Zynga avoided a FarmVille disaster by ... making more games?

Don't worry, it sounds weird to us too. Seasoned game designer and editor of The Game Prodigy Brice Morrison put Zynga and FarmVille under the scope recently in what we'd normally call a postmortem, but nothing really died. In fact, Morrison spends his words analyzing how the company avoided just that, and we'd say he's right on the money.

As you all likely know, FarmVille reached a peak of over 80 million monthly players in early 2010, just six months after its launch. It shocked, awed and infuriated industry folks everywhere, mostly because they were on the outside looking in. However, the game quickly lost steam (and fell victim to several crippling changes to the Facebook viral channels) and it hemorrhaged players to around where it has been for several months: around 50 million monthly players. But what stopped it from going down the tubes entirely?

Well first, Zynga introduced several new features and gameplay mechanics to the game that catered to its hardcore (did I just say that?) audience, according to Morrison. All the while, it tweaked and optimized what was wrong with the game to appease the dedicated masses. The game has since built complexity upon complexity to make the farmers happy with new things to do, but this couldn't be kept up for long. Zynga fans grew bored, so the company did something strange.

CityVille farm
It made more games. According to Morrison, the releases of FrontierVille and CityVille did more to keep FarmVille alive than many know. By introducing new gameplay hooks in new environments with similar features like farming, Zynga could train its farmers in new approaches to its games. Better yet, the company could rope its players back into FarmVille through cross promotions (you know what I'm talking about). Zynga even did this with older games like Mafia Wars. Somehow, focusing attention elsewhere did wonders to keep FarmVille pressing on.

You see, while CityVille is on top now and FrontierVille might be a more robust game all-around, FarmVille has always been the crux of Zynga's lineup. In fact, Morrison argues that every Zynga release to date since has been with the livelihood of its baby in mind. Why do you think both games have farming in them? Because I'm willing to bet that the majority of players of both games got their start on the farm. Morrison points out that FarmVille still has one of the highest percentages of daily players, 30 percent of monthly farmers play daily--of any social game.

And what do you know, the FarmVille renaissance is nigh with the English Countryside. When you've added all the complexity you can to the current game, what do you do? You chop it all off at the top and grow all over again. MMOs like World of WarCraft have done it multiple times, and each time its player base has multiplied. It's interesting how one genre is learning from the other to stay alive, but how long until there's nothing left to learn?

What do you think of Morrison's analysis of FarmVille? Do you agree that this expansion will keep FarmVille alive, and even increase its numbers again? Speak up in the comments. Add Comment.
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