Zynga’s Platinum Purchase Program Does Exist, Used Mostly for Internationals

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.

We’ve checked; the Platinum Program is real enough. It’s not entirely new, either, having been running at least since February [update: a commenter points to a post from December].

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.

Kind regards,
Todd C.
Zynga Customer Support

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10 Responses to “Zynga’s Platinum Purchase Program Does Exist, Used Mostly for Internationals”

  1. The Red Jaguar says:

    The PPP dates back to at least December 2009, as per this post: http://forums.zynga.com/showpost.php?p=3410312&postcount=1 .

  2. Chris Morrison says:

    Thanks Red Jaguar. Updating accordingly.

  3. DPH says:

    Zynga has gotten torched in the non-industry press recently (eg. the SF Weekly article, the Gawker post, the uproar over Zynga’s taped dollar bills fiasco).

    However, it seems to me that insidsocialgames tends to be either apologists for Zynga or, at the least, averse to criticising them at all (unless it’s indirectly through a guest interview). I find that odd. They are a company that has a pretty clear track record of shady behavior, and a CEO who has made some pretty public / telling statements on how he likes to operate. They are also the top dog in a fledgling industry. Should they be held to a higher standard? I think so – yes. Given that they are gobbling up smaller developers (monopoly, anyone?), I think they should be hounded relentlessly to operate in a way that is ethical….something that Pincus himself said was a bullshit class in college.

    What am I getting at? You ran a story on Zynga based on another, non-industry, site’s story regarding one of their business practices. The other site raised some legitimate questions and pointed out that the business practice seemed shady. And so what was the research that you did to complement the other site’s story? Who did you speak to? “A source close to the company.”

    Hello?! The SF Weekly article (although it too could’ve done a better job on research) clearly pointed out that Zynga and it’s affiliate spokespeople (PR agencies, VC’s, etc.) will only participate in stories that cast them in a positive light. So the very fact that your one source, in this article, was from someone close to the company should IMMEDIATELY raise some questions as to how close to baked your story is before it goes out.

    Sorry for my rant. This stuff just really bugs me.


  4. Chris Morrison says:

    Hey DPH — I’m happy to explain my stance in more depth.

    First and most important is that the traditional news industry is not interested in doing a hatchet job on Zynga because it’s Zynga. They’re interested in doing a hatchet job on social games and the social game industry. Zynga’s problems are used as cover for a view that social gaming, as a whole, is a deviant, worthless behavior. Try going back and just reading the parts of either the SF Weekly article or the Gawker article that deal with social games, not with Zynga — you’ll note a clear bias.

    So when it comes to responding to articles like the Gawker “expose”, yes, we’ll swing toward defense of Zynga, because it’s emblematic of the actual industry that’s under attack.

    Regarding the Platinum program itself, sorry, I’m just not seeing the drug dealing metaphor from Gawker. That’s intentionally sensational (Valleywag’s specialty). The private email itself makes it clear that Zynga is interested solely in large lump-sum bank transfers, which just ain’t how a run-down addict pays for things. Ask your friendly neighborhood dealer sometime.

    Payments over $500 seem a bit shady in and of themselves, but that’s an issue that goes beyond Zynga — witness the top spender in our story about whales being a Saudi national. I could rant about misplaced wealth, but this isn’t really the place for it.

    I may be missing something here that is actually bad about the Platinum Program. If that’s the case, feel free to say what it is here and I’ll edit the post above to reference your comments.

  5. On Social Games: Moving beyond ‘weak social’ « Zachernuk.com says:

    [...] It turns out that Zynga does allow users to spend a lot more than the $20/month figure, but it seems like people only have a good [...]

  6. karim abiad says:

    send me an email explaining how do i join yur platinum programm,and whats the cost

  7. mark ferret says:

    send me an email explaining how do i join platinum program,as i would like to spend money on skill points …

  8. kevin Bratten says:

    I have sent many requests on how to pay for this, please tell me how to pay for the program

  9. abbas awada says:

    عندي مشكلة في شراء رقائق البوكر

  10. Farmville Apocalypse: could Zynga layoffs mark the beginning of the second dotcom crash? – Telegraph Blogs says:

    [...] amounts of real money to get the best possible virtual tokens in the game. Programmes such as the "Platinum purchase" scheme were only open to the biggest whales – those willing to part with $500 in each real-world [...]

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