Zynga, the company behind Facebook games such as FarmVille and Mafia Wars, was built on scams and spyware.
In a recent video uploaded by TechCrunch, Zynga CEO Mark Pincus reveals that he willingly scammed players of Facebook games to build his company. "I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book to, just to get revenues right away," says Pinkus. If you've ever played one of Zynga's games, you should be familiar with the offers that can be completed to earn extra in-game cash. Yes, those are mostly scams.
Pinkus even jokes about having players install software that was hard to remove. "I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this zwinky toolbar which was like, I dont know, I downloaded it once and couldn't get rid of it," which led to laughs by the crowd he was speaking to. Sure, it is kind of humorous, but in essence Pinkus was taking advantage of Facebook users that probably weren't savvy enough to realize what they were doing. The revenue generated allowed Pinkus to gain more control over his company, but I hate to think of how many people have been hurt in the process. Even more awfully, Pinkus actually seems to be recommending an "any means necessary" attitude to the crowd, not ashamed at all about his actions.
The offers Pinkus is speaking of usually have people give away their addresses, mobile phone numbers, and sometimes much more as some are tied to health or car insurance quotes. Some are Netflix trials, while others have you complete meaningless quizzes and follow them up with attempts to get you to enroll in legions of obvious scams. TechCrunch even postulates that Facebook gaming became so profitable so fast due to these scams alone, which allow companies like Zynga to put way more into advertising than other, more legitimate Facebook videogame developers that have been struggling to get attention.
The Zynga CEO has since vowed to remove these scams, because he got publicly caught no doubt, and indeed they seem to have been removed from at least FarmVille. In the future, if you're dying for more cash to buy a videogame item, it's probably best not to download the "zwinky toolbar." The full TechCrunch article detailing Zynga's scamming is available here.