Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Slate

October 11, 2012

Slate: Hard times in FarmVille

PALO ALTO, Calif. — Nobody in Silicon Valley respects Zynga. Sure, the prolific developer of Facebook games has long been considered a "hot" startup, one that hit all the early markers of success. Zynga was founded in 2007, and within a couple years it was one of the world's biggest game companies. Its titles — including FarmVille and CityVille and Words With Friends — have won hundreds of millions of players, a small number of whom spend vast sums to purchase virtual items that improve their standings in the games. These virtual items make for real money: Zynga's 2011 revenue topped $1 billion, and its initial public offering last December was one of the most anticipated tech debuts of the past few years.

Yet despite its blistering early fortunes, I've never spoken to anyone outside Zynga who considers the company's rise a positive development for the tech or gaming industries. Instead, it's more common to hear grousing about how the company treats its employees poorly; that it, ahem, draws inspiration from other game makers' ideas; and that its ultimate prospects may not be that bright.

Zynga CEO Mark Pincus has defended the company's game development strategy by arguing that the company's versions of other people's games are better: "We don't need to be first to market. We need to be the best in market," he told employees in a memo earlier this year. He has also said that some employee complaints stem from "growing pains"; many of the company's current employees love working at the firm, he has said.

Despite Pincus' statements to the contrary, Zynga feels like a firm without a purpose. The major difference between today's Internet companies and ones that were founded during the dot-com bubble of the 1990s is that modern firms believe they're changing the world. Though their claims may be dubious, Facebook and Twitter genuinely believe that they're going to make a killing and they're going to improve the lives of billions. By that standard Zynga is an unfortunate throwback to the best-forgotten bubble years. All the gaming company does is convince suckers to spend a lot of time and money tending virtual flowerbeds — and it didn't even invent those virtual flowerbeds. If you're looking for this generation's Pets.com, Zynga is pretty much it.

Text Only
Slate
  • American sunscreens need an upgrade

    The last time a new sunscreen ingredient came on the U.S. market, the Y2K bug was threatening to destroy our way of life. Intel had just introduced the Pentium III processor, featuring an amazing 500 MHz of computing power.

    April 24, 2014

  • Celebrity quack moms are a terrible influence on everyday parents

    On April 15, the actress Alicia Silverstone released a book called "The Kind Mama: A Simple Guide to Supercharged Fertility, a Radiant Pregnancy, a Sweeter Birth, and a Healthier, More Beautiful Beginning." It's chock-full of attachment parenting lessons and dangerous misinformation.

    April 24, 2014

  • Cuba is running out of condoms

    The newest item on Cuba's list of dwindling commodities is condoms, which are now reportedly in short supply. In response, the Cuban government has approved the sale of expired condoms.

    April 23, 2014

  • Cats outsmart the researchers

    I knew a lot had been written about dogs, and I assumed there must be at least a handful of studies on cats. But after weeks of scouring the scientific world for someone - anyone - who studied how cats think, all I was left with was this statement, laughed over the phone to me by one of the world's top animal cognition experts, a Hungarian scientist named Ádám Miklósi.

    April 23, 2014

  • The top 12 government programs ever

    Which federal programs and policies succeed in being cost-effective and targeting those who need them most? These two tests are obvious: After all, why would we spend taxpayers' money on a program that isn't worth what it costs or helps those who do not need help?

    April 23, 2014

  • Do White Castle prices tell us anything about the minimum wage?

    The paper looked at how many delicious steamed sliders the minimum wage has been able to purchase over time. The point is that as it notes, in 1981, the $3.35 minimum could buy a whole dozen. Today, at $7.25, it could purchase just 10.

    April 22, 2014

  • Do your genes make you procrastinate?

    Procrastinators, in my experience, like nothing better than explaining away their procrastination: General busyness, fear of failure, and simple laziness are just a handful of the excuses and theories often tossed around. Now researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder have added another option to the list: genetics.

    April 22, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 18, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 16, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

AP Video
Business Marquee
College Sports
Pro Sports
Facebook