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Former Zynga Engineer: One Player Spent $100,000 on Mafia Wars

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - DECEMBER 09:  The Zynga lo...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeImage representing Zynga as depicted in CrunchBaseImage via CrunchBase
An anonymous user, claiming to be a former Zynga engineer, has been posting allegedly internal information about the company to Reddit.

Among other things, the ex-employee says some customers spent outlandish sums on virtual goods and services in many games — including one user who spent $100,000 on Mafia Wars.

The alleged ex-Zynga employee goes by the handle “mercenary-games” on Reddit and began posting about a day ago. He says he worked at Zynga for eight months but that he quit the company six months ago.

The person makes many claims about the game company, but one of the most eyebrow-raising is the alleged amounts of actual dollars some of its customers spend playing the games through Facebook. He says he’s seen someone spend $20,000 on FrontierVille and another player “commit” up to $100,000 on Mafia Wars. Further, Zynga has a special name for players who spend in excess of $10,000: Zynga Black.

The company supposedly focuses almost all of its attention on players who spend money, treating those who play for free as “spam.” The post author claims those players are the “hardcore” crowd, to whom Zynga caters, tweaking features to encourage gameplay habits that bring in the most money.

The post, filled with unsubstantiated claims about Zynga corporate culture, sparked a lot of heated discussion. A few other posters claim to be current Zynga employees and, while some refute the author’s claims, others support them.

The alleged revelations about how Zynga makes money parallel somewhat with Facebook’s recent IPO filing. Just as Facebook revealed its interdependence on Zynga for a significant part of its income as a potential weakness, Zynga’s dependence on what the author calls “addicts” put a great deal of financial control in the hands of a small group.

Do you spend money on Zynga games? What’s the most you’ve ever spent and what did you buy? Let us know in the comments.

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