If you’ve gotten updates on your Facebook wall about the brown cow you friend just earned, then you are familiar with Zynga’s hit game, Farmville.
The Facebook-based game offers players free and paid virtual rewards, which have been incredibly profitable for Zynga and incredibly addictive for the rest of us.
The appeal? "RewardVille," an aspect of Zynga games that offers players rewards based on accomplishments within the game. For example, if a player using Farmville does really well, he or she could get an extra animal, or some other gift designed to further entice them into playing.
Zynga has captured around 250 million players with games like "Farmville" and "CityVille," and has grown from a small gaming company to a 1500 employee strong mega company.
"That's the fastest-growing media property in the history of the planet," said social media analyst Lou Kerner of Wedbush Morgan.
Although the numbers about Zynga's popularity do not lie, the games do have their skeptics.
Ian Bogost, a game designer and Georgia Tech professor with a focus on video games compares the Zynga games to fast food. He explains that the games aren’t about skills, it’s how much money and effort you put into the games.
He even created a parody game called "Cow Clicker," where the object is to click on virtual cows, as a blow to the lack of creativity within the Zynga games.
"I don't want to celebrate them just because they have a lot of users and make a lot of money," Bogost said.
He added that the company has been "very, very brazen about their business process. It turns your relationships into these resources that form the backbone of their business."
All criticism aside, the company is growing exponentially but has no plans to go public.
Still, Zynga is clearly helping to fuel the idea of virtual currency and goods, something which gaming companies are hoping to integrate in order to further monetize mobile and social applications.
(Via Associated Press)