The unyielding level of authority Zynga has over its paying customers was exposed this week, as fans of social network game Street Racing continue to protest an unexplained decision to abolish the game.
Those fans, having together invested untold amounts of real money into the Facebook game, have been told that Zynga will be deleting Street Racing from its servers on August 2nd.
Choosing against offering an apology, or explanation, Zynga quietly published a small, colourful note on its forums to announce “Street Racing will be shutting its garage doors and will no longer be open for business”.
And in an extraordinary example of flagrant condescension, in the same note Zynga said “but if you liked Street Racing, try out FrontierVille” – referencing a new and wholly unrelated game that the company is anxious to make a success.
Social gaming analyst Nicholas Lovell told Develop the advert was “fantastically stupid” and “asking for trouble”.
He said: “Telling people to try FrontierVille from Street Racing is telling people to play a game that is completely different in terms of concept and design.
“A hugely apologetic email would have made more sense.”
Lovell added: “The second thing they could have done is offer people credits, where every pound you spend in Street Racing will be used in other games.
“But I imagine they didn’t want to set that precedent”.
Protests over the closure of Street Racing have resulted in a petition published on Zynga’s forums, featuring numerous threats of refusing to play any Zynga titles in the future.
Many fans have in particular complained that a game they’ve spent money on is being taken away from them.
Street Racing is monetised as users pay real money for credits to tweak and improve their virtual cars.
Over the weekend a number of angry Street Racing fans poured hostile comments into a Develop Online news story.
Street Racing’s abolishment highlights the largely untold tension between digital content and its consumers, with more content existing online and no longer under the unconditional ownership of those who pay for it.
Zynga has raised $519 million in investment and has been valued at $5 billion by independent analysts, according to Lovell.
The company has a chequered past despite its phenomenal growth, last year finding itself at the centre of an advertisement scam which damaged the firm’s reputation.[UPDATE: Zynga issues response]