A better way to make money — don’t innovate

I have commented on FarmVille before but this SF Weekly article on its developer, Zynga, really exposes their strategy:

In light of Zynga’s phenomenal rise, one former senior employee recalls arriving at the company eager to discover what new business practices were driving its success in a market where other popular Web 2.0 ventures struggled to make money. What was Zynga’s secret? Not long after starting work, he got an answer. It came directly from Zynga founder and CEO Mark Pincus at a meeting. And it wasn’t what he expected.

“I don’t f***ing want innovation,” the ex-employee recalls Pincus saying. “You’re not smarter than your competitor. Just copy what they do and do it until you get their numbers.”

Now there’s a message that is going to pack an MBA classroom! It’s not that hard, just don’t even try to innovate.

Of course, it is more complicated than that. I’ve seen FarmVille and even if they ripped it off entirely, it is not like it was the Mona Lisa of gaming. On any index of creativity, it isn’t high up there. Zynga’s chief ‘innovation’ or good fortune was to work out a way to have 250 million users of their games who will on average pay $2 per year for the privilege of engaging in dull and repetitive tasks (actually, to avoid them but that is another story).

Now if someone could work out how to put the same user experience to some form of good social use, that would be innovation. From the article, there is some demand for that. How to do it is another matter.

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