scamvilleAs you probably noted recently, I am a real fan of Zynga’s Facebook game Farmville. It is fun, it is MASSIVE, and you only need a few minutes per day to play it. However, starting today, huge buzz started to gather around Farmville as Tech Crunch’s Michael Arrington posted a really interesting article in which he called Farmville – Scamville. Pretty strong words, right?

If you’re in a hurry or you simply don’t feel like reading the long article, let me put it short: the reason why the author considers Farmville (which further extends to Zynga, the developers of the game) to be “Scamville” is the fact that the game gives its players a chance to complete “special offers” for in-game currency. These “featured offers” are considered to usually manage to trick the players to spend quite a lot of money on different products/subscriptions they might not be completely aware they’re paying for – stuff like subscribing to a survey website, ordering a pack of CDs or signing up for receiving different SMS alerts.

And that is the main reason why Farmville is considered to be Scamville!

Is that statement correct? I wouldn’t go as far as saying “Yes” or “No” since it’s obviously a delicate situation. However, I must confess that ever since I started playing Farmville (probably about one month ago), I was never aware of these featured offers that offered me in-game currency. Even more, I am sure that I would’ve never completed one that seemed like a scam – whenever I see “enter your phone number to receive a FREE PIN number” I believe that I might be tricked into doing something I wouldn’t want to. Also, the other offers specify somewhere that you’re going to pay for a specific service and I ALWAYS read the thing I’m agreeing to or with – so should every user.

On the other hand, having a company offer such tricky subscriptions, most likely knowing that some of the users might end up paying without knowing they have to, is questionable. Of course, Zynga’s main goal is to earn as much money as possible and earning money can’t always be done in a pleasant way. This doesn’t mean to go out and trick your users.

However, Zynga does NOT trick its users and is not turning Farmville into Scamville. Indeed, they are trying to milk the cow as much as possible by introducing all sorts of items that cost Farmville Cash, but there are more ways to earn that cash, including FREE cash when you level up.

Not to mention the fact that all the items you have to pay for with Farmville Cash are actually decorations and such and not things that influence the main gameplay (so you are not paying for crops, animals or plowing which can be done completely free of charge). In other words, these items are for the people who really wish to purchase them and add that bit of uniqueness to their farm. And it seems natural to pay for that – that’s what being special means. Personally, I went against being special and using no hacks, I managed to become a level 25 farmer (and growing) with 47 neighbors and a farm I simply love. So can any user playing Farmville, and not Scamville.

So, do I agree with Zynga trying to earn some money off their users with some questionable offers? Definitely not, but I don’t see them scamming even if the offers are at the limit: if you read carefully what you’re agreeing with, you don’t get scammed. Even more, you’re not forced to complete any of the offers and you can play the game and have loads of fun without even caring or knowing these offers actually exist.

What’s your take on this story?

UPDATE:
It appears that Zynga payed attention to that article – upon checking their “featured” offers to earn Farmville cash, I only noticed that two are left. So… that certainly took all possible “scam” bits out of Scamville!

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