Zynga prove they ain't good fellas in Mafia Wars heist
Plenty of you consumer-types feel short-changed when a retailer spots a pricing error before you've ordered a dozen items to flog on eBay. And if you've had the misfortune of buying from Littlewoods using a generic voucher code, only to have the catalogue company rescind the voucher, then you too will feel hard done by.
But what about the virtual world? Surely nobody gets crazy over money and goods that don't exist in any way, shape or form? And clearly a business isn't going to get the arse about imaginary money that may or may not be used to buy imaginary items? Oh.
Zynga is the demonic gaming company responsible for Farmville, Mafia Wars and other Facebook-based time vampires. They recently ran a voucher scheme for Mafia Wars players using another social networks, to entice them to join Facebook. The bait? $120 to the user if they switched.
Unfortunately, Zynga didn't place any restrictions on the voucher code, meaning any number of users could claim their $120. And that's what happened; TechCrunch believes around 100,000 players used the code - that's $12 million in total was claimed. When Zynga noticed something wasn't right, they immediately disabled the code, but then went on to roll back the accounts of users to a date before the voucher code was used. Players complained on the Zynga forums - the complaints were deleted. And so on.
Players were furious - they'd lost out on $120. Zynga remained defiant - they weren't prepared to lose $12 million. You can sympathise with both sides of the story. Except, and here's the nub of the story, the $120 wasn't to be paid in cold, hard cash. It was to be paid in reward points, for players to spend on virtual items within Mafia Wars. Everybody was upset over losing nothing whatsoever.
Zynga might argue that they'd lose cash sales if so much virtual money was placed into circulation - Zynga is estimated to make $50 million a month in real money, so $12 million in online currency could destablise its own virtual economy. On the other side of the argument, Zynga have no costs attached to selling products that don't exist, so they'd have encouraged nothing but loyalty in their customers if they'd allowed transactions to stand. It all sounds utterly, uttler ludicrous, but there we are.