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?

9 thoughts on “FarmVille – Cashing In On Shame

  1. Analogue

    Yeah, my mother, who is basically the FarmVille Queen (she keeps getting level capped which I wasn’t aware was possible) wouldn’t even buy this; she plans so her crops won’t wither if she’s away for the weekend and if they do, it doesn’t cause her any grief.

    So it’s not actually for the hardcore. I don’t think much of anyone will buy this…

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  2. TheRemedy

    I would really like to mock farmville players but I just spent 20 bucks in DDO to improve my character by 4 points. I did have enough points left over to purchase a shiny new sword though!

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  3. Anne Lessing

    I think the unwither ring takes away the challenge. If your crops never wither, you’re always guaranteed a “win,” right?

    Hey, it’s not our fault if you let reality get in the way of harvesting your tomatoes! XD

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  4. Aubrey S

    People feel very strongly about whether to spend money on these games or not. I am one of the rare few who don’t mind spending real money for these special items. I have to spend money to get a game for my Wii so why not spend some money for special items in FV? Some of you are going to say but you buy your Wii game once and don’t have to keep buying more for it. That is true – no argument there. I try to limit my FV real cash buying to items that at least help me. With that said yes, I bought this ring and have no regrets. Yes, in a way I’m cheating but at least now I don’t look like the crazy fanatic who runs home to harvest her crops. I just look like the crazy person who spent money on the Unwither Ring. I can live with that status. But people spend their hard earned money on all sorts of insanity and this is mine.

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  5. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Aubrey S – I wouldn’t call it cheating. More like crop insurance.

    And I certainly have nothing against people spending money on items. That is how a game like FarmVille supports itself.

    This particular item just seemed odd to me. It seemed to me that if you were into the game enough to drop $40 on a single item, you were probably into it enough that your crops rarely wilted.

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  6. Aubrey S

    @Wilhelm2451 – I appreciate that you didn’t shame me for spending money on FV and I like your translation of the Unwither Ring as crop insurance.

    Interestingly enough people feel like FV should be free and they shouldn’t have to spend real money on these items. I say exactly what you say “That is how a game like FarmVille supports itself.” and inevitably someone writes that Zynga is making money and they should offer these items essentially for free. I generally try not to prolong the thread past that as it just gets uglier by the post.

    I used to be obsessed with FarmVille and would run home to harvest my crops everyday and then just got tired being that crazy lady. I started to play less (which is not a bad thing) but then when I decided to pick it up again I would have to remember to harvest. I like that the ring allows me to be a casual player who can still have a life. So perhaps you’re right, the dedicated FarmVille player would snub this item because clearly they can manage to keep their farm running smoothly no matter what’s going on. Me, I just want to take it easy and use that energy to pass level 9 in New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

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  7. Wilhelm2451 Post author

    @Aubry – I only used the word shame because Zynga used that term at the Game Developer’s Conference up in SF this year to describe some of the things that drive people to keep playing their game. They felt a key one was being embarrassed about letting your crops wilt.

    I like to watch the free to play games evolve. There is, as I have said in the past, a fine line to walk between making free too onerous to bear and giving away the store.

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