Zynga kills PetVille and more to cut costs

Zynga has decided which titles are feeling the axe

Zynga has decided to terminate 11 games in a cost-cutting measure, according to TechCrunch. The closures are a part of the cost-reduction plan put forth by chief executive officer Mark Pincus in November. At the time, Pincus said that a total of 13 titles were on the chopping block, but only Treasure Isle and FishVille were mentioned. The current closure list covers 11 of those 13.

Mafia Wars Shakedown, ForestVille, Mojitomo and Word Scramble Challenge have been pulled from app stores already. Vampire Wars joined Treasure Isle and FishVille as games shut down on December 5. Montopia was closed on December 21, with PetVille and Mafia Wars 2 following on December 30. Finally, Indiana Jones Adventure World has been closed for new players, with a sunset date of January 14.

Zynga has already offered players of PetVille and other titles a free bonus package of virtual items for Castleville, Chefville, Farmville 2, Mafia Wars or Yoville. Players of mobile titles - like Mafia Wars Shakedown - have been told to contact Zynga Customer Support for possible compensation.

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Latest comments (6)

Rick Lopez Illustrator, Graphic Designer 9 years ago
Well i liked pet society more, petville was a cheap imitation. Online games cost money to keep active. thats why I still persue single player expiriences and boxed games. Cause i know they will be there when i want them to. Online games, sooner or later, servers go down and your left with a crippled game that either is missing features or is rendered unplayable.
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William D. Volk Founder, Deep State Games9 years ago
Interesting. We launched the free game Word Carnivale on iOS just a few weeks ago and it's been growing virally since then. Some players have put in over 20 hours of play in less than a week.

Good timing considering Zynga has pulled Word Scramble Challenge. The difference is that Word Carnivale isn't just another clone of a 'Boggle' game, the play-field changes with every word discovered, a far richer experience than trying to find obscure words on a fixed set of 16 letters (our grid is 25 by the way). It's ad supported, just interstitial ads after you play a round.

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Hugo Trepanier Senior Game Designer, Ludia9 years ago
Such is the nature of disposable entertainment. It pains me to think that in hundreds of years, there will hardly be any trace left of any of those games we worked on. There will probably still be some Mario Bros cartridges around, but none of those short-lived online games. In some ways, this feels like such a waste of time :(

Happy 2013.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 9 years ago
@ Hugo Trepanier

Things are getting better. With boxed games they are hyped up to street date, have their brief time in the sun, then quickly fade away. As you say, disposable. Very occasionally one comes along that will go in the history books. Zelda, Counter Strike, Mario. But they are very rare indeed.

But now we have games as a service. Where the customer is king and where the game is constantly updated and tailored to the player's demands. Zynga are the consummate experts at this. Such games can have, effectively, an infinite life, so long as they continue to fulfil the demands of the public. Also with these games we are, for the first time, seeing gaming as a ubiquitous pastime. Housewives who don't think of themselves as gamers now play games a lot. In China, Chile and Congo, as well as the more traditional gaming nations. So not so disposable now.
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John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam9 years ago
I have games in my collection that are up to 30 years old now and still play fine on their original media, whether that's a BBC Micro 5.25" floppy disc or cassette tape, a SNES cartridge, or a PC 3.5" disc or CD-Rom. Those games have a virtually infinite life span, until the physical media breaks down, and even then many of them are still available commercially for a couple of pounds each through sites like GoG and Steam, or console services like PSN and Virtual Console that let you play them on more modern hardware. Even games that aren't still being sold can often be tracked down second hand in a physical format, or downloaded in digital format from abandonware or emulation sites. If I want to play pretty much any disc or cartridge based game from the last 30+ years, I can probably find it somewhere in some format.

But with an online "game as a service", as soon as the game is no longer profitable the publisher switches off its servers, and that game essentially disappears from existence, taking with it all the time and money you've invested in it. In the last month alone we've seen Zynga shut down 13 games which in some cases still have hundreds of thousands of people playing them (let's face it, if you can't make enough profit from an audience that big to at least keep the servers ticking over, there's something badly wrong with your business model), EA do its annual cull of online features for boxed games that are, in some cases, only a year or two old, and GameSpy's new owners shut down the master servers for several older PC titles that still have active (if relatively small) online communities, cutting off their multiplayer support.

A lot of these games are, sooner or later, going to disappear from our collective history. Which is a shame, because one day someone is going to want to write that history, and large chunks of it are going to be missing and almost impossible to recover in any playable format.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by John Bye on 3rd January 2013 11:36am

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Hugo Trepanier Senior Game Designer, Ludia9 years ago
@Bruce, With all due respect I think you got it wrong. Things are getting worse as far as the preservation of gaming's legacy is concerned. Games that I own in a box and disc are mine, potentially forever, as long as the support and hardware remain functional.

Games as a service are only viable as long as the company is operational and the project turns a profit. The minute a project stops being financially viable, they will cut off the servers and that means you can never enjoy that game again. Ever. It's gone. No matter how much time or money you put into it. Recent Zynga cuts mentioned in this article are a blatant proof of that. Even FarmVille, arguably the most played game on Facebook of all times, will eventually disappear once all the paying players have migrated to its sequel or a better game. Preserving a working copy of these titles becomes impossible without the survival of the developer.

The infinite life you speak of is a utopia. It will never happen because the companies that run them are not infinite either. To make matters worse, with the immense amount of free games on offer, players invest less of their time into each product they consume, making these titles more disposable than ever. Play for 5 minutes and throw away for another. This is the short attention span gamer's dream state with the side effect that we create very few memorable gaming moments.

At least games you download that don't require a constant server connection are still yours, if only digitally. They, too, can potentially be enjoyed in the future ahead, or preserved in a museum. Digital delivery is obviously the way of the future, but that doesn't have to come at the cost of us making disposable games.
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