There are people out there who spend thousands of dollars on Zynga’s Facebook games like FarmVille and CityVille.We’ve read reports about these people before, and have heard that they are called “whales” internally.
What we didn’t know is how Zynga treats people: like high-rollers at a casino.
According to two insiders, Zynga has special representatives to cater to those “whales.”
These Zynga reps will send “whales” gifts and special letters.
This treatment goes straight to the top: CEO Mark Pincus will answer emails from whales.
Zynga, according to one source, “treats its best customers with the best care.”
“Whales” are critical to Zynga because only around 2.4 per cent of Zynga’s 200-million-plus players actually pay for virtual goods.
How Whales Are Born
According to sources, Zynga has a process through which it identifies, and then encourages the kinds of people who might spend thousands on a Facebook game.
First, Zynga create “rivalries” within games like Mafia Wars to fish out paying players by continuously pitting two players against each other.
Eventually, one of these rivals will get fed up with being behind, and start shelling out cash. Some players spend huge sums of money to get ahead of their rivals.
This method is so effective that even a game that is otherwise a flop by Zynga standards will, eventually, attract some whales. Vampire Wars had whales that would spend more than $10,000 on virtual goods in the games, one source close to Zynga said.
Another industry source tells us this treatment of heavy-spenders is common in the social gaming companies in the industry. That could include the likes of Kabam, Kixeye, Playfish or Playdom, for example.
The high-roller treatment is especially prevalent in the gambling industry. Casinos, for example, take care of their biggest spenders by paying for their dinners and hotel rooms.
Airlines give out seat upgrades to frequent fliers.
When briefed on the story, Zynga declined to comment, saying it does not comment on rumours or speculation.
Are you a huge fan of Zynga’s games and get special treatment from the company? We want to hear your story, and we’ll keep it totally anonymous. Shoot us a message at [email protected]