Details on a secret Zynga payment option emerged today via Gawker. Zynga’s “Platinum Purchase Program” is a private discount deal on virtual currency, according to an email reproduced on the site, limited to members willing to spend over $500 in a single transaction.
The Gawker take is that Zynga has hidden the program out of shame. That’s more than a bit sensational, considering that it’s well known in the social game industry that “whales”, the tiny percentage of users who spend massively, are a vital part of the business. We’ve written here about super-whales who spend over $10,000; Zynga’s biggest whales certainly far exceed that sum.
On the other hand, most companies don’t announce how many whales they have or how much those users are spending. That information, along with the best monetization strategies, is closely guarded for competitive reasons.
In this case, there’s yet another potential explanation. According to a source close to the company, Zynga set up the Platinum Program primarily for international users, with well over half of its transactions coming from overseas.
The reason for creating something like the Platinum Program, with that in mind, looks pretty straightforward. In-game transactions have upper limits, and international users often find it difficult to pay through Facebook. The Zynga approval letter cited by Gawker supports that case; it references wire services and bank transfers multiple times, while credit cards are never mentioned.
The program also looks fairly exclusive, and seems to have spread through referrals between the most active players, while each transaction requires a unique ID number from Zynga — perhaps an added barrier to potential customers, but also a barrier between Zynga and customers who aren’t serious or want to scam the company.
Even with an explanation for the Platinum Program, though, the social game industry should expect more accusations and anger about whales in the future, even though they only comprise a tiny percentage of all users.
Big spenders are a fact of life throughout most parts of the entertainment industry; neither the idea nor term “whales” are original to social gaming. But the idea of spending anything at all on virtual goods is still working its way through the public consciousness.
Here’s the letter Gawker got its hands on:
Congratulations on your decision to participate in our Wire Transfer Platinum Purchase Program.
We are pleased to inform you that we are giving all Platinum purchases this week only (Mon., Aug. 30th, 2010 – Fri., Sept. 2nd, 2010) an extra 1 POINT, in addition to the current Platinum purchase point value of 9 points per dollar!!
So, for this week only, all your purchases through the Platinum Purchasing program will be 10 Reward Points to the dollar. This represents significant savings over the best package deal that is available in-game during this week.
Your wire request must be received by Friday, September 2, 2010 to receive this exclusive discount.
We would like to introduce our Refer-A-Friend incentive for the Platinum Purchase Program. Through this incentive you will be able to refer all of your friends who have never participated in the program previously. Upon successful completion of their first wire transfer you will be awarded an additional point per dollar for your most recent wire transfer, or for you next wire transfer. You can refer as many friends as you like, but it is important to note that you can only redeem one Refer-A-Friend Incentive point per wire transfer.
In order to claim your incentive, the friends you refer to the program must include your Mafia Wars link and name in their initial request, which must be sent to platinum AT zynga.com.
Please note that purchases made under this program are non-refundable and subject to the terms listed below:
All wires must be bank to bank wire transfers. Electronic checks (ACH transfers), Western Union or any other money transfer services will be rejected. In the event that a wire is rejected any associated fees are your responsibility.
All wire transfers are final, non-refundable and must be made in U.S. Dollars. Any wire transfer fees and/or exchange fees are your responsibility. In addition, you agree that any and all funds that are received in amounts greater than the agreed upon transfer amount will automatically be applied to the players account at the agreed upon point per dollar rate.
There is a minimum purchase of $500 USD to participate.
Each wire transfer must contain a unique Zynga generated Wire Transfer ID number (WID) which we will provide to you. Each WID may only be used once and is non-transferable. WID’s will expire 7 days after they have been issued.
Wires received by Zynga containing an expired WID, a used WID or missing its WID will be rejected and subject to any and all fees associated with its rejection. There will be NO EXCEPTIONS to this rule.
Points will be granted within 3-5 days of our receipt of a valid wire.
You must be at least 18 years of age.
If you wish to proceed with a platinum Purchase please respond with the following text:
“I agree to these Terms and the Zynga Terms of Service (listed below), I wish to purchase X dollars in points.
I understand that in addition to the fees charged me by my bank to send a wire transfer, intermediary banks through which my wire travels may also incur fees against my wire that neither I nor Zynga can predict. In the event that an intermediary bank charges a a fee against my wire causing the amount received by Zynga to be less than the above agreed upon amount, I authorize Zynga to grant points on the total amount received. I also agree that any amount received in an amount greater than what was agreed to will be credited to my account at the set point per dollar rate.”
In addition to the above statements, you must include the City, State and Country of your residence. Once we have received this information, we will generate your WID and send you further instructions on how to proceed.
Zynga Customer Support