Video Game Review:
When video game meets social networking, the result is the fastest growing social game the world has seen, with 11 million or more players taking part every day. And what do they do? They cultivate the soil, ploughing, growing and harvesting a variety of crops; purchasing and planting fruit trees; acquiring pigs, cows or poultry; creating farm assets like barns, wind mills, greenhouses – trading their produce and seeing their bank balance grow as their crops flourish….. all in a virtual world of their own creation.
FarmVille is the name of the game – and this creation of US-based games developer, Zynga, which is available for free to Facebook members ( and also recently on Microsoft’s MSN Games portal), has over 55 million registered users, including some one million based in India.
To begin playing, one must customize one’s own farming avatar, starting with six plots of land. Each plot costs 15 farm coins to plow and new seeds must be bought for anything from 10 to 220 coins. Each crop sells for a price and calculations of crop yield can get quite challenging: watermelons have a four day growth cycle, strawberries have two hours. Plants may grow or wilt; farm animals can be reared to tide over the ‘lean’ periods; to exploit the networking strengths of Facebook, the game encourages collaboration between ‘ farmers’ – and consolidation of farms to gain the advantage of size.
Players worldwide, have imbibed the ‘agricultural spirit’ and created innovative gardens and fields that they are proud to display on their Facebook pages. No one anticipated quite how a competitive spirit -- and the elemental urge of people to create something as wholesome ( or mundane) as a crop of pumpkins or apples, would come together to create a compelling cult game. But FarmVille has achieved numbers that many another video or arcade game with more slam-bang action, can only aspire to achieve.
Players of Indian origin, have proved to be a group with considerable clout: Within months of FarmVille’s launch in June 2009, they lobbied hard through Internet blogs and Twitter, to force the creators to add India to a small number of nations including UK and USA, whose flags were available in the game to mark one’s farmed territory. One can expect other customised tools and symbols aimed at the large fan following here – because, in February this year, parent company Zynga, opened its first office out side the US, in Bangalore, where some 100 engineers will soon help craft future versions of FarmVille. At least some of these iterations are expected to sharply target the market for virtual games here, which is expected to be next only to US and China in 2-3 years. Maybe they should start by calling it e-krishi!
Link to play FarmVille for free, on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/apps/application.php?id=102452128776 and on MSN Games: http://zone.msn.com/en/farmville/Farmville.aspx
This review also appears in the current edition of The Week magazine ( Marcxh 8-14 2010 www.the-week.com )
March 8 2010