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Entertainment - Written by on Monday, December 7, 2009 13:27 - 13 Comments

Jeff DeChambeau
Peer Pressure 2.0: Farmville

I have to admit, I’m afraid to try Farmville. After only recently escaping from a (delightful, if) crippling addiction to Plants vs. Zombies, I have learned not to casually dismiss the pull of “casual games.” With more monthly users than twitter (!), the cutesy facebook game Farmville appears to be the grandaddy of them all. Mark Newheiser at Gamasutra provided some analysis of the design features that have made the game a success. Here are some salient bits:

Farmville exists with a very different business model than most video games: you don’t pay by the month to play it, you don’t even shell out a one-time payment to play: you play for free, and then the game tries to sell you in-game perks and a chance to skip the grind to unlock all of the game’s content by spending money rather than time.

Farmville locks you out of some content unless you have enough friends playing Farmville with you, and having friends in your network playing Farmville is a reliable source of coins, experience, and gifts, the main resources of the game.

The game is also more than happy to bribe players for participating in its viral spread: cute lonely animals will show up on your farm periodically and as a player you face a dilemma in sentencing them to virtual abandonment and death unless you post on your Facebook wall that you need one of your friends to start playing Farmville and “adopt” the adorable little self-promoter.

The genius in how Farmville has succeed in getting so many people addicted comes down to how it handles commitments on a player’s time: every time you play Farmville and plant a crop, you’re making a commitment to come back during a 12 hour window or so to harvest your crop, or else you forfeit your investment.

There’s some more surprising and clever stuff that has been baked into the social design of the game, but even the points above would seem to make for an addictive (and viral) experience.

nGenera just hosted a conference in Memphis (kudos to FedEx for graciously hosting it at their World Technology Center) where I gave a presentation on gamers as employees and customers. I argue that gamers are more than a bit self-interested, and are focused on generating smart, efficient solutions to problems that let them sail through the rest of the game with relative ease and speed. Gamers also want to feel engaged with their virtual worlds, and in certain cases have emotional connections with in-game characters and the game itself.

Farmville seems to have taken these constructs to a new level, allowing gamers to pay (real money) for tools that speed them towards completion and give them competitive advantage, and putting gamers in situations where their emotional involvement with the game is leveraged to encourage friends to start playing (and spending their own money for in-game advantages).

While writing this post I’ve had the facebook connect installation screen sitting in a background tab in my browser, I think I have to go try the game out for the sake of research. Are there any Wikinomics readers who play the game? What do you think of it? What should I expect?

Hopefully I won’t get completely swallowed up, and will post again soon!


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Hank Heath
Dec 8, 2009 1:00

My wife talked me into playing Farmville. The challenge to me has been to spend no hard money (currency) nor soft money (filling out forms for virtual currency).

As a result, I’ve been able to accumulate millions of coins, regular crops, and many of the animals and buildings that generally result in accumulation of more coins. This is getting to the point of diminishing returns, now, so I’m not sure how much longer I will continue.

If I were designing the game to be more interesting (to me), I would allow those who accumulate large amounts of coins to start banks and loan it to others. Also, you can “help” one another in very limited ways. I would allow other players to harvest crops and so on for other players.

I’ll be interested in seeing your follow up on the game.

Paul Hoefling
Dec 8, 2009 14:41

I’ve been in FarmVille for a couple of months now and I’m enjoying it. Yes, there’s an inherent commitment to return regularly, but it’s not as bad as some other Facebook games. I don’t fall for the cash-for-extras offers – of all the games I play on Facebook, and I’m a bit abashed to admit how many, I haven’t spent any money on them. As you advance in the games, you can adjust your level of participation. In Farmville, for example, crops will ripen anywhere from 2 hours later to 60 hours later. Of course, the longer term crops are the ones you get access to as you advance. All of the games seem to give you the shorter term items to get you to come back more frequently at the beginning. I’m playing three farm games, and they each have their own charms and quirks. Farmville’s animals are more interactive than the others I’m in – you can “harvest” them, and you can pet most of them, and they react to being petted. I find that an attractive feature, personally, because I like critters in general.

All things considered, Farmville isn’t the most time-absorbing game on Facebook. If you try it, have fun with it – and add me as a neighbor. :-)

reads from this week « the way i see things
Dec 8, 2009 20:37

[...] [...]

FarmVille Guru
Dec 16, 2009 18:29

Just a little post to share an amazing tool : Farmer Extreme Manager.
Perfect to dominate FarmVille for free

John Woodring
Dec 19, 2009 21:43

One thing people seem to forget is the amount of information this company gets from players and their friends and sells it. The thing is information people would normally not give out is freely given in Facebook games such as Farmville.

Potty Training
Feb 27, 2010 3:42

You think it is bad now? wait until phones start using flash and people can play farmvill even when they are away from their computers. I’m not ready for my facbook to be flooded with “facbook user just gave facebook user a cow” lol

Facebook Farmville
Mar 2, 2010 11:35

I only wanted to drop you a short note to let you know that I really enjoy your blog. Thanks! Keep on the good work

Whitney Parks
Mar 8, 2010 18:42

If only people spent the amount of time they do playing games like Farmville on actually working to collaborate on and develop sustainable crops, livestock and farming methods, as well as sustainable buildings and other designs, we would all be in a much better place.

Mar 18, 2010 16:23

farmville is the best game ever and this is the best blog post!

Massage School Chicago
Apr 2, 2010 18:58

i am also play Farmville. i am keeping enjoy with it, i like Farmville then other facebook game

web designer
Apr 5, 2010 20:57

I played farmville and its really addictive. I had my current tab on my work and another on facebook farmville, I wonder how do zynga made money out of this game.

mikey jay
Apr 24, 2010 18:00

im on facebook but ive never played the games. My reasons: i have an actual life lol. Seriously though there’s something very wrong with intelligent grown ups playing time wasting games. Reminds me of when everyone was playing snake on their mobile phones, does anyone remember that? I agree with Whitney Parks’s comment and i urge you all farmville addicts to make an effort to control yourselves..

May 31, 2010 7:44

I played farmville due to peer pressure but it sux big time. It so stupid I wanted to punch the developers in the face for making it! Its great for kids I must admit but its also bad as it gets young kids too involved and on computer for hours.

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