Social Space: Why FarmVille 2 and CityVille 2 took cues from the core

FarmVille 2
FarmVille 2

There's no denying that FarmVille and CityVille are not only two of the largest, but the most influential social games to ever grace Facebook. But how could Zynga ever expect lightning to strike twice, especially with game concepts that weren't 100 percent original to begin with? The answer is that it didn't. FarmVille 2 is currently the most played game on Facebook, and while it's fundamentally different from the original, it's not terribly different than, say, the most recent Harvest Moon games.

With full 3D graphics and slightly more realistic (and nuanced) simulations of the experiences they try to capture, FarmVille 2 and CityVille 2 look more like their inspirations than ever. These predecessors, like SimCity, SimFarm and Harvest Moon, are usually reserved for and geared toward more traditional gamers, or at the very least gamers that have been around the block once or twice.
So, why are 8.6 million players logging into FarmVille 2 every day (as of this writing)? Aside from intense cross promotion on Zynga's part, perhaps it's thanks to what some social game makers have been saying for a long time: The crowd that got into gaming with FarmVille has grown up ... perhaps entirely unbeknownst to them. (If anything, that would at least partially explain the explosion of arcade-style casual games on Facebook.)

Is it possible that the tastes of so-called non-gamers, after three years of tilling a digital farm or managing an entire city, have naturally refined? Hey, it happened to even the most seasoned of game fans over the past 40 years, albeit over a much longer stretch of time, following the advances of technology. But this is a new landscape, one where more advanced technology is readily available and where millions of fledgling gamers might be hungry for more--and not more of the same.

CityVille 2
CityVille 2

If that's the case, where do you go from the starting point--in this case, the original FarmVille or CityVille--while staying true to your game's roots? You introduce elements that you might have retracted the first time around in hope of attracting a more casual audience. You head back toward the games that inspired you, picking pieces back up off of cutting room floor.

Initially it was puzzling for this editor to see a farming game or a city-building game that appeals more to him than the original with millions of daily players. But after some thought, it makes perfect sense. This new gaming audience--the second blue ocean, if you will--is simply ready to take on a little bit more in their games, and as a result, maybe get a bit more out of them. And if that means more players latching onto games that are more like the games this editor grew up with, keep 'em coming.
Do you think this is why FarmVille 2 and CityVille 2 are slightly more complex? Is this even what you want? Sound off in the comments. Add Comment.

Joe Osborne is associate editor at News. Weekly in Social Space, Joe shares opinions and observations on the intersection of social gaming and traditional games. Follow him on Twitter here.

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