How FarmVille created a social gaming landscape

FarmVille became the first major game to leverage the news feed as an extension of the core game.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

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FarmVille, Zynga’s Flash-based game, designed to be played on Facebook, shut recently after Adobe Flash Player discontinued service on December 31, 2020.

The popular farming-simulation game launched by Zynga in June 2009 redefined playing online with the phrase, ‘social gaming’.

FarmVille helped Facebook by enabling the social network’s users to stay on the platform for longer and immersive themselves in gaming.

They could simply start playing by logging into their Facebook accounts. They could check in on the status of their virtual farms throughout the day and prevent crops from spoiling.

Players could send requests to other users to maintain their farms and take care of animals. This kind of exchange led to a a new way of gaming online as the platform allowed friends to play with each other without being online at the same time.

Social gaming starts

Sharing resources and offering tips while connecting with people thrived on the idea of socialising.

The game provided players with activities that they never really completed. It kept them in the game, and provided rewards such as in-game currency for buying things to improve their farms.

The game became a hit among adults, and according to Zynga, FarmVille was the top game by daily active users (DAU) on Facebook between August 2009 and December 2010. The game had 32 million DAU at its peak and a total of 85 million players.

Mark Pincus, chief executive of Zynga at that time, and current chairman of the board, shared the game’s journey on Twitter, “the real innovation of FarmVille was in making games accessible to busy adults, giving them a place to invest and express themselves and be seen by people in their lives as creative.”.

In 2008, Happy Farm hit 20 million DAU, and set off a wave in farming games. Next year, Farm Town crossed a million DAU on Facebook.

Sensing success, Pincus bought MyMiniLife in May 2009 to develop a new game.

Pincus said, he learned the importance of profile pictures from Zynga Poker and understood that players wanted to see and do things together. He kept the game simple and removed the stranger-danger marketplace. The game also allowed players to visit and like each other’s farm designs.

Facebook had just opened the feed to app developers, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg asked Pincus to send him all the content. After that Zynga launched FarmVille on June 19, 2009.

It became the first major game to leverage the news feed as an extension of the core game. Despite lacking flashy graphics, FarmVille became an immediate hit, reaching one million DAU within a week, Pincus wrote.

Opening a new way for gaming

The concept of free-to-play and pay for extra content took off through FarmVille, opening a new stream of entrepreneurship into gaming. The key dynamics of the game was energy, limited by the amount of time a user can play the game for real money to get past barriers.

This model allowed many people to sign up for free and removed a key barrier to user entry. It sent the message that developers and creators were hearing gamers. This also posed a challenge for developers as money-less playing removed the obligation to continue with the game.

This meant that games that interested and kept users on the hook alone survive.

“FarmVille sparked a new category of ‘invest-and-express’ games, where players could invest time and express themselves to friends and family,” Pincus said.

Sidestepping from the strategy of other hardcore games had worked for FarmVille, leading a take-off of casual gaming market, beyond Solitaire.

“Busy adults, especially women, saw that games could have a valuable place in their lives and offer you more than empty calories,” Pincus added.

FarmVille is believed to have played a big role in popularising games with in-app transactions. Additionally, it allowed developers to create easy to play casual games that interested wider demographics.

While the game and its sequels can be played through mobile apps, the original FarmVille that once took over Facebook is no longer playable. The end of FarmVille, the game that marked the beginning of social gaming for many, means an end to a notable part of internet gaming history.

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Printable version | Jan 23, 2022 12:37:53 AM |

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