Zynga Bumps Dream Heights Review Score, People Get Mad

Zynga Bumps Dream Heights Review Score, People Get Mad

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A couple of Zynga employees have stirred up more Dream Heights controversy by posting five-star reviews in order to boost its score.

It's pretty clear by now that the iOS game Dream Heights will not be remembered as Zynga's finest hour. It first came under fire back in January when indie studio Nimblebit accused it of being a blatant rip-off of its own game, Tiny Tower. That didn't stop the game from hitting the App Store but it did encourage the entirely predictable slew of one-star reviews, as did a tweet from Ian Marsh of Nimblebit saying, "I've been told that it can cost considerably more to market apps with lower iTunes ratings. That is interesting..."

A few minutes later, Marsh followed up with another tweet about "the Zynga marketing machine at work" that included a link to a screen cap of glowing, five-star reviews written by two Zynga employees, Producer Matthew Ott and "Senior User Experience Designer" John Lerma. "Dream Heights is beautiful, fun, and polished. Another must-play from Zynga!" Ott wrote, while Lerma settled on a more succinct, "Love it."

The whole thing has a glistening veneer of sleaze but in Zynga's defense, and unlike the ugly situation involving Dragon Age 2 a year ago, both employees posted their reviews using their real names and with their employment at Zynga front and center, so there's no attempt at deception. Marsh's apparent displeasure with the "marketing machine" is also a little rich given his own effort to manipulate user reviews to his benefit and while it's always more fun to root for David against Goliath, we're talking about two reviews out of nearly 200, hardly a game-changer.

Ripping off game designs and repackaging them as your own is greasy as hell, but I'm not convinced that this "controversy" is anything more than a spot of manufactured publicity. Both sides are trying to turn the minefield of user reviews to their advantage, after all, and as long as the Zynga people are up-front about their affiliation, is it really a problem?

Source: Pocket Gamer

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Oh Zynga, will you stop at nothing to convince people to buy/play your games?

-GASP- No one saw this coming. Right out of the bleachers that one was. Whhhooooweee that was sure unexpected. Except it wasn't.

The real question is did they simply not care that it says they are Zynga employees, or are they just that stupid?

DasDestroyer:
The real question is did they simply not care that it says they are Zynga employees, or are they just that stupid?

I think we all know the answer to that...

Zynga's gonna crash and burn in a couple years, and I'm going to *love* it.

Andy Chalk:

Ripping off game designs and repackaging them as your own is greasy as hell, but I'm not convinced that this "controversy" is anything more than a spot of manufactured publicity. Both sides are trying to turn the minefield of user reviews to their advantage, after all, and as long as the Zynga people are up-front about their affiliation, is it really a problem?

Aren't we forgetting that Zynga is built on the practice of ripping off other people's ideas, and is so consistent in doing so that they have a portion of their budget set aside specifically for the resulting litigation? What about that their CEO specifically said he's not interested in coming up with new IP, but just grabbing that of others?

Zynga's very business model is controversial, and in a sane world the whole company would have long ago been sued into bankruptcy.

Why are we talking about them like a real game company that is being victimized by the people they're stealing from here?

EDIT: You know what really amazes me? That with all the talk of how important it is to protect intellectual property, to the point where they've tried to make it a felony to post music on YouTube, a company built on the practice of IP theft not only survives, but in a couple of years became valued higher than EA.

What gives?

McMullen:
EDIT: You know what really amazes me? That with all the talk of how important it is to protect intellectual property, to the point where they've tried to make it a felony to post music on YouTube, a company built on the practice of IP theft not only survives, but in a couple of years became valued higher than EA.

What gives?

Oh nonononono! Everyone knows that only large corporations have the right to protect the IP they bought/stole/copied! If you're not a big company, then you should be GLAD that a large company saw fit to elevate your puny idea and make money off of it!

In fact, Zynga should SUE the guys who made Tiny Tower for retroactively ripping off Dream Heights before Dream Heights was even made! OBVIOUSLY they used time travel to steal the ideas!

^ THIS POST IS 100% SARCASM. I know that's pretty clear already, but you never know with the internet.

I really don't think the overall issue here should be Zynga reviewing their own game. How about the game gets pulled for copyright infringement? How about they get sued? How about they get sent to jail or something? This is the kind of nonsense that gets bills like SOPA and PIPA considered by Congress.

aegix drakan:
Oh nonononono! Everyone knows that only large corporations have the right to protect the IP they bought/stole/copied! If you're not a big company, then you should be GLAD that a large company saw fit to elevate your puny idea and make money off of it!

In fact, Zynga should SUE the guys who made Tiny Tower for retroactively ripping off Dream Heights before Dream Heights was even made! OBVIOUSLY they used time travel to steal the ideas!

^ THIS POST IS 100% SARCASM. I know that's pretty clear already, but you never know with the internet.

Sadly, that's not even going to work. They'll stop reading right before that disclaimer and flame you anyway. Hurray for the internet!

I have to disagree. Being truly "up-front", as I see it, would have required them to actually include that full disclosure in their reviews (as magazines and newspapers often do when reporting on things that their owners/managers are involved in). Yes, they didn't hide their affiliations, but my personal feeling is that such disclosures really need to be actively made clear, precisely to prevent possible PR messes like this.

Did they do anything wrong? Not really, in the letter of things. But I'd say they did in spirit.

Kinda reminds me of how Matt_LRR posted that he found the new escapist layout to be a "massive improvement". Yeah, you're not biased at all.

I kinda wish someone would bump Zygna off a Tiny Tower.

They didn't go as far as to actually rip resources from the game like some other games have but they came as close as possible without actually copying code/ pieces. This is not a generic imitation, they have essentially set out to make THE SAME GAME. Which makes this all the more sleazy. They have no shame, no sense of decency.

McMullen:
EDIT: You know what really amazes me? That with all the talk of how important it is to protect intellectual property, to the point where they've tried to make it a felony to post music on YouTube, a company built on the practice of IP theft not only survives, but in a couple of years became valued higher than EA.

What gives?

A couple things.

1) You can't copyright game mechanics. Even if you can, no (or almost no) judge is capable of wrapping their heads around the concept of game mechanics and competently playing both games to determine if a game has been ripped off. They can look at art and listen to sounds, so as long as those are kind of different it's different, as far as they can tell.
2) The push to protect IP is by and for a handful of companies with the power to buy politicians. They do it not to protect IP, but in order to maintain a damaged business model that relies on having a monopoly on publishing to survive.

DVS BSTrD:
Kinda reminds me of how Matt_LRR posted that he found the new escapist layout to be a "massive improvement". Yeah, you're not biased at all.

I kinda wish someone would bump Zygna off a Tiny Tower.

I disagree. A skyscraper would be a much better place to let the 2789 lemmings wander off a ledge.

Unfortunately, there is nothing stopping them from doing that although I would be ashamed to even post a review bumping up something I worked on. Even if they could swing the total, there is no pride in a score you give yourself.

Frankly, the whole Zynga shenanigans just goes to reinforce that being the bully works if you are big enough.

Anyone find it sort of odd that in all these news posts about Zynga's shady dealings, they always defend them? I mean, Zynga isn't exactly shy about what it does to make money, no matter how questionable. Defending them seems sort of impractical.

Andy Chalk:
Ripping off game designs and repackaging them as your own is greasy as hell, but I'm not convinced that this "controversy" is anything more than a spot of manufactured publicity. Both sides are trying to turn the minefield of user reviews to their advantage, after all, and as long as the Zynga people are up-front about their affiliation, is it really a problem?

...

Marsh's apparent displeasure with the "marketing machine" is also a little rich given his own effort to manipulate user reviews to his benefit and while it's always more fun to root for David against Goliath, we're talking about two reviews out of nearly 200, hardly a game-changer.

I'm not sure if this is supposed to be sarcastic or not. Suggesting that this is "manufactured publicity" sidesteps the entire issue of whether or not Zynga really did try to cash in on someone else's IP. So it's cool if someone rips off your idea and tries to boost their own reputation, as long as they tell you "Yeah dude, that was totally me".

Troop on Escapist, your own glistening veneer is far from fading.

Oof. User reviews.

You can't really trust em when theres an ounce of controversy about-- I mean, people review bomb things on amazon for nothing to do with the game, and everything to do with other ideas. Were zynga doing this on a massive scale by ordering all employees to create fake accounts simply to bump zynga products, thats bad. Two guys posting their thoughts about their own product? About as cool as an artist calling her own song as a request on the radio, but people will do what people will do.

Don't get me started on the blatant rip off business though.

I'd say it's still a pretty big deal. I mean, the arrogance of calling your own game some kind of masterpiece... Does Zynga really have no pride?

Innocent Bystander:
Anyone find it sort of odd that in all these news posts about Zynga's shady dealings, they always defend them? I mean, Zynga isn't exactly shy about what it does to make money, no matter how questionable. Defending them seems sort of impractical.

Hey, I'm a lot more in favour of this than that one-sided debate we got about SOPA. At least in this case some journalistic intergrity is being preserved by presenting both side's arguments. I mean, I'm also not a big fan of Zynga, but it still wouldn't be fair for the media to demonize them completely.

I'm with you, Andy. Obviously it doesn't speak well for Zynga, calling their own game a masterpiece, still boosting their scores with employee votes, but its really not all that controversial. When I look at it, they were up front with their reviews in who they were, no deception there. I can understand them being proud of their work and complimenting their own finished result (assuming they did this voluntarily, which is doubtful to say the least). Sure, its scummy and kind of underhanded, but they aren't cheating and they aren't really lying. Just being terrible, terrible people, and thats nothing new.

Farther than stars:

Innocent Bystander:
Anyone find it sort of odd that in all these news posts about Zynga's shady dealings, they always defend them? I mean, Zynga isn't exactly shy about what it does to make money, no matter how questionable. Defending them seems sort of impractical.

Hey, I'm a lot more in favour of this than that one-sided debate we got about SOPA. At least in this case some journalistic intergrity is being preserved by presenting both side's arguments. I mean, I'm also not a big fan of Zynga, but it still wouldn't be fair for the media to demonize them completely.

I definitely agree with you on that, it just seems like most of these things are pretty cut and dry. I'm not saying defending Zynga is wrong and we should demonize them, it just seems like the fact that all these lawsuits for them outright copying games should be addressed.

So... Zynga is perfectly fine giving 5-star reviews to its own games without addressing the criticism and controversy generated by negative feedback from the Internet about claims of theft, blatant copying, and lazy coding?

And it's perfectly fine announcing it to the world?

DVS BSTrD:
Kinda reminds me of how Matt_LRR posted that he found the new escapist layout to be a "massive improvement". Yeah, you're not biased at all.

I kinda wish someone would bump Zygna off a Tiny Tower.

Well, Matt is a contributor and likely has no say in the web design and browses the rest of the site like any other user. He gets paid for people to watch videos and view the ads (or pay the Publisher Club fees) on the site, so he would praise any web design that makes the videos more prominent (which the new site does).

On the other hand, Zynga's employees are pushing their own products of which they were likely the lead designers. I find Zynga's "games" to be vapid wastes of time and not deserving of any money that would be better spent on the designers Zynga rips off, but Zynga doesn't care what the consumer thinks, as long as the consumer buys their product. They don't want app store viewers to actually read their reviews, but they likely want to try and push their overall rating back up and therefore don't care at all about their transparency in the matter.

 

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