Gift Economy

To avoid having people set up 10 accounts and send themselves lots of free daily gifts, my Facebook restaurant game limits you to trading ingredients 1-for-1. You can set up extra accounts, and you can all send each other those daily gifts, but you cannot then go to each of those 10 accounts and send yourself the 10 gifts each received. Ignore the multi-account question and consider what this does to the game’s economy.

The best way to get what you want is to give it to someone else. First, if you need lots of beef, the easiest way to signal this is to send everyone beef. (You could also post it explicitly.) The default Facebook “send one back” option will get you beef. Let’s say you still want more beef. If the people you sent it to did not want it, you can trade with them, your whatever for the beef you just sent them.

To me, the interesting part is the deflation in the meat market. Flood the game with as much beef as you can for as many days as you can. This is entirely given away, so while you have lost nothing, you have gained no beef. But you still want beef, which other people now have excess amounts of. You can trade anything for beef, because people have more than they know what to do with.

In an MMO, when you flood the market with something, you are a seller and are driving down your own price. In a social media game, when you flood the market with something, you are a gifter and are driving down the price you pay.

: Zubon

3 thoughts on “Gift Economy”

  1. It’s interesting, but isn’t what I’d call fun economic gameplay.

    Of course, while I have nothing against Facebook and feel that there is an enormous amount of potential in Facebook as a multiplayer asyncronous gaming platform, I strongly dislike these gifting/begging games as a rule of thumb (no offense intended, just personal preference) as they result in a constant stream of annoying spam. I have to block a new app every day from one Facebook friend or another who needs some dirt or wants to give me a noodle.

    A “gift economy”, interesting as it may be from a design standpoint, isn’t really an economy at all. There’s no real market because there is no competition, just wanton sharing. Friendly and fluffy, but hardly good gameplay. How well you do at the game is directly related to how many friends you can con into playing. I suppose this is a good mechanic if your goal is to amass as many players as possible, but I’d argue that it’s not in any way an indicator of how much fun a game is.

    My question is; why are all “social games” set up in this manner? Why doesn’t anyone make Facebook games that are – if you’ll excuse the wording – proper games with real economies?

    I’m genuinely curious. There’s so much potential in Facebook, yet every Facebook developer I’ve ever seen appears so hooked on creating “Give stuff to your friends/beg stuff from your friends” facebook-spam games. Why not try to break some new ground?

  2. “My question is; why are all “social games” set up in this manner? Why doesn’t anyone make Facebook games that are – if you’ll excuse the wording – proper games with real economies?”

    My guess is because the developers don’t believe that the 500 million facebook users are gamers, or even people with an interest in games. They are people with an interest in social relationships and friendships.

    For non-gamers, which is most people, games represent a hook on which to hang social relationships. Most people play pool or darts or skittles or cards or Scrabble or Bingo primarily to have a reason for meeting and socialising with others. Even when it moves into the realm of soccer leagues or squash ladders, the games exist mainly as a focus to get a group of people together for social purposes.

    Games are an ancillary attraction to Facebook’s prime reason for existing, and quite a minor one at that. Which doesn’t mean that they can’t be better done, only that they may not need to be.

  3. That’s a fair statement. You’re right, of course – the “average” Facebook user isn’t a gamer.

    It’s just a point of frustration for me, because Facebook would be such an amazing platform for a number of styles of games. Sure, the average user may not be a gamer, but if just 1% are, that’s 5 million potential users.

    Further, Facebook is *filled* with crappy social games (Note: not all social games are crappy! But there are so, so many that are). I just look at the Facebook ecosystem and wonder why… Intense competition for an admittedly obscenely large user base, or zero competition for a tiny fragment of the userbase. A mere 5 million.

    Don’t mind me, though, I’m just a sad, old gamer who feels neglected because he’s aging his way out of the target demographic.

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