Social gaming cleaning up its act?

By Anne Collier

Well, some social gaming companies, it appears. If you’re not sure what’s meant by “social gaming,” you may’ve heard of Farmville, an extremely popular little game in Facebook. TechCrunch recently ran an exposé that called this gaming ecosystem “scamville” – great family-discussion fuel. He wrote that the games “try to get people to pay cash for in-game currency so they can level up faster and have a better overall experience. Which is fine. But for users who won’t pay cash, a wide variety of ‘offers’ [that get] them to pay far more for in-game currency than if they just paid cash (there are notable exceptions, but the scammy stuff tends to crowd out the legitimate offers).” A week later, TechCrunch reports, Farmville’s parent, Zynga, has announced it will “remove all offer advertising from their games [right away]. This isn’t a meaningless action. Offers account for 1/3 or so of Zynga’s rumored $250 million in revenue.” But social media – which is a blend of user-produced and professionally produced media – is all about lack of control by the companies that host it. So here’s the tricky thing about this situation: Zynga itself can’t control the offers or ad content in its games, its CEO Mark Pincus said, which is why it’s just deleting them for now. Zynga also participated in the latest Online Safety & Technology Working Group meeting in Washington – an added sign that, like other corporate members, it believes that corporate responsibility ultimately pays off.

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