How Zynga Makes Millions Off Its Blockbuster New Game CityVille


Zynga is said to be generating more than $600 million dollars in revenue per year.

Almost all of it comes from Facebook games.

CityVille is Zynga’s latest game, and happens to be the world’s biggest game. Ever.

It has 92 million users and it only  launched a month and a half ago.

CityVille works because to advance in the game you need to enlist your Facebook friends’ help (sometimes by spamming them). And Zynga makes money because to advance faster in the game you can buy “virtual goods” with actual money. CityVille also works, I found out, because despite (or perhaps because of) its simplicity, it’s strangely compelling.

I’ve been spending the past few weeks inside CityVille and brought you a report from the trenches.

The object of CityVille is to build a great town.

Building my first house! So exciting! It only costs me 200 credits -- CityVille gives me 7,000 to start.

Building something entails finding an empty space, and clicking a few times. The more things I build, the more credits I use.

In fact, any time I leave the game and return, the first thing CityVille wants is for me to send stuff to my friends.

CityVille prompts you with your regular Facebook friends, not your CityVille friends. You might not see the difference and invite your non-CityVille pals. Which would get them interested.

After I leave the game for a little bit, I learn my crops have withered. This is what happens when you don't play CityVille enough. Let that be a lesson to you: DO NOT LEAVE CITYVILLE.

Regardless, we need to plant some crops. How about corn? It'll take up some of our credits, but what the heck, right?

NEXT: Staff my police! To staff my police I can ask friends, but I've already bugged them enough. How else can I hire some cops? Credits!

I'm all out of CityVille credits thanks to those dying crops and my buildings, but I'm in luck. Zynga accepts real world cash for credits!

Right out of the gate, Zynga wants you to buy 1,000 CityVille credits for over a hundred bucks. Do people actually do that?

Let's settle for 75 right now, OK?

Boom, done. Pretty easy.

That's basically how CityVille works. To move forward you either have to buy stuff (more money!) or spam your friends (more users! which later means more money!). No wonder Zynga's such an amazing business.

As much as I make fun of the game there's actually something relaxing ... pleasant even ... about CityVille's cute design, relaxing music, and ebb and flow. It's like eating a Snickers bar while listening to the sound of the ocean.

I can visit friends, while playing ...

When you visit a friend, you can click on their stuff so they don't have to. And you can send them tourists.

And a visit isn't a visit without a message, or as we think of it spam.

CityVille keeps things interesting by prompting you with new goals all the time.

And that's how CityVille has grown to 92 million users.

It's a simple, but advanced game. Maybe the most involved of all the Zynga games we've seen yet. It's filled with hooks to bring in your friends, and it entices you to spend real cash for credits.

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