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Farmville: The Craze That Changed Facebook Forever

Culture

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We look back at how Farmville became a worldwide phenomenon and the lasting effects it’s had on Facebook.

In 2007, games were added to Facebook. Two years later, Farmville came along and forever changed the way we look at the social networking platform.

Farmville was far from the first game launched on the Facebook Application Developer Platform. Dragon Age Legends and Mob Wars had already achieved a certain level of popularity.

Farmville also wasn’t an original idea. Farmville heavily borrowed from a now-obscure game called (Lil) Green Patch, which AdWeek reports had 350,000 Daily Active Users, placing it in the top 15 Facebook Application of early-2008. It also was a near-exact copy of Slashkey’s Farm Town, which had debuted in early-2009 as the 4th popular Facebook application. However, Farmville’s creator, Zynga, had something the other two companies didn’t have: a massive user base.

To get people playing Farmville, Zynga leveraged its already popular games through cross-promotion and ability to buy ads. This was so successful, that six months after the game’s release, AdWeek reported that the game had 72.9 monthly active users or more than 20 percent of Facebook’s 350 million users. At the time, Farmville had more active users than Twitter.

During Farmville’s two year reign as the most popular game on Facebook, the site grew from 200 million users in April 2009 to 750 million in July 2011. While there is no way to account for how many users joined Facebook specifically for Farmville, you may have a family member or friend who joined for the game. It’s the game that may have caused your parents to join Facebook and created issues that previously didn’t exist as addressed by the parody band Blood of the Tigercat in “My Mom’s On Facebook.” At its height, TechCrunch reports that Farmville accounted for approximately 10 percent of Facebook’s revenue.

Farmville introduced those who weren’t teenagers to a social media site they could get behind. Unlike Myspace, which is best remembered for its garish backgrounds and obnoxious automatic music playing, Facebook had a sleek clean design, was more interactive than Myspace, and found its killer app in Farmville.

To gain access to features and reduce their time between planting crops, players had to invite friends. One way to get more friends to play Farmville was to encourage friends not on Facebook to sign up for an account and play the game. For many users, it worked and the game’s user base grew exponentially.

In hindsight, it may be hard to believe that a game that was nothing more than people pretending to farm, but Farmville had a large dedicated fan base for a long time in social media terms. Zynga was even able to partner with McDonald’s, American Express, Microsoft Bing, and 7-11. Perhaps, Farmville’s most memorable promotion was GagaVille where for three days Lady Gaga fans could complete a task for a sneak preview of Lady Gaga’s Born This Way album.

Not only did Farmville make money from adverting, it also made money off of virtual goods and introduced many people to the concept of freemium games. While Farmville was ostensibly free to play, if you wanted to progress through the game quicker and ran out of friends, you could pay to progress. Dedicated players spent thousands of dollars purchasing virtual goods, including the 45-dollar Unwither Ring to improve the hardiness of their crops.

These days Farmville is simply a memory from a time when social media was still in its infancy. However, it succeeded in getting millions of people logging into their Facebook accounts on a daily basis and, in some ways, helped contribute to our collective social media addiction.

 

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