Daily Archives: July 1, 2010

FarmVille – Cashing In On Shame

Am I still talking about FarmVille?

Well, it is still a fact of life in the gaming ecosystem that over 60 million people are still playing FarmVille, even if people are still discussing what it is all about, and it is making money, purportedly a lot of it.

And the revenue generation aspect of FarmVille, or any other free to play game, is something I find interesting.  There seems to be such a fine balance between making a game too accessible, leading to nobody paying for it, and making cash items a requirement, likely driving off a good chunk of your audience prematurely.

One of the things that the Zynga people talked about at GDC this year was the shame factor in FarmVille.

In the game, you can plant crops and harvest them to make money.  Different crops have different durations to mature, at which point you reap that which you have sewn, collecting the cash right on the spot.

However, your crops can also expire if you leave them in the ground too long.  There is a window of time after they mature when you must harvest, otherwise your crops will wither.

And the people at Zynga are convinced that having withered crops on the farm… and the graphics are depressingly 1930s Dustbowl in design… will embarrass people, and serve as a spur both to play the game and spend money on it.

I’m not sure I can get all the way down the path they are trying to lead us, but they believe and are thus focused.

To this end you can buy an unwither spray in the FarmVille market.  It costs 10 Farm Cash (the rare, get one per level, gotta pay money if you want any more currency) per application, and given the number of withered crops I’ve seen, I am going to guess it isn’t a best seller.  Too much other stuff is only available via Farm Cash and you can always plow over withered crops and start again.

But what if you chronically let your crops wither on the vine.  What if you really are embarrassed to have your friends see your fields strewn with dead plant.

Then Zynga has a limited time offer for you!

For only 250 Farm Cash you can buy the Unwither Ring!

What is the Unwither Ring?

Yes, with this item, your crops will never die on the vine again when you forget to harvest.  Shamed no more!

And how much will 250 Farm Cash run you in the real world?

Well, 240 Farm Cash will run you $40 and, assuming that you have saved another 10 Farm Cash out of the singles you get every level, you might be covered.  If not, well, you’ll have to kick in at least another $5, and if you’re already going that far, why not go to the $50 mark and have some extra Farm Cash around for the next item?

But you’re probably going to have to invest at least $40 to get this ring.  And hurry, it is only available for two more days.

Is it worth the money?  Not to me, but when I bother to plant crops in FarmVille, I never let them wither.  OCD FTW!

And I have to think that the obsessive FarmVille players, the ones that have installed the FarmVille tool bar on their browser that tells them when crops are ready, probably won’t feel the need either.  And they seem like the type most likely to spend the cash.

So who is the target for this item really?  Who lets their crops die but wants to spend money on the game?

I guess there is a certain amount of pressure removed from your life if you do not have to worry about your crops withering.  But if FarmVille is causing stress in your life, perhaps it isn’t the right game for you.

Do you know anybody who has the Unwither Ring?

Is anybody really embarrassed when their crops wither in FarmVille?

What would you expect to get for $40 in a free to play game?

Do I Put My Gear Score on My Resume or Not?

Every time I read something that says that being a gamer is something you should hide when you’re looking for a job outside of the game industry, I then proceed to turn around and find myself staring at an article like this, where a Fortune 500 exec, the CIO of Starbucks, claims that WoW made him the success he is today.  He even has his own blog about it.

How strongly does Gillett believe in the ties between Warcraft and business? Strong enough to warrant a blog dedicated to the subject, run by the CIO himself. And it doesn’t take long to see how running a guild and running a business are, in some ways, one and the same.

And that article points to a Forbes piece about how Entrepreneurs Get An Edge Playing Video Games. (Forbes is also telling us about the next FarmVille while they’re at it.  You can see that money draws attention.)

Of course, these guys are running raiding guilds and demonstrating the virtues of successful leadership both in and out of the game, while I’m just some bozo who likes to pretend he’s running around killing orcs, usually defying the “massive” part of the game by sticking to small groups.

Therein lies the difference.

I think I’ll leave WoW, LOTRO, and this blog off my resume for now.  Something like, say, finding Mankrik’s Wife unaided in the pre-Quest Helper days just doesn’t have the same effect.

[Homework: Find a successful, non-gaming industry exec who leads a guild in an MMO other than WoW.]

[Extra Credit Homework: Find a non-gaming industry exec who says that FarmVille, or any casual game, has contributed to his success in the workplace.]