Zynga, developer of such masterpieces of interactive media as Mafia Wars and Farmville, has been the pioneer on the social games space, and they’ve made a killing doing it. Speaking at GDC China this past weekend, general manager of Zynga’s Beijing branch said that their success comes mostly from post-launch development of their games. By adding new features and updates, they keep people playing and keep them paying. However, it’s his comments on how design decisions are made that’s drawing attention:
“We are not developing ‘cool’ features – we know we’re developing relevant features. We want to make sure that a lot of people think something is fun, but we also want to achieve commercial success, not something the development team thinks is cool. The game industry is not art, it’s a craft.”
He goes on to discuss various planned updates to Mafia Wars, like boss fights, that the developers thought were awesome and put a lot of work into, but ultimately didn’t affect the metrics by which Zynga measures the game’s success. They don’t plan on making that kind of mistake in the future.
On the one hand, I think it’s good that Zynga is being so frank on the matter. I think most big game companies would gladly, and often do, sacrifice for the benefit of their bottom line, but not many of them would come out and say it. On the other hand, Zynga is killing videogames, so that’s not really my favorite thing.