Leveraging Optional Game Features to Remove In-Game Assets from a Virtual Economy
Third Party Sellers Making Money Off of Zynga
A lot of 3rd party transactions would occur behind Zynga’s back, where two people would transact using PayPal or whatever outside of Zynga, then hop on a poker table, the seller goes all in, then folds, which transfers all the chips to the buyer!
There were trillions of chips circulating in the economy, made Zynga lose money, as users would prefer to sometimes buy those chips through other channels to save some money.
How About We Give Something, Then Take Something In Return?
To remedy that, Zynga came up with a feature that would give the user a slight advantage if they opt into it, and Zynga gets 2% of the profits!
That would drain lots of Poker Chips from the hands of users back to Zynga, so that we’re the sole seller of Chips 😃
Here’s broadly how the HSM works behind the scenes:
- During the pre-flop phase, we look at the user’s hand, and look at our data to see historically the percentage of users that won before while having the same pair. Then we use that to display the “strength” of the user’s hand so far.
- Post flop, we include the user’s hand with the flop, and compute the probability of winning the hand having those known 5 cards so far, while missing the 2 cards that will follow.
- Turn (fourth street), we do the same, and now recompute the probability of winning the hand while having those 6 cards known.
- Once the river occurs, we do the same, but this time the accuracy is much higher.
- If the user wins while having the HSM on, we take a 2% cut and deposit the rest to their account.
Doing so, Zynga drained a lot of chips every day to rebalance the economy and have control over selling chips.
Zynga ended up draining billions of chips using this feature every week or so!
P.S.: I was the engineer who built that feature in 2011.
We filed a patent in 2011 and acquired it in 2014. Please look at the details below.