My First Time With A Social Game: A Painful Experience

Not a day seems to go by without any news on record amounts of users, big acquisitions and huge revenue numbers in the social gaming industry. PlayFish got bought by EA last year in a $400 million deal, Zynga filed for IPO to raise as much as $1 billion and in Asia, Nexon is expected to break the $1 billion revenue number this year with huge profit margins.

As much as I hate all the annoying FarmVille requests, I try to keep as far away from the social games these companies develop on Facebook. I always wondered though how these companies are making all this money. Why would anyone pay for in game currency, virtual goods and other useless junk.

Enter CivWorld…

So when I read that CivWorld was introduced to Facebook, I knew I had a hard choice to make. I have always enjoyed Civilization and spent hours getting my economy up, working my way through the tech-tree and building my empire. After days of contemplation, I decided to give CivWorld – and social gaming on FaceBook – a try.

My First Time

There I was, being greeted and welcomed into a colorful world. At first I didn’t know what to do, but the smart UX designers at Firaxis took me by the hand and gave me a series of quests to complete. I built a house, a garden, recruited some scientists and produced some defensive infantry to protect my city. As I saw my city grew and got rewarded for fulfilling straightforward quests, I started to get into the game. Then, the game introduced the concept of mazes.

The Maze

The maze is a minigame within CivWorld and its goal is to move the green dot through the maze to the center. Once there, you get extra science points and in this way unlock different technologies faster. The challenge lies within the fact that you only have a certain amount of moves that you can make in order to get to the middle.

Screenshot of the Maze minigame

So, having carefully built up my empire, I now needed to find my way through the maze. The first one was pretty easy and I immediately got an extra boost in my tech. The second maze, however, was already a bit more difficult. As I kept trying to find my way through, the amount of moves I could make kept decreasing. Finally, when I had zero moves left, I was stuck.

Not knowing what to do at first, I luckily discovered the ‘get 5 moves’ button. By pressing this button, I got to make 5 extra moves in exchange for what appeared to be some sort of bills. In my quest for extra science points, I eagerly pressed this button again and again.

Suddenly, the page seemed to be redirected to a different page. As I was exited to see what was to come, I waited in anticipation for the page to load. Who knew what cool tech I could be getting?!

Then, after waiting for a while, the page finally finished loading and the following screen appeared:

There it was… I couldn’t believe what had just happened. At one moment, I was having fun playing my CivWorld game, then, in a flash, I got interrupted brutally and was being asked for money.

The first time always hurts

The worst thing however wasn’t me being interrupted. The worst thing about it was that, after 15 minutes of playing, I almost wanted to pay for the extra CivBucks. Having my reservations going into this game, I couldn’t believe how addictive it was and how good it was in convincing me of the ‘extra value’ of in-game currency.

I too, fell for it.

As bad as I felt, there is one thing I learned from this experience though. I get it now. The press releases boosting millions of users, the news articles, the revenues and the profits… all of it.

Moving on

Preventing myself from wasting hours of my life and risking a possible bankruptcy, there is only one thing I could do:

Goodbye citizens, goodbye CivWorld, goodbye social gaming… I’ve got some programming to do!