Social games are almost like a drug. The dealer gives you the first one 'free,' but then you keep wanting more. Then, you might buy some virtual cash with real cash to take your social gaming to the next level, or you might be tempted to take an IQ test in exchange for more virtual cash. Problem is, the IQ test also includes some useless $9.99 subscription, and you just handed over your personal info a company with dubious credibility.
The Big Three of social gaming -- Playfish, Zynga and Playdom -- have all signed deals with companies like these by way of services such as Offerpal and TrialPay, giving them access to millions of gamers who have already shown they're willing to pull out their credit cards and spend money on free games. We've seen ads for the previously mentioned IQ test, $1.99 Disney movies and arthritis medication, who all promise cash for the game, provided you give up private information.
According to the technology new site TechCrunch, people are paying big for these upsells. One social gaming exec says they will make up 70% of their total income this year. That's a lot of money, considering that Zynga, Playfish and Playdom, will each rake in up to $250 million this year.
To be fair, not all of the upsells are spam. They also include offers for Netflix and Blockbuster by Mail -- both reputable services -- but the majority of offers lie on the scammier side of the equation. Also worth noting, most of these upsells are buried on each game's e-commerce pages, so players actually have to look to find them.
Even so, no matter how tempted you are to take a harmless personality test in exchange for free Farm Cash, just remember that's the in-game equivalent of clicking on one of those generic Web ads that promise you white teeth in exchange for otherwise private information, maybe even your credit card number. You're just never quite sure where that info will end up next.