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Is Zynga just buying its success?

By on September 11, 2009

Zynga’s fabulous growth story at Farmville is not all about virality.

Earlier this month, ComScore released figures for advertising on social networks. Zynga spends 97% of its advertising budget on social networks (not surprisingly, given that it makes games that can only be played on social networks). It was the #8 biggest advertiser on social networks in July 2009.

The company bought 484 million impressions which were seen by 40 million unique users. I hear noises about a multi-million dollar ad budget for Farmville (which I haven’t been able to confirm yet).

I don’t think this detracts from Farmville’s success: Zynga built a great game with lots of viral hooks and then seeded it with a massive ad campaign.

But it does raise the bar for competitors. And it emphasises that few viral hits go truly viral without an initial investment of marketing dollars to kickstart the viral process.


For those who are interested, ComScore reported the social networks together took over 20% of the total online advertising budget spent in the US. That’s a huge shift, and demonstrates that advertisers are becoming less scared of user-generated content.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: