Zynga and the death of Draw Somehing

As a gamer and more specifically a lover of indie games, my default stance with Zynga is pure revulsion. The company has blatantly and shamelessly cannibalized so many indie hits at this point that I simply will not support any product they produce. The latest title to join my blacklist is Draw Something, the smash hit from OMGPOP. Zynga recently purchased the company for nearly $200 million, a purchase that drew a lot of raised eyebrows, including my own.

Don’t get me wrong, Draw Something is fun. It’s a perfect recreation of a game I know as Telestrations. In the physical world, Telestrations requires players to sketch a word using a fat-tip, dry-erase marker. The drawings are expectedly bad, but that’s part of the fun. The same is true of Draw Something – human fingers just aren’t precise enough to draw an accurate representation of Kanye West on a smartphone, but they can damn sure mock up some window-shade sunglasses and draw a bar of gold next to a shovel.

But Draw Something doesn’t quite have the magic that makes players stick around after the initial week-long excitement is gone. For me, interactions over Draw Something didn’t create enough of a story. With Telestrations, players pass their drawings around a room. The next person writes the phrase the original artist was trying to sketch. The person of that draws – it’s a game of sketch telephone. The real fun of the game, though, is in the retelling of the drawings. You get to see where players missed the mark. Draw Something is just too easy after a few plays with a new player. You know how they think, how they communicate an idea, and because Draw Something presents a hangman-style letter bank from which to guess, getting the word right is a simple process of elimination.

I could see why Zynga might have initially been interested in Draw Something; the game was pulling 15 million users a day through Facebook alone. It was at the top of the app charts, one of the highest grossing apps around. But just a couple weeks later Facebook traffic fell by half. Despite the company’s recent announcement of a partnership with Dreamworks for ads inside the game, it’s hard to see the Draw Something deal paying out. Even with a nice ad deal, there won’t be enough players in a couple months to make the math work.

I can’t say I’m sad to see Zynga’s stock continue to tumble, but I hope the company’s fall only leaves room for more games to fill its void. For a couple weeks, Draw Something had me connected to friends spread all over the country. If a company that respects IP can swoop in to deliver a lasting version of that experience, I’ll be a happy man.


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Bullz-Eye-Witness Report: Snoop Dogg destroyin’ the evidence for “Mafia Wars: Las Vegas”

Say, did you hear about Snoop Dogg blowing up an armored car in the middle of the Nevada desert as part of a publicity stunt to celebrate the 10 millionth visitor to Zynga’s latest “Mafia Wars” expansion, “Mafia Wars: Las Vegas”?

Maybe you did. Maybe you even watched it happen at MafiaWars.com, since the event was streamed live…and if you did watch it live, then you no doubt noticed that, despite the designated start time having been established as 6 PM PST, it didn’t actually go down ’til a little bit later.

Yeah, I noticed it, too. Except I noticed it live from the Nevada desert, since I was standing right there when the whole thing went down. And it wasn’t much of a surprise to me, since I’d been watching the events unfold for the previous two hours.

First, for those of you who didn’t see it happen, here’s a video of the event:

And, now, here’s the story of what happened and how I came to be there.

Read the rest of this entry »


Snoop + Mafia Wars: Las Vegas + dynamite = AWE$OME

Last month, we observed, “Everybody loves Snoop Dogg…or if they don’t love him, they at least know who he is.” An approximation of the phrase could very well be said of the online game phenomenon known as Mafia Wars: even if you don’t actually play it, you’re almost certainly aware of it. (You can play the game on several mediums, but for my part, I’m well familiar with the cry of my non-playing friends who bemoan the constant barrage of Wars-related posts on Facebook.) Tonight, the man who brought gin and juice to the masses is joining forces with the latest game in the franchise, “Mafia Wars: Las Vegas,” to – for lack of a more cultured phrase – blow shit up.

Snoop Dogg will blow up a four-ton armored truck to commemorate the 10 millionth visitor to “Mafia Wars: Las Vegas”, which debuted on July 21. That’s right: it was launched less than a month ago, and it’s already hitting the 10-million-visitor mark. That’s how popular this game is. The massive explosion is taking place in the Las Vegas desert, but it’ll be streamed live via the official Mafia Wars website, so everyone can watch Snoop Dogg light it up.

A handful of people, however, will be there in person to watch the event go down…and – ahem – yours truly will be one of them.

Stay tuned to your friendly neighborhood Bullz-Eye Blog for the post-event wrap-up, wherein I’ll offer my firsthand experience of the event and, if everything goes according to plan, the details on my few minutes one on one with Mr. Dogg.

Ah, I can smell the secondhand smoke already…