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In Mafia Wars the gamers play as gangsters building their own mafia. The players fight other players online and complete tasks to gain rewards and strength in the game. The game is a freemium game, meaning it is free to play normally but players have the option of purchasing premium content. As of July 2011, the game had 8 million monthly active users.
On Facebook, as of August 2010, Mafia Wars had up to 45.5 million monthly accounts created. As of April, 2011, Appdata.com reports that Mafia Wars players have shrunk down to 10.7 million monthly active accounts, with approximately 1.7 million daily active users. According to this same source, monthly active accounts dropped to 6.7 million by August 3, 2011; and to 5.7 million by September 2, 2011. Daily active users was at 1.2 million by August 3, 2011; dropping to 1 million by September 2, 2011. By February 2012, daily users were down to 540,000 and Mafia Wars had sunk to the 15th most popular Zynga game, only slightly lower than its sequel Mafia wars 2 which placed 13th. As of April, 2013, Appdata.com reports approximately 100,000 daily users out of 500,000 monthly users.
Mafia Wars is set in New York City with the option for players to travel between New York (or Manhattan), Las Vegas (level 18+), and Italy (level 6+). The game revolves around fighting other players and doing jobs to earn cash, items and experience, with the goal of establishing and advancing one's criminal empire. Players create mafias by recruiting other players. In-game generated mafia members can be added to the player's mafia by Social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Friendster allow players to recruit from friends to build their mafia and fight against other players. Players can also improve their stats by visiting the Marketplace (i.e., making a micropayment).
Gameplay is limited by 3 timers: players have limited energy (for doing jobs), and health and stamina meters (for fighting other players), which slowly recharge over time. With the help of other mafia members that have been recruited, players can fight other players, which may or may not result in the theft of cash, "icing", or "death" of the other player. Fighting is based on the strength of each player and their mafia. When 2 players fight, the stronger one wins and does damage to the weaker one's health meter. Strength of the player and their mafia is calculated with the number and quality of 5 kinds of fighting items: Weapons, Armory, Vehicles, Animals and Henchmen. The items can be bought in different locations, achieved as rewards for doing jobs or fighting, built in special properties, or gifted between players. The game operates on a level up basis. The player earns experience points by completing jobs and fighting. Players who manage to complete special tasks (for example, winning fights against bigger mafias or winning fifteen fights in a row) are labeled as having accomplished an "achievement", resulting in a bonus for the player. As they level up, more jobs and features become available, such as the ability to visit Las Vegas to expand their criminal empire.
Mafia Wars was released to the public in April 2008 with the first playable in-game city called New York. In Mafia Wars, the jobs in each location are divided in tiers. The job tiers in New York have titles which are the ranks in the Italian-American mafia (like Capo, Hitman or Consiglere). The tiers and jobs in New York are unlocked gradually as the player gains levels in the game. Some NY tiers have bonus fights called Boss Fights, which the player can choose to fight, but those fights are not required for mastering. After mastering jobs, the player achieves the tier title which can be added to their name in the gamer's profile. Properties in NY can be bought by all players depending only on how much game cash the player has amassed. The properties in NY generate income for the player or special parts for building fighting items. The currency in NY is dollars.
The Cuba location was added on June 11, 2009. The players could access Cuba after achieving level 35 in the game. There were 6 job tiers in Cuba available gradually through levels 35 to 80, with Spanish criminal titles for mastering, such as El Soldado or El Padrino. There were no boss fights. After mastering a job tier the player got a valuable fight item as a reward. 6 properties could be bought by all players and generate income. One Cuban property was called Bribery Ring and generated Corrupt Politicians instead of cash. In different cities of Mafia Wars the whole look of the game, the properties, names and items are stylized to fit the locality (such as "Tobacco field" for income or "Canonazo" as weapons in Cuba). The currency in Cuba was pesos. Cuba was removed as a city in 2011.
After a significant in-game marketing, Zynga added a new mafia city, Moscow, on September 24, 2009. Moscow was accessible to players after level 70. The 6 job tiers had Russian titles for mastering such as Brigadir or Pakhan. At the end of each tier a Russian boss could be fought, giving a valuable item as reward. A new feature was added to the jobs: players had to choose one of the 2 competing Russian mafias: the Thieves in Law Vory or the Russian Mafiya - the player could do jobs for the Vory or for the Mafiya. Once chosen side, the player would get slightly different rewards and titles. The 5 Moscow properties generated only cash, not items. The currency in Moscow was rubles. Moscow was removed in 2011.
On January 20, 2010, Bangkok Beta was released with some players being granted access to it, but some not. This was to prevent too many people from going to Bangkok which may cause the system to crash. Bangkok has since been released to all players who have collected 3 Asian items by doing certain jobs in New York. Collecting the items allowed a "Thai passport" being made for the player. Like in Moscow, in Bangkok players could choose between doing jobs for two mafias: the Chinese Triad or the Japanese Yakuza. The job tier titles in Bangkok were English like Pirate or Commandant. The currency was Thai Baht. This city was removed in 2011.
Las Vegas, came out June 23, 2010, as a beta, and July 21, 2010, out of beta. Las Vegas is accessible to all players after reaching level 17 in the game. Earlier,the job tiers in Vegas are 5 local districts such as North Las Vegas,Paradise City,Lower Strip,Shogun Casino and Mojave Desert.The Upper Strip jobs are released after 30,000,000 clicks has been achieved on a special job.2 more job tiers,Area 51 and Hoover Dam are released later. The properties can be bought only after mastering a certain Property job in each district. To unlock a job tier, the player must master all jobs in a previous tier and fight the tier boss in the end of each tier. After killing the boss, the player receives a valuable fight item with the boss name, like Teresa Trieste's gun. The boss item can be mastered by redoing the whole tier. Unlike other locations, there is no bank for the player in Vegas, so the player must build their own vault to keep their money safe from other players. The currency in Vegas was poker chips. Vegas closed in July 2013.
In October 2010 Mafia Wars released Italy with 5 playable regions as tiers, with 3 more regions being released later. Players can access Italy from level 6. The regions are Italian cities with their Italian names, like Venezia or Napoli. Rome occurs twice as a tier region - the first tier is called Roma and the 8th tier is called Eternal City. The tier titles are connected to the city, like Palermitano Poco. The gameplay is just like in Las Vegas - properties can only be bought after mastering Property jobs and job tiers are only unlocked after fighting a previous tier boss, with a masterable boss item as reward. Like in Las Vegas, all the Italian properties are painted on one clickable picture. The Port property in Italy generates items as well as cash. The currency in Italy is lira. Italy later closed down, the in-game reason was that a criminal syndicate gained control of all means of access.
In March 2011, two locations were removed from Mafia Wars: Cuba and Moscow. On March 3, 2011, Cuba became unavailable to players for "the foreseeable future." The shutting down was announced in the game with a special goodbye mission for the players, called "Cuba in Crisis". Moscow was closed down on March 10, 2011 with the last player mission called "Massacre in Moscow". Removing of Bangkok has been announced in game on March 10, 2011, with the last mission called "Battle in Bangkok". The Bangkok area was scheduled to be shut down on March 18, 2011, but on March 16, Zynga announced that they will not immediately shut down Bangkok due to the fact that many players are not finished with the area yet.
Bangkok was closed down on August 3, 2011 with the last player mission called "Betrayal in Bangkok".
The introduction of a new area, Brazil, has started in the game from March 9, 2011. This region has five playable cities at the moment, namely Rio de Janeiro:Centro, Belém, Manaus, São Paulo:Heliopolis and Recife. Three more tiers were introduced in June of the same year, completing Brazil. The new tiers are named Rio de Janeiro:Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro:Copacabana and São Paulo:Taubate Prison.Early on August,it released a secret district called Smuggler's Haven for a week.After that,in early of September,it released another secret district called El Dorado for a same duration.
Then, in the end of August, Cuba was reopened for 2 weeks with the Ruby mastery also introduced. After that, Cuba is locked again. Its mobile version, Atlantic City also closed in the end of August.
Chicago was released in September, 2011 with six districts (Sam's Truck Stop, Main Street Speakeasy, The Old Warehouse, Ballet Box Distillery, Lakeside Docks, and Crosstown Showdown.) and three limited secret districts (all for a duration of up to two weeks). The currency in this city is "clams".
Italy was closed down on March 6, 2012 with the last player mission called "Insurrection in Italy" and will remain closed (according to Zynga) for the foreseeable future.
In 2010, the locations Paris, London, South Africa, Mumbai and Dublin were introduced as challenge missions for a limited time. Then, in 2011, Staten Island also introduced as a challenge missions for a limited time.
London, England is now a full-time city, the player starts out infiltrating underground fight rings.
South Africa is now a permanent city with three initial districts for players to complete, Cape Town, Limpopo River and Bloemfontein, which opened in August 2013. In September 2013, three new districts were released: Kimberley, Durban and Mthatha. In November 2013 the seventh district, Mafikeng, was opened.
In addition, there is a bonus district, Johannesburg, which unlocks for a 15 minutes duration while playing the game. Johannesburg has two jobs for each South African city, which unlock after the respective bronze and silver tier are completed.
In May 2014, Mexico became the newest permanent city.
Mafia Wars 2 opened during Fall 2011.
Mafia Wars 2 has 8 districts to play.
Zynga has announced it will be closing Mafia Wars 2 on December 30, 2012, likely due to poor following.
Mafia Wars' parent company, Zynga, has worked to adapt multiple changes within the game, introducing various "beta" features into the game, such as robbing (wherein players can rob each other's property). These features are often removed without warning, and older players have reported that the property and task interface is substantially different between that of newer players and those who have been playing for a time.
In October 2009 Rackets was added to New York and replaced the old properties method. New players had the new version while older ones retained properties. In spring 2010, New York rackets were abolished and properties relaunched. Four non-cash generating properties, the Weapons Depot, Armory, Chop Shop and Private Zoo were subsequently added. At the same time, businesses in Bangkok, Cuba and Moscow were replaced by properties. Properties across all cities can now be looted by opposing players.
The makers of a similar online game, Mob Wars, sued Zynga over their launch of Mafia Wars, accusing Zynga of copyright infringement. Zynga made some changes to Mafia Wars so it did not resemble Mob Wars as closely, but Mob Wars creator David Maestri moved forward with his lawsuit. In September 2009, Maestri and Zynga settled the case for about $7–9 million, less than the $10 million Maestri had originally demanded.
Zynga filed its trademark for the stylized version of Mafia Wars with the U.S. Patent & Trademarks Office on July 1, 2009, months after it first launched the Mafia Wars game on the internet through Facebook. The Zynga trademark application for Mafia Wars sought to cover games for computers and wireless devices. David L. Kelejian, however on June 15, 2009, just two weeks prior to the Zynga filing, filed an intent-to-use trademark application for a stylized version of Mafia Wars which covered clothing and apparel. Zynga later began selling Mafia Wars branded clothing through Zazzle. By or before late November 2009, Zynga noticed Kelejian's pending trademark application for Mafia Wars, and filed a trademark opposition proceeding against Kelejian's trademark on December 1, 2009.
In August 2010, Digital Chocolate sued Zynga over allegations that Zynga falsely claimed it had coined the "Mafia Wars" trademark. Digital Chocolate had previously created a cell-phone game by the same name. According to TGDaily, Zynga agreed to stop using the "Mafia Wars" trademark but failed to follow through.
A promotional campaign for Mafia Wars occurred in San Francisco in August 2010. Davis Elen Advertising ran the campaign, which consisted of fake $25,000 bills glued to the sidewalk promoting "Mafia Wars: Las Vegas." Deputy City Attorney Alex Tse called the campaign "illegal and actionable." Davis Elen has taken full responsibility for the promotion.
After the 2010 Haiti earthquake Zynga issued a special item for three of its games, including the Haitian Drum in Mafia Wars. The proceeds of the sale of these three items went to the Haiti Relief Fund and exceeded $1.2 million. Zynga also released some items in the marketplace after the hurricane Irene.