether THIS might be a good reason.

Take the Rejuvenation Plant for example, costs Horseshoes but is widely regarded as an impressive purchase. Or yesterday's feature of spending Horseshoes on extra requests.

Mathmatically it makes sense if you buy Horseshoes. Each single item usually costs 6-8 Horseshoes each, spending 5 HS to get a possible 5 items is something of a bargain. There's also the knock on effects, even if you don't pay yourself then there's still the extra posts coming from neighbours, and with one or two neighbours posting, that could mean YOU don't have to post for an item.

We, as players, need to say "they want to make money and that's ok" and also take everything on it's own merits, not just on the fact it's a HS purchase.


Zynga? Join me in the boardroom, coffee and doughnuts on the sideboard.

If the players do that *points up* then there's stuff YOU need to do, because there's a REASON people have got twitchy over Horseshoes.

For starters, most things cost too much, there's no real connection between the prices and the usefulness.

Take the Rejuv Plant for 100HS... That is a PERMANENT boost, and it's something that is helpful! It's not just about having to catch up or buy something because it's too much hassle, it's the perfect HS purchase.

Then you look at premium animals for 95 HS, that do nothing but look pretty. Or build/mission items costing up to 8 HS for ONE item.

Take the recent feature for adding an extra request... 5HS, good price. 20HS, daft price.

Let's have a bit more logic about prices, eh? Cheaper things are more likely to make people buy Horseshoes and be comfortable with Freemium items.

Secondly... take a break. the Freemium model calls for SOME extras people can buy, not everything, all the time.

The amount of "free gift" crops and animals in recent missions have been ridiculous, not least because the average player has a number of missions on the trot at the same time, so gets stuck. Maybe think about making the items a coin purchase a fortnight or so after the missions first roll. With how often missiosn are released you KNOW that people will have more stuff to gift, you get your clicks, people get to play the game, not just wait for the kindness of neighbours.

Freemium games still need to feel like you're progressing without paying, the paying is meant to hurry along the impatient, not give people the option of stationary or moving.

The amount of stuff needed lately? The amount of builds and crafts etc... That is what takes huge steps towards festering the discontentment.

If people enjoy a game, they'll be more likely to pay for it.

Make it good prices in a good game that's enjoyable even without paying, and you're onto a winner. It's not about glitches, they happen, it's about gameplay decisions that have been actively made.


Players? Zynga? Join me in the bar, we ALL need a drink now.

Players, empathise that Zynga are a business. If NOBODY bought HS, the game would go away. I've played games that have become unprofitable and have shut down. They want money, they need money.

Zynga, have a think about WHY Players are so adverse to paying for things, examine your project and think, what could we do to get more Player contentment.

Do it because you love the game and want it to succeed or do it because it might make more money, whatever your reason a better product helps everyone.

Now clink glasses, drink up and lets get to work. We've ALL got things to think about.


  1. Hear hear, Oh Zynga gods. The man does make sense. As usual, VERY well said, Andy.

    1. I totally understand that Zynga needs to make money. The problem is that they are so unreasonable. For example, when fewer items were required and missions were not so ludicrous I did buy HS...almost every month. I would use 5 or 6 HS to buy one or two items to finish a mission. Now, it doesn't make sense because you cannot get anywhere. They have actually gotten so outrageous with the repeatable/crafting missions that require hundreds of parts that buying HS does not even help. If they made monthly subscriptions more reasonable they would get more subscribers and make more money. They are actually turning paying players away!

    2. I agree with you! I would ask for the gamecards for mother's day or my birthday...$10 US would get me 180 horseshoes--with the help of a couple of holidays...Valentines day, Mother's day, my birthday..I've managed to hold onto over 1000 horseshoes.....and I DON'T USE THEM. I have used 5 or 6 horseoes to buy one or two you say....buying an item today gets me no-where!
      The new feature allowing us to post a second time doesn't make sense either....if you didn't all the help clicks on the first one(because your friends don't need the item)....paying for a second one isn't going to help.
      I would love to see this game move to the ZINGA PLATFORM

  2. I would not mind spending some money if the game ran better, but I am still having problems with it and I have tried everything to get it to run smooth so why should just to be stressed out with the game it will be easier to count my losses on what I have already spent and just quit the game like I have most of their other games.

  3. Thanks Andy - it all makes sense - but there needs to be give and take on both sides of the isle here and Zynga will not give - the horseshoes for the items needed is ridiculous and the amount of items required are ridiculous - Zynga needs to make the game run smoother with less glitches or bugs - No one is going to pay for something that only works when Zynga and Facebook want it to. I do buy horseshoes but not to spend 8 on items that are not necessary. I am about ready to say goodbye to the game if the issues continue. Thanks again and keep up the good work

  4. If everything cost less more people would pay surely?

  5. If premium costs were less, I think people would be more apt to buy them more often and in no time would be out to purchase more horseshoes. Heck, I can spend a fortune in the "Dollar Store" because..."it's only a dollar". People want more for their money and by over-pricing items, they're losing the business they're trying to grab.

  6. Its a PIXEL,not the crown jewels. Theyre asking for extortionate amounts of horseshoes for a picture on a screen.And not only that, but for 90, 120, 192 pictures on a screen.Someone needs to take a step back and take a reality break, honestly. I wouldnt pay 20 horseshoes to post , no chance. Not when I would still need 150 more of the same item.

  7. My major problem with the Horseshoe option is that by making the missions increasingly more difficult as they have been steadily doing since the intro of the Pioneer trail this time last year they are effectively forcing the majority of players to buy horseshoes just to have a chance of keeping up with the game. Since many of the missions depend on parts from prior missions, if you don't keep up you might as well quit: An option that too many players choose each and every week.

  8. Amazing analogy, Andy! Thanks for the energy you used to write it. It's interesting to me that many don't have any issues stopping at Starbucks on their way to work -- some choose to play slots at the pull-tab tickets to help support local VFSs,play the lotto -- but horrors if some players chose to spend horseshoes on a Zynga game - and if Zynga shows some preference to those players who do spend $$ on the game (e.g. having Live Chat more available) so be it. Seems like good business to me -- reward the players who pay the salaries of the support staff. It is a business. I do buy horseshoes. I see that as a choice vs. other forms of entertainment that also cost $$. My choice. I think the option of spending 5 hs to shorten reset time for mission requests is an excellent idea and I applaud whoever came up with the idea. My view. Marcia Lyford

  9. Well said Andy!! I agree that if things where less pricy and you wouldnt need 100 items to finish a quest the spending of the HS would go up. I never used to skip a mission... now I have some hanging in the back of my mission screen because I dont want to repeat repeat and repeat. Spending HS on it doesnt help because it gets you no where. Also the continues pop ups about what to buy with your HS is irritating... I know I can buy things with HS... I dont need to be reminded every single time I go in the game or when playing it. One anouncement would be enough.

  10. I agree but my game is still not working I actually joined the VIP group and since then I keep getting kicked off game my greenehouse hasnt worked for weeks and due to their issues I lost all days collecting pioneer mail which was 600 plus, The pop ups are irking and I havnt been able to use my gift box regularly as it wont open and they want me to keep using horse shoes, Why would I when there is no enjoyment in game anymore so like most of my friends when I use what I have I will not play anymore, Thanks for letting me vent.

  11. An excellently written article. Andy, you put both sides perspectives in wonderfully.
    I agree, I would pay if the amounts weren't ridiculous! A dollar here or there makes sense, 5 bucks for one item that you need 50 so much sense. With the oodles of pop ups and ads, much needs to change before I put my money into this game. With that said, I understand that Zynga is a business, but maybe they need to look at their clients and reset their prices.

  12. Well said Andy I think you speak for us all. xx