Zynga bid to quell Street Racing uproar

Zynga bid to quell Street Racing uproar

By Rob Crossley

July 30th 2010 at 10:22AM

Firm offers no real-term refunds, refuses to answer questions

Facebook gaming giant Zynga has initiated a series of damage-limitation measures after sparking outrage from within its own fanbase.

Zynga recently announced in a demonstrably objectionable manner that it will be deleting the Facebook game Street Racing from its servers on August 2nd.

The firm offered no explanation on why Street Racing was being axed, however, leaving its customers in the dark after many had spent cash on in-game items.

Zynga, which has been valued at $5 billion by independent analysts, did confirm that it will not be refunding its fans. It will instead be offering free credits that can be used in a selection of its other money-making titles.

“As an acknowledgment of the inconvenience these changes may have caused, we have offered credits to all players who have made a purchase in the last 90 days,” read a company statement sent to Develop.

“Those players will receive a credit for the exact amount of their purchases, plus an additional 100 units of premium currency, in any of Zynga’s nine most popular games”.

Develop had established contact with Zynga – a company which, despite its astonishing influence and size, does not publicly provide telephone numbers for the press – and sought an interview with the group’s CEO Mark Pincus.

Develop asked why the firm was shutting down the game, and why it was axing a title that in all likelihood was still yielding a profit. The group declined to answer the questions.

“We thank the Street Racing community for their support and hope they enjoy a new Zynga game of their choosing," read the prepared Zynga statement.

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. Even more had made known their protests in a follow-up story.

Street Racing’s abolishment highlights the largely untold tension between digital content and its consumers, with more goods existing online and no longer under the unconditional ownership of those who pay for it.

When initially announcing the closure of Street Racing, Zynga chose against offering an apology or explanation – instead it 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”.

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”.

Zynga has now replaced the note with one that doesn’t reference FrontierVille.