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Whales don't just gamble. They also play FarmVille.

Zynga, the maker of the incredibly crackalicious ( and, to many, incredibly annoyalicious) game FarmVille, has an interesting and verrrry profitable model: They depend largely on a small percentage of whales to make their money. Vegas comparisons abound in this Bloomberg piece:

Game makers don’t like to talk about whale management, but people familiar with Zynga say it does internally refer to its high-value customers as whales and has offered them membership in a VIP “Platinum” club. Whales get special discounts and can wire sums of $500 or more directly from their bank accounts to Zynga. The company declined to comment for this story, citing its SEC-mandated quiet period. One person familiar with Zynga’s business, who requested not to be named because his company works with Zynga, says a user spent $75,000 in one year on a single game. “The compulsion in Vegas is the illusion you can make money. The compulsion in social games is the illusion you can be more successful than your friends,” says Peter Relan, chief executive officer of CrowdStar, a Zynga rival that has about 24 million players, including as many as 200 people who spend more than $10,000 a year. “In both cases, you’re working with people’s emotions and psychological needs.”

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As a longtime journalist in Southern Nevada, native Las Vegan Andrew Kiraly has served as a reporter covering topics as diverse as health, sports, politics, the gaming industry and conservation. He joined Desert Companion in 2010, where he has helped steward the magazine to become a vibrant monthly publication that has won numerous honors for its journalism, photography and design, including several Maggie Awards.