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Zynga "appeals to the same psychology as gambling"

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This post first appeared on our blog.

[font="Times"][size="2"][color="#000000"][font="Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"][size="2"]We found a very interesting interview on today with analytics expert Jeff Tseng, who argues that Zynga leverages behavioral psychology to make its players addicted to their games.

[font="Georgia,"]When users log into Facebook each day, they don't think that they are entering a gambling arena. When they jump into FarmVille, they don't see it as a virtual slot machine. But ask Jeff Tseng, the co-founder and CEO of user analytics firm Kontagent, and he will tell you that casino gambling and Zynga gaming aren't all that different.[/font]

Jeff has hit an interesting insight here, which is something that people noticed about Zynga's Farmville. It wasn't that Farmville was some kind of miracle hit, it was that Zynga intelligently designed their game around new game mechanics and iterated on those mechanics to make them more effective. They didn't necessarily design a game that was 'more fun', in fact it's impossible to play Farmville for hours at a time without spending in-game currency on Energy. Instead, they designed a game that hooked people in and then kept them coming back, and combined this with aggressive built-in viral marketing that incentivized users to share the game with their friends.

He also makes the argument that Zynga is "an analytics company with kind of a game company wrapped around it". I have to agree, but I don't think this is what sets them apart. From my time at Lookout, I can tell you that this is a trend that has entered every facet of the tech industry. From marketing to coding, next generation companies all leverage new technology to get a competitive edge, and much of it is based around "spreadsheets" like Jeff said. Psychology, not analytics, has given Zynga the competitive edge that lead to its domination of the social gaming market.

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