If it isn't a game with the word "Farm" in the name somewhere, it's a game that just has to include the function. That's essentially the state of Facebook games today, sadly. And while it didn't take long to notice, I've tolerated it for long enough. It seems as if we've become surprised when a Facebook game doesn't include farming of some sort, and this is a serious problem. At least it is if you're in the camp that wants to see the genre grow. For instance, here are just a 10 highlights from the list of games with the "Farm" in its title that come back from a basic Facebook search:
Zombie Farm (pictured below)
Farm Defense (really?)
And did you know that a developer out there had the chutzpah to somehow shoehorn drugs into the farming Facebook game fad? (It's called Pot Farm.) Now, trust me when I say this, the list goes on--try it for yourself. However, the worst part is that a majority of these games have thousands, if not millions, of monthly players. Aren't we sick of planting crops, harvesting them, and planting them again? Apparently not.
Even games that should have absolutely nothing to do with farming somehow find a way to make use of the tired mechanic like Zombie Lane, Empires & Allies and even Madden NFL Superstars. OK, that last one was a joke, but don't put it past any game at this point. With that, we're faced with an even more important question: How?
It's regretful to say, but we have FarmVille to blame for the state of the social game space. Zynga certainly did not invent the farming simulator on Facebook, but it sure as hell cultivated it (too easy) into the monster it is today. When you hear people talk about Facebook games, what is the first thing to come out of their mouths? FarmVille. When the industry is covered in mainstream media, what is the first game press outlets mention? FarmVille. For all intents and purposes, FarmVille is to Facebook games as Kleenex is to tissues. You can thank FarmVille's peak at 80 million plus players last year for that, especially as many major game companies just entered the ring. But why does the farming game frenzy persist?
Well, it all boils down to one basic, almost primal human dichotomy: risk versus reward. Simply put, developers just aren't willing to take the risks in making a Facebook game that breaks the mold. This is mainly because FarmVille has caused players to expect that type of gameplay from their social games. To more than I would like, farming has become synonymous with social gaming. According to Inside Social Games, 10 out of the top 25 social games in June either surround farming or have it as a tacked-on feature. (And this is scarcely representative of the list you'll find through Facebook.)
In my perfect world, that number would be closer to, well, one. And unfortunately, the only way to escape this tired trend is to simply make games--impressive, appealing games, mind you--that drop farming altogether. Thankfully, there is hope in developers like PopCap that have turned their existing casual games into bite-sized, speedy and extremely competitive gaming sessions. But we also need new ideas, or at least more social adaptations of existing genres that we've all come to love.
Finally, we can enjoy trading and battling cute little monsters (Pokemon, anyone?) on Facebook, thanks to Gaia Online's Monster Galaxy (pictured above). These are just two examples of developers that are bringing new ideas (at least to Facebook) and turning them into successful games. And, guess what, not one crop was harvested in their creation. So let's keep it up, developers--our fingers have grown tired of clicking crops and cows.
[Image Credits: Giant Bomb, UrGameTips, The Appera]
What do you think of the state of Facebook gaming? Have we been overrun with farming games, or do you still enjoy planting and harvesting crops? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.