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Farmville, Social Gaming, and Addiction 251

Posted by Soulskill
from the tragedy-of-the-common-interest dept.
MarkN writes "Facebook has been trumpeting the fact that Farmville, the most popular game on its site, has more users than Twitter, with 69 million playing over a month and 26 million playing each day. Combined with Facebook's announcement that they have hit 350 million users, that means one out of every five people on Facebook is playing Farmville. Gamasutra has a post taking a critical analysis of Farmville, its deceptively slow level grind, how a number of gameplay features end up as simply decorative since they aren't balanced with the benefits of raising crops, and discussing why Farmville succeeds so well in virally spreading itself and addicting people."
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Farmville, Social Gaming, and Addiction

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  • by alex_guy_CA (748887) <[alex] [at] [schoenfeldt.com]> on Sunday December 06, 2009 @01:26PM (#30344092) Homepage
    Something I overheard: "Can I grow weed on Farmvile and sell it on Mafia Wars?"
    • by Chmcginn (201645) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @02:51PM (#30344790) Journal
      Also, Can I send troops from Tribal Wars to attack my brother-in-laws Farm that keeps spamming me with "So-and-so bought a cow!"?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by marqs (774373)
      Think opium pays better
    • by Firehed (942385) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @04:01PM (#30345384) Homepage

      You probably should be able to - both games are run by the same company.

      Of course, you should also be able to order hits on all of your friends playing FarmVille, so this cross-game thing may not be the best idea after all.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by lamapper (1343009)

      Something I overheard: "Can I grow weed on Farmville and sell it on Mafia Wars?"

      That is funny, but you hit a good point. Since most of the FaceBook games ONLY allow FaceBook users, there is little incentive to share between social networks. This will probably change this next year (if a company is confident theirs is the superior social game for that genre, they should not be afraid to share the API with other social networks, even if owned by another company...of course if they are afraid that they are not good enough, the fear will keep them from opening up their api. It would pr

  • Just seems like... (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lord Duran (834815) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @01:27PM (#30344106)
    a glorified version of Harvest Moon.
  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @01:28PM (#30344118)

    Hey, 1 in 5 people use this application. Remember that once the application has more than a million users, it can access not only your personal information, but everyone's personal information you can access. So, in short, the creators of Farmville have access to most, if not all, of the Facebook database. Moo, moo.

  • 2 thoughts (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @01:36PM (#30344180)

    Security and "China farmers".

    First, the security issue is an obvious one, when you're tempted to hand out your password so someone can "babysit" your farm.

    The other one would be an interesting one indeed. So far, I doubt any online farming game (usually browser games) got big enough to even attract "goldsellers", whatever form they may take. Now, I neither have a facebook account nor play this game, so someone who does might be able to give me a hint whether it's possible to hand over money (or whatever resource there is) in the game, but it would be interesting to see what the owners of Facebook think of a sudden dramatic increase of new users who all just play this game, know each other and basically are nothing but a huge grinder farm (no pun intended). I'd guess they wouldn't be too happy since it would poison their data pool quite a bit.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985)

      Err, if you know you're going to be out for awhile, you simply plant stuff that grows slower, or don't plant anything.

      I (admittedly) do play this thing on occasion, and I don't really see anything in there that would make your classic 'gold farmer' ('scuse the pun) see it as worth their time. Few folks buy the bucks in-game as it is, and unlike Mafia Wars style games, a bot would be fairly useless.

      I could've summed the game down in two sentences: It's a cute-but-silly animated time waster that occasionally

    • Re:2 thoughts (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Firehed (942385) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @04:09PM (#30345462) Homepage

      Many facebook games (Farmville included) have eliminated the need for gold farmers by selling the currency (or other in-game items) themselves. In fact, it's one of if not the largest revenue stream for many of them, in addition to ad sales. They figured out what Blizzard et al haven't - people are willing to pay cash for game currency, so it might as well be the game developers who are doing the selling.

  • It's true: Nerds have way too much time on their hands.

    • They have a lot of free time, true, but it's not time that they're holding...

    • by TheKidWho (705796) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @01:57PM (#30344324)

      Except, most "nerds" wouldn't be caught dead playing this game.

      • by Mark_in_Brazil (537925) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @02:42PM (#30344722)

        Except, most "nerds" wouldn't be caught dead playing this game.

        I have a friend who is a well-known cryptographer. He is a tenured professor at the best university in his home country (it's also the best-known university in his home country; the two aren't always the same). Some of his work has become part of important international standards. I have used applications built on his work, and depending on how nerdy you are and what kind of work you do, you might have used some too. His work has won awards and has been recognized by his peers at major academic conferences on cryptography. Whether or not you have heard of him, you have almost certainly heard of some of his collaborators in other countries, even if you aren't a cryptography nerd. If that's not enough "nerd cred" for ya, he is also a fluent speaker of five languages, can get by really well in a sixth, can imitate different accents in at least one of his non-native languages, and has some knowledge of two other real languages plus Klingon.

        And because I was sick to death of seeing his FarmVille updates and my sister's Mafia Wars updates, I finally learned how to block updates from those two applications just today.

  • by Idiomatick (976696) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @01:49PM (#30344264)
    I think the fact that a poor game can be so popular is the fact that they are targeting addicted social network users. That is like saying you can sell games and apps for more on an iphone... duhhh. It is all about the user base. I bet you could shoot fish in a barrel too...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TubeSteak (669689)

      Except they aren't selling these games on Facebook.
      It's a freemium model. Free to everyone, but you can also pay for premium features.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I think the fact that a poor game can be so popular is the fact that they are targeting addicted social network users.

      That is a valid point.

      That is like saying you can sell games and apps for more on an iphone... duhhh. It is all about the user base.

      I'm not sure I'm following you here. You think you can sell games for more on an iPhone than on what platform? Games are certainly cheaper on average than on a Nintendo DS or PSP (which average $32 a title). I haven't seen overall numbers for other phone platforms, but there are published numbers on the average cost of the top 10 most popular paid apps and the iPhone is at the bottom of the list:

      • iPhone - $1.60
      • Windows Mobile - $20.00
      • BlackBerry - $18.00
      • Nokia Symbian S60 - $24.50

      In sho

      • Pretty much all winmo apps are free... none of which are included in your lists...... sooo that doesn't work now does it.

        Find stats on amount of money spent on apps PER phone. iphone vs any other OS and it'll be a pretty damn big gap I assure you.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          Pretty much all winmo apps are free...

          Yeah, but there are still fewer free apps for WinMo than the iPhone. What were were talking about was specifically excluding apps for free because you said apps that were sold. I'm not interested in getting in a dick waving contest with you about whether Windows Mobile or the iPhone is a better platform for some purpose. I don't care and don't own one of either. I'm just wondering where you got the idea that apps cost more on the iPhone, since I've never seen any article that made such a claim and many that

      • I pay more than $1.60 for apps. The only apps I think are worth buying are usually over $5. You get what you pay for. I'm not interested in filling my iPhone with tons of crap apps. Averages and top 10 charts don't tell you everything.

        • I pay more than $1.60 for apps.

          I don't pay anything for apps because I don't own a smartphone. What does that have to do with anything. One person's experience doesn't really matter compared to wide ranging statistical analysis of many users.

      • by Firehed (942385)

        And if you look at the iPhone's top grossing apps*, you'll see an average price of $30.69 with 3 of the 10 at or above $79.99 (all GPS apps, the rest with one exception are games). If you went through the top 25 that drops to $14.55, which is not insignificant.

        For what it's worth, I've bought more titles for my iPhone than any other gaming platform; quite possibly more than all of them combined. Plenty were free and not all were games, but apps that cost only a few bucks are certainly less of a gamble than

        • And if you look at the iPhone's top grossing apps*

          Why would anyone look at that particularly? Of course it will be skewed towards more expensive applications by virtue of what it is. I suppose you can compare that to the top grossing apps on other platforms. But I don't see those numbers published anywhere for anything but the iPhone for comparison. I chose the top selling apps because there were numbers for most platforms easily available.

    • by Jugalator (259273)

      I think the fact that a poor game can be so popular is the fact that they are targeting addicted social network users.

      I think a contributing reason to its size today is because many users stop using Farmville as they grow bored, but don't delete the Farmville application => still an active Farmville user in the eyes of Facebook and Zynga. Many even do this intentionally, since friends who still play Farmville gain additional bonuses if they have friended Farmville users to be "neighbors".

      So I think the number of active Farmville users could be something quite different.

    • heh, I just joine the not playing farmville group. Also, MEEP!
  • by RabidMonkey (30447) <canadaboy@@@gmail...com> on Sunday December 06, 2009 @01:56PM (#30344320) Homepage

    Due to Farmvilles massive spamming, and my inability to make it stop telling me when my sisters/friends/coworkers have found a new cow, I've actually resorted to unfriending people who are farmville addicts. My "newsfeed" went from updates on my friends lives to 3/4 farmville useless announcements, making it effectively useless. I was tempted to install the app to see if I could filter them somehow, but ultimately said forget it.

    It's fine if people want to play games, but frankly, the rest of the world doesn't care or need to know that you planted seeds. If I installed a facebook app that broadcasted every time I got a green drop in WoW I'm sure my friends wouldn't be too happy.

    Add to this the Mafia wars spam, and these stupid little apps have made a mess out of what was once a useful tool for me to keep on top of my friends day to day and related silliness.

    • by Whatshisface (1203604) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @02:04PM (#30344378)

      Due to Farmvilles massive spamming, and my inability to make it stop telling me when my sisters/friends/coworkers have found a new cow, I've actually resorted to unfriending people who are farmville addicts. My "newsfeed" went from updates on my friends lives to 3/4 farmville useless announcements, making it effectively useless. I was tempted to install the app to see if I could filter them somehow, but ultimately said forget it.

      It's fine if people want to play games, but frankly, the rest of the world doesn't care or need to know that you planted seeds. If I installed a facebook app that broadcasted every time I got a green drop in WoW I'm sure my friends wouldn't be too happy.

      Add to this the Mafia wars spam, and these stupid little apps have made a mess out of what was once a useful tool for me to keep on top of my friends day to day and related silliness.

      It takes one click to block an unwanted application like Farmville from posting to your News Feed. There's a "Hide" option on any News Feed story which will block all posts from that application. Very useful.

      • by iknowcss (937215) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @02:29PM (#30344612) Homepage
        He just needs an excuse to explain why he is friends with so few people
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by grahamtriggs (572707)

        Yes, you can block posts from an application. As I already have, along with the hundreds of other applications that spam my newsfeed every day.

        It's still one of the major reasons why I've largely turned my back on Facebook and turned to Twitter.

      • by Fencepost (107992)
        Interestingly, I was getting a small number of Farmville-related items even though I'd hidden it. Attempting to set the option to block all access (at the bottom of the message I received) gave me an error every time I tried it.

        The same thing worked for other applications though.
        • Yeah, I got ticked with FarmVille and blocked it, along with MafiaWars, but I still see occasional updates. Kind of like a good spam filter - the occasional one getting through doesn't both me too much.

          Also kind of amusing that one or two of my middle-aged Facebook contacts (former teachers) were the biggest source of Farmvile updates, rather than the Facebook junkies my own age.

      • by Alan Shutko (5101)

        Last I checked, those blocks didn't work on the iPhone App. That's why I stopped using the app... it got too full of game updates.

        • by karnal (22275)

          The WinMo app is the same way - doesn't take into account apps you've blocked or people you've hidden. Ends up having me just "web" to m.facebook.com.

      • I think I've finally managed to block all of the CURRENT hit games that my friends are addicted to on FB, but it is annoying to have to block each application individually.

        Is there a way to simply block ALL present and future application notices?

        All I want to see are what people type in their profile and their pictures. I am not interested in watching people play games, or hearing about the results.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          http://lite.facebook.com

          Anon Coward delivers.

        • Is there a way to simply block ALL present and future application notices?

          Don't use Facebook. Works for me =)

      • by KZigurs (638781)

        doesn't always work. Same as fails to work if you want to prevent app you are playing around with posting stuff in your feed.

    • by Aladrin (926209)

      As someone else noted, you can block each application.

      But I hear what you're saying about the spam from all the apps. Personally, I use facebook as a gaming platform, so the game ones don't bother me, but the other ones do instead, like the constant barrage of 'join this group' and 'support my cause' and the new quizzes and crap.

    • I wouldn't even go on my facebook page if it wasn't for the games. The people that use facebook are BORING.

      I really don't care what any of my friends had for dinner, the new dress they bought or what their little kids did that morning. Yes, clicking random bullshit in Mafia wars is more interesting to me than those things.

      I attempted to steer updates into the things that interest me (programming and technology) but gave up after one of my "friends" just posted a "what?" comment on it.

      I then realized that th

      • I really don't care what any of my friends had for dinner, the new dress they bought or what their little kids did that morning.

        When you visit your friends, you do say "hey, nice new dress!", or "how're the kids doing?", or "so how's that diet you're on working out for you?", right?

        Oh well, if they're geeks too, I suppose "So did you hear about this new smartphone that runs Linux?" is more appropriate, but it sounds like you're dissing small talk rather than dissing facebook as a medium for small talk.

        The latter I agree with, the former I don't---even though I'm not a particularly well-renowned practitioner of said art ;-)

        • by vlm (69642) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @03:01PM (#30344896)

          it sounds like you're dissing small talk rather than dissing facebook as a medium for small talk.

          Ah, thats not a real diss, try these:

          My old quote: "facebook is a workflow automation system for relationships between stereotypical middle school girls"

          My new quote: "facebook is a computer optimized maximal shallowness solution to impress people you don't care about".

          Now, which one is more accurate, and/or offensive?

          • I can't actually tell the difference between middle school girl behavior and the behavior of many adult women online. Maybe it's my failing, being a nerd and a man. I have a handful of female friends who are different in this regard to me, so I'm not entirely certain it's my fault.

        • When you visit your friends, you do say "hey, nice new dress!", or "how're the kids doing?", or "so how's that diet you're on working out for you?", right?

          There is a difference between seeing it and commenting on it, and having them post it so everyone can see. And no, I usually don't make that kind of small talk, which might explain why I fail to see the use of facebook's model.

          I tried to do nerd small talk, but it didn't work, so I'm just brushing the entire service aside.

    • I was tempted to install the app to see if I could filter them somehow, but ultimately said forget it.

      Facebook does allow you to block apps... and that IIRC includes the announcements that come with them.

    • I don't know at what "time" (months ago, etc.) you started unfriending addicts, but there is a simpler way to block all Farmville posts.

      If you see one Farmville post in your feed, click it on the top right and you get two choices:

      1 - hide all posts from Farmville

      2 - hide all posts from this user.

      All you have to do is select item #1. I've used it for any/all apps appearing in my feed.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Schlemphfer (556732)

      There's a much more elegant solution to your problem.

      1) In Facebook's left column, select "Create a New List."

      2) Call it "Non Bozos."

      3) Select every non-Farmville playing friend who you actually want to be part of your news feed.

      4) When you're finished, click your "Non Bozos" list, and you'll see a news feed made up of just those people.

      5) Bookmark that page, and make that bookmark the normal way you visit Facebook from now on.

      This will solve your Farmville problem and also make your news feed experience 10

  • by rudy_wayne (414635) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @02:10PM (#30344450)

    Facebook will ruin your life.

    A few months ago I signed up on Facebook, just for the heck of it. Then I noticed that there were a lot of people I went to High School with on there. Pretty soon I was gettng friend request from them. One day I got a friend request from an old girlfriend who I hadn't seen since graduating. My only memory of her was when she was 17 -- cute with big titties. And then I looked at her current picture.

    She has not aged well.

    My fantasies are ruined.

  • Noob gamers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by T Murphy (1054674) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @02:11PM (#30344456) Journal
    A lot of gamers have played Runescape, Diablo 2 or similar and experienced enough "why am I wasting my time", "but it's so addicting" to learn to resist starting a new addicting game. A lot of Farmville players likely haven't experienced this, so they have no built up immunity and will waste their time without a second thought.

    While you could argue any game is a waste of time, Farmville's grind only earns you the opportunity to continue grinding- no end goal, no endgame sandbox. At least when you have a goal in sight you can tell when it isn't getting any closer.
    • It's only a waste of time if your time is actually worth something. I suspect most people's time is pretty worthless to begin with, else television executives would not generally be wealthy.

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      You are putting the subject in the wrong part of the problem. Is surprising (ok, maybe not) how easy is to get "addicted" to something, specially when makes you feel part of a community, no matter how shitty the "experience" is. If you think that it is wrong, in the Gamasutra article they point to mybrute, that makes Farmville look like a piece of art, and still should be wildly successful. And even that implies more "participation" from you than being fan of a football/soccer/basket club.
    • In my case, it's been a whole bunch of round-structured browser games. A few of them got kicked to the curb months ago, and I will stop after finishing the current round of the last one.
      This experience has kept me far away from WoW and the Facebook games.

  • by koan (80826) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @02:30PM (#30344630)

    Everyone where I works plays it, except me, it's total cheese but they love it...why?
    Because to them it's better than working.

  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Sunday December 06, 2009 @03:31PM (#30345136)

    I've got a friend that purchased on his own a Wii (so his kids/wife can play games) and a PS3 for his hardcore (FPS and fighting) games. He received a xbox360 as a gift from a cousin. Probably has about a $1000 worth of platforms and associated games.

    Yet if his wife doesn't tell him "Go to bed, it's late" he can play Mafiawars/Farmville until the sun comes up. Amazing how addictive these games are without having to have massive graphics, sound, rumble controllers, online multiplayer. Just a flash interface and a bunch of clicking.

    I'm waiting for Southpark to do an episode on Farmville as a remake of the WoW episode.

  • People are aliens. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad (198284) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:13AM (#30349454)

    Seriously. Farmville?

    I'll do you one better.

    I'm annoyed that I need a Facebook account just to receive what we used to call, "Email".

    The advantage I see is that open messages can turn into impromptu, albeit simple discussion forums with built-in photo catalogs. This can be more useful than email for some jobs.

    But that's not what it's all about, as Farmville indicates. I think Facebook touches some kind of primal-tribal-pack-animal nerve. Farmville itself might represent more than just a dumb game with an addictive tamagachi edge. It might be a subconscious response to the fact that our food supply is precarious and stupid and that survival might fairly soon depend upon being able to raise chickens and grow potatoes in your back yard. [freep.com]

    -FL

  • Relax (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kehren77 (814078) on Monday December 07, 2009 @01:40AM (#30349614)

    I don't understand why people get all pissy when you mention Farmville. If you don't want to play, then don't. But you don't have to hate people that do and call them noobs or sheep.

    The reason people play is the same reason people buy the Wii. It's accessible. Anyone can fucking play. Anyone. I know that for the hardcore player out there that just seems wrong, but you know what? The gaming world doesn't revolve around you.

    If you don't what to see that shit in your news feed, choose to hide announcements from that app. Simple. Other people have other opinions. Learn to accept it.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I'm level 41 in Farmville and have never paid a dime for content.

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