Today's New York Times article joins new stories about Zynga (formally Zynga Game Network), the maker of FarmVille, MafiaWars and other popular games on Facebook. Mark Pincus, the 44 year old founder is estimated to be Silicon Valley's newest paper billionaire. Not only is his company profitable but it also sees over 200 million people a day on their Farmville game alone.
How do they make money to the tune of $835 million expected this year? Their revenue stream, as reported by the Times, is comprised largely of people buying digital currency for seed, animals, equipment, etc. Like Second Life before it, marketspace communities are willing to spend real money to create activities, status, and function within their virtual world.
It only makes sense that as people spend more and more of their work and leisure time "within" a digital environment that there is a concomitant rise in the nature of social interaction. Perhaps Facebook, Twitter, Zynga are all "yin" to balance out the "yang" of work. Put another way, if we spend so much time interacting in functional ways with email, spreadsheets, and PowerPoint decks (which are often more mind-numbing than being forced to listen to C-Span), as humans we find a way to inject something fun, social, and diverse in our days of structured work.
It is interesting to me that the biggest consumer killer apps of the past five years have not been about productivity, they have been facilitating the more "humanizing" aspects of the web: fun, chatter, and games. I wonder how much more the pendulum will swing toward these social applications before productivity comes to the fore again. (By this, I'm not saying that Twitter and Facebook are completely unproductive, but I am saying they are less instrumental toward traditional cognitive work than a spreadsheet.)
It begs the question, how social is your personal marketspace -- or digitally, are you all work and no fun?