Carrots And Sticks: Ellie Gibson On Farmville

By Kieron Gillen on April 5th, 2010 at 3:08 pm.


Considering RPS’ wandering remit, I’m surprised that we haven’t actually written anything about Farmville. Especially as Jim’s good lady is a player. Let’s hand over to Eurogamer’s Ellie Gibson, whose Farmville diaries sees her grow from someone who really can’t see the point to someone who self-describes themselves as a drug-pusher. As she concludes: “Here’s the thing: whether they’re right or wrong, you can’t ignore 85 million people.” She has a point. Go read and… well, I’m sure you’ll have things to say about Farmville, but try and keep them polite. The 85 million a month is the interesting number, innit? 350 million people log onto Facebook a month, according to Facebook’s COO. So just under 1 in 4 people Facebook people actively play Farmville. My gut-level cynicism makes me raises an eyebrow at that. Only on a personal anecdotal level, far, far less than 1-in-4 people are playing Farmville on my friends list. I’d love to see region-by-region breakdown on their numbers.

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159 Comments »

  1. Nick says:

    Les Paul is the best Gibson.

    I heard people (women) at work talking about playing some farm game, I assumed it was Harvest Moon on the DS or something, turns out it was this.

  2. SpinalJack says:

    maybe some people multibox to farm… carrots XD

    • Persus-9 says:

      I get the impression you’re joking but the fact is I started to have a look at FarmVille about a week ago to see what all the fuss is about and I now have seven facebook accounts.

    • SpinalJack says:

      case in point, I think there are far fewer actual players than they make out.

    • Aganazer says:

      My wife multiboxes Farmville using my Facebook account. Hell if I know why!

  3. 12kill4 says:

    I think the problem with the 1 in 4 people on facebook play farmville statistic is the readiness with which they are choosing to attach such a moniker to said “people”. I’d just as soon call them mindless drones who insist upon saturating my facebook news reel with a higher density of shite than usual for the sole purpose of obtaining a numerical recognition of the degree to which they have attained and mastered said state of determined mindlessness.
    [EDIT] P.S. The true testament to its idiocy lies in the fact that this game presents the player with an faux-experience of farming which is amazingly more boring and futile than the reality- which, as someone who spent much of his childhood on a dairy farm in the south-east of Australia would know, is plenty boring as is.

    • Stromko says:

      I threatened to shit on my friend’s lawn if he sent me one more request to fertilize his fields. That helped.

  4. SquareWheel says:

    I wish Farmville were recognized for the spam it is.

  5. Okami says:

    “Here’s the thing: whether they’re right or wrong, you can’t ignore 85 million people.”

    Oh yes, you can! I’m ignoring the better part of six point nine billion people every day and it’s doing me no end of good.

    • Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

      @ Okami

      Beat me to it while I was busy ranting!

    • Wulf says:

      I have a hard time believing that there are 85 million people out there who’d play Farmville, anyway. Some of the better Popcap games I could understand, with casual gamers and all, but Farmville? I just don’t buy it, I can’t buy it. Despite how jaded I’ve become over the past X number of years I have more faith in humanity than to believe there are 85 million of them playing this thing. So for the sake of my sanity, I’ll call that lies, damn lies, and statistics.

      And therefore it’s easy to ignore 85 million imaginary people!

    • bob_d says:

      As a game developer; I wish I had the luxury of ignoring this… unfortunately, this is where the money is going, and you can expect to see more games like this taking development funds away from the big expensive games which, unlike “Farmville”, no longer make a profit.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, you can hit the Hide button, which is effectively the same thing as ignoring them.

      So do we file this under the “game as drug” category? That said, Bad Company 2 does kinda use this system, as do many other games with a levelling system. Case in point: the Medic starts without defibrillators or medipacks. It’s also the class I haven’t levelled up at all. They haven’t monetised upgrades, at least.

    • Nova says:

      Yes the medic without medical equipment is just ridiculous, same with the engineer but he has at least his RPG.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ bob_d “As a game developer; I wish I had the luxury of ignoring this… unfortunately, this is where the money is going, and you can expect to see more games like this taking development funds away from the big expensive games which, unlike “Farmville”, no longer make a profit.”

      However, you’ve got to ask yourslf how much room there is for more than one or two “Farmvilles” to exist at the same time? It’s not like we have seen tons and tons of “World of Warcrafts” existing at the same time. There might be a ‘me-too’ phase where the “money people” think “we want to do this as well” but a lot of them – probably most of them – are going to lose a lot of their money trying.

      On the other hand there are still a whole other range of gaming genre “niches” that will continue to have space – single-player RPG or FPS fans will happily buy several new ones each year if they are good enough. How many facebook “Farmvilles” can the market support each year? Also it doesn’t matter how many people play Farmville – this won’t decrease sales of the latest single-player FPS game. There isn’t a static amount of investment money that will move from FPS to farmvilles – if the opportunity is there people can transfer their investment from building yet another new skyscraper in Dubai into making FPS games if they think it will sell enough units.

  6. Vinraith says:

    Farmville addicts would do well to discover Harvest Moon or, even better, Rune Factory.

    • HidesHisEyes says:

      You mean “we would rather play Harvest Moon”.

      I doubt these people are attracted by any of the things we like about harvest moon. Most probably only play for the “something to do” and the social aspect.

    • Vinraith says:

      @HidesHisEyes

      While I’m sure some of them play it for the social aspect, many have genuinely never been exposed to anything better. A lot of non-gamers play Facebook games that might genuinely like more substantial, less manipulative games if they knew anything about them.

    • Wulf says:

      For those playing for the social aspect, I actually think Minecraft (especially the Creative mode) would be a better fit. I could hear the conversations now…

      “So, how many bricks do I get?”
      “You have infinity bricks.”
      “…”
      “What?”
      “I kind of expected to have, say, 100 bricks and then pay £££s for a few more.”
      “Nnnnope.”
      “So all my bricks are free?”
      “Yeeep.”
      “And I can interact with people whilst creating things?”
      “Yeeep.”
      “But where’s the catch?”
      “No catch.”
      “B-bu-but… microtransactions… my brain hurts, ow.”
      “None.”
      “And I can build whatever I want?”
      “Yeeep.”
      “All this freedom! It’s truly terrifying, but I like it!”

      And so on. >_>

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wulf

      Indeed. As many people as possible need to have that experience, if only so they’ll hold their gaming experiences to a higher standard. A world of gamers that expect to be treated the way Zynga treats its players is going to result in a world of games I want no part of.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Vin: Zynga treat their gamers a darn site better than, oooh, Ubisoft, for example.

      Was a bit worrying the other day when I walked in a friend’s room and there were three people in there with laptops all playing Farmville (can we call it Farmcraft yet?) – reminded me of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. And not in a good way.

    • Wulf says:

      @FunkyBadger

      No argument here, and I think you’ll find that those that damn Zynga actually damn Ubisoft in the same breath. I think that the milking of Zynga is unethical, but I think that Ubisoft are total basts as well. Unfair treatment is unfair treatment, but it’s down to the individual to define fair/unfair.

      And no, Farmville can’t have it! Minecraft is actually making the word ‘craft’ respectable again, especially with its Creative mode, let’s just let the horrid iteration of ‘craft’ die. Who knows, soon it might be ‘ville’, and everyone will be saying things like “[game name]ville! Amirite??”. >_>

    • Vinraith says:

      @FunkyBadger

      Yes, Ubi’s worse, but that’s like saying you’d rather be punched in the face than shot. Isn’t there an option where we don’t have to put up with Zynga’s pyramid-scheme microtransaction spamathon OR Ubi’s online-shackled bullshit?

    • Premium User Badge Carra says:

      @FunkyBadger.

      Well, there’s very little use in pirating an mmorpg like Farmville. Yey, I can now play my pirated copy of Farmville without my friends?

    • JuJuCam says:

      Oh God I cracked open Rune Factory 2 at midnight last night to get “a few days in” before sleep and the next time I looked up it was dawn.

  7. Jacques says:

    I played it for a week or so. Got bored of the endless clicking, the fact that you have to spend real money on fuel so you don’t have to click on every single tile you want to harvest, plow then re-seed was the clincher. It’s enough to give anyone RSI.

    • Jacques says:

      I should probably also mention that I played Diablo 2 obsessively for a few years, so it’s not as if clicking is a bad thing, it’s just the “hah, this game will be a fucking chore unless you spend real £” attitude that Zynga seem to have that pissed me off.

    • bob_d says:

      The strategy of “this game will be a fucking chore unless you spend real £” is exactly how all the ‘free-to-play’ MMOs make all their money. Farmville learned the lesson well. I find the whole idea of deliberately making games that are a chore to play appalling, myself, but it’s an increasingly large segment of the online game market.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ bob_d: “The strategy of “this game will be a fucking chore unless you spend real £” is exactly how all the ‘free-to-play’ MMOs make all their money.”

      That’s a bit unfair on – for example – Wurm Online isn’t it?

      from wiki: free to play account = cannot increase skills above 20, cannot buy village deeds or build towers, server is 16 times smaller than the premium servers. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wurm_Online

    • Wulf says:

      @TeeJay

      I totally agree. Whilst there are a lot of free-to-play MMOs which are out to milk the player, there are some that are very fair, they’re in the minority but they’re there.

      - Guild Wars (arguably not an MMO)
      - Minecraft (arguably not an MMO)
      - Wurm Online
      - Mythos
      - Free Realms

      That’s what I can think of off the top of my head.

  8. merc says:

    Can 85 million people be wrong? Yes. Oh so wrong.

  9. MrBRAD! says:

    I’d agree that 1/4 have PLAYED Farmville, perhaps even more than 2 weeks. There is NO WAY that 1/4 people actively play it though. That’s a load of BS.

    It’d be like counting RuneScape’s current players by counting how many characters have been created (and since abandoned) from the beginning (probably verging on a billion by now).

    I’d be grateful if somebody could find that exact number for me.

    • MrBRAD! says:

      Also want to mention my memories of early life on a farm.

      I was walking down the road carrying a litter of kittens in my uptuned jumper. I think I was taking them to my grandpa. I don’t remember what happened to them- they were so cute :3 I asked parents a few years later and they said pop drowned them all because they were a stray cat’s kittens and he didn’t want to look after them.

      He could have gave them away or given one to me at least. :’(

      The moral of the story is: Farm life is not something to aspire to do. You’ll soon find the serial-killing of kittens enjoyable.

    • Monolith says:

      @MrBRAD! No, FarmVille has 83 million active users per month or 27-32 million active users per day. It’s big. It’s really big.

    • TeeJay says:

      But *where* did you get that number from?

    • Wulf says:

      More lies, damn lies, and statistics?

      Lots of free-to-play games do this, not all of them, but lots of them. I remember that there was one Chinese one that claimed 10 million active players the day after release. It’s pretty silly.

  10. Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

    As ever with Elle that article raised a few chuckles for me.

    Funnily enough I’m pretty sure I can ignore 85 million people; what with almost daily ignoring of around 6 billion a mere 85 million is small fry!

    On the subject of Farmville, on a personal level it’s one of the many things on Facebook which I’ve blocked or hidden from my feed as soon as people tried inviting me to it or I saw it clogging things up. So that makes it less of an irritance than, for example, Dave has just joined “funniest joke ever become a fan to see” type spam – which comes from so many sources it’s impossible to get rid of. I don’t use Facebook for games. Plus from what I’ve read/been told about it it’s just a grind – and that appeals to me in exactly the same way that MMORPGs don’t!

    As for my friends I’ve seen some unlikely people own up to being mildly addicted to it (the majority of time because their girlfriend made them start playing it and then they actually started enjoying it) but I doubt it’s anything like 1 in 4 who play it.

    • merc says:

      Yes, that’s the saddest thing about facebook, it mercilessly reveals how many of your aquaintences just aren’t even remotely interesting.

    • Wulf says:

      Hmm.

      I wonder if there’s some sort of correlation between people who are very strange, mildly perverse, bizarre, and utterly eccentric, and then those who don’t use Facebook?

      *rubs his chin.*

      I have to say that I don’t use Facebook.

      *coughs.*

      Everyone, get out of there now, when you can! It’s a trap! Facebook makes you normal!

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wulf

      Everyone, get out of there now, when you can! It’s a trap! Facebook makes you normal!

      *shudder* I knew there had to be a reason that site made me feel dirty whenever I used it…

    • cjlr says:

      @Wulf, Vinraith

      Oh, by all means it’s mostly a cesspool, but once in a while it comes through with the intended purpose, that “oh, I wonder what happened to that guy I was good friends with back in grade 7…”

      I would never go so far as to say not availing yourself of a potentially useful tool is somehow beneficial or self-actualizing. Not that you said as much. Merely that it would be the semi-logical extrapolation of what you did say. Which I usually detest as a rhetorical technique. So it’s rather silly to even bring up. Yeah, I’m not sure I even had a point here.

    • Wulf says:

      @cjr

      Sometimes there’s preference when it comes to tools, y’know?

      The thing is, I use social sites but I don’t use Facebook, it’s a preferential option between the available tools. I find there are better tools out there to serve the purpose I desire, and I don’t really like the way Facebook goes about things, it’s all very questionable, it seems every other week I’m reading something on Slashdot about how they’ve breached their own privacy contracts or whatnot. It’s a dubious service to me. And therefore it is not the best service for me, from an anecdotal, purely subjective standpoint.

      Look at the humble computer OS. The options are: Windows, Linux, and Mac. I use Windows because I find Apple a bit too restrictive, there are times when I find Windows a touch restrictive (but I can usually bust down those restrictions) but I make sacrifices for the games. If I wasn’t a gamer then I’d be using Linux, and I really do love that OS.

      There are various examples of this with people all sides of the fence; digital distribution, chat clients, gaming apps, word processors, even down to things as mundane as brand of tie.

      I find that by using the option which is better for me, it is somewhat self-actualising, because I’m not denying myself a potentially useful tool, but I’m denying myself a tool which exists in the presence of one I personally find to work better, tools that are far more suited to my attitude, the way I work, my mindset, and so on. Facebook wouldn’t at all be an efficient service for me.

      Different strokes.

      The joke about Facebook making people normal was because of Facebook being the common choice, as someone who knows little of the Internet would indeed choose Facebook, and therefore you’re more likely to find people there who’re new to the Internet, or find it alien. Indeed, normal people. Not total geeks and nerds like us. I think that in time, poking around the Internet, everyone develops their own preferences, and if your preference stays with Facebook even after seeing the alternatives, then more power to you. If it’s the tool you want, you use it.

      For me, there are too many things about Facebook that are turn-offs. It feels too overmarketed, and there’s this strong air of capitalism which surrounds it, and then there are those dubious elements which raise privacy concerns. So yeah, all of those things I find to be turn-offs, so I only nosed at Facebook and then decided to see if there were other options. And lo, there were, since apparently I’m not the only person with my particular mindset (which would be surprising).

    • Wulf says:

      Addendum.

      What I’m getting at here is that I don’t honestly believe that Facebook is either evil or useless, and for the right people it is the right tool. It’s just not the right tool for me, personally speaking, but there are other tools which fill the gap. I think it’d only bring about some manner of suffering to try to force myself to use something I didn’t prefer with the realisation that something better existed.

      If Facebook was the only thing out there, I’d probably use it too. But truth be told there are thousands of other services which provide much the same, and some of those services are very closely tailored to what a person is looking for. I went looking and I found the ones that called out to me. But everyone is going to be like that and everyone is going to want to use their own thing, and to each person their choice is going to be–subjectively speaking–the best choice, because no other could work for them.

      I have no desire to paint Facebook as anything objectively (aside from raising the factual privacy concerns, for those that don’t know about them), everyone’s going to have their own take.

      Individuality FTW.

    • Levictus says:

      @Wulf

      While agree with many of things you mentioned about FB, you can’t deny that Facebook’s popularity makes it the only viable choice even for people who think that Apple’s products are overpriced locked-in trash. When I moved to the states for college, FB became my lifeline for keeping in touch with all my old friends who stayed in Europe. Few other services would offer a similar experience.

      And yeah, I do agree. The people behind FB are pretty big assholes. They’ll do anything for a few extra cents. I mean they are not on the same level of evil as mining companies, US government and such, but still…

    • Wulf says:

      @Levictus

      “While agree with many of things you mentioned about FB, you can’t deny that Facebook’s popularity makes it the only viable choice even for people who think that Apple’s products are overpriced locked-in trash.”

      Well that’s just it, yeah, I can deny that. The thing is, I can use other services which have Facebook-like services which work for me, that are tailored to myself and my interests, that would more easily put me in touch with the kind of people I want to be around. I have absolutely no use for Facebook in comparison to those other tools, and for myself I think there are plenty of viable tools.

      And the thing is, there are other social networking sites out there which are very popular, so I can’t be the only one that thinks that way. Just because Facebook is the most popular choice, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice or even the right choice, it just means that it’s the most popular choice. And being the most popular choice doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for me, or help me out in any way.

      “When I moved to the states for college, FB became my lifeline for keeping in touch with all my old friends who stayed in Europe. Few other services would offer a similar experience.”

      All I’m saying is that there are other services which can do that just as well, and people who are versed in the ways of the Internet are probably signed up at many social-networking venues, in fact, for certain types of people there are likely social-networking venues which are more crowded with the people who’re looking for what that site provides. Facebook is just a general catch-all, and it’s too generic for me. But if it works for you, that’s fine.

      Again, all I’m saying is that it’s wrong to say that Facebook is the only viable choice, it isn’t, there are many choices available. All it is is the most popular choice.

      “And yeah, I do agree. The people behind FB are pretty big assholes. They’ll do anything for a few extra cents. I mean they are not on the same level of evil as mining companies, US government and such, but still…”

      Yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said that every other day I read something on Slashdot about some questionable thing or other they’ve been doing. Thanks to Slashdot I went from just ignoring Facebook as something that some people who aren’t me use, to seeing it as a really questionable thing.

    • Matt W says:

      The thing about social-network sites* is that the majority of the value proposition is in the network, not in the site or the tools it provides. It’s the same reason that MSN (Europe)/AIM (US) are the “default” IM services, despite not being particularly awesome as IM services go: people will naturally gravitate towards the networking service which most of the people they want to network with are using.

      If you’re using Facebook it’s almost certainly because you want to interact with your friends and they’re using Facebook, and that’s the end of it. For the vast majority of people, discussing featuresets and privacy issues and so on is irrelevant – only a simultaneous mass-exodus is going to shift people now, and that would require both a strong upcoming competitor and a monumental, weapons-grade fuck-up on Facebook’s part.

      * Which are totally different from, and incidentally much less rare than, social networking sites

    • Severian says:

      @ Matt W

      You make a good point. However, I’ll say that I think Facebook could easily be pushed over the edge into irrelevancy. Look what happened to MySpace? It was the “hip” “happening” place to be a few years ago and now it’s a ghost town (except for the music artists, who will hopefully find a better home soon).

      The Facebook killer is out there, and it will be better.

    • Matt W says:

      Fair point. Actually, I’d love to see a detailed analysis of how that happened; my impression is that FB simply “overtook” MySpace by appealing to an older, larger audience that then allowed it to crush the latter by weight of numbers. I’m not sure you could repeat the trick because FB has too much of the potential market locked up. Also FB essentially lucked out in its starting position by initially being an exclusive network for university students, who were likely just about outgrowing MS. The makeup of that initial userbase I suspect is a big reason for its ongoing success.

      Also, from a Sunday Papers last year, this is probably relevant: http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/PDF2009.html (Specifically, it’s possible that FB users see MS as a ghost town because all their friends are in a similar social strata and thus have already move across; that doesn’t imply that the whole of MS is dead, but merely that the tiny corner a given user formerly inhabited is.)

    • Wulf says:

      @Matt

      Huh, fair point.

      Though I do wonder if that mass exodus has all ready happened, at least in some small circles.

      The thing is, of all my friends only a few of them actually bother with Facebook, and all of those few are also subscribed to other services which I actually use. It seems to them Facebook is a sort of ‘fallback’, where if they can’t find the people they want on better services, they have to fall back on Facebook and look there.

      I’ve never really had to do that, because as I said I have a particularly interesting group of friends and none of them care for Facebook. I suppose it depends on the social circles we work in.

    • Matt W says:

      Yeah, I’d pretty much agree with that. You also obviously have a bunch of other huge sites catering to other networks (age groups, different countries etc) like Bebo, Orkut, QQ and so on that don’t get a lot of coverage in the western press, presumably because most western adults have zero interaction with them. One of the few obvious ways I can see Facebook taking a fall though is for one of the groups that these sites cater to infiltrating the western social strata somehow and taking over. Orkut, for example, is big in Brazil and India and has about half the userbase of Facebook already.

  11. spinks says:

    This is my blog post about my experience with facebook gaming — I had intended to try playing for a month but I only made it about 3-4 days. I was quite annoyed by the really overt emotional manipulation and I just didn’t care enough about whether my virtual animals died because I didn’t love them enough… or something.

    Maybe I just have enough other ways to waste time online, but … yeah.

    • Premium User Badge Carra says:

      Oh, a familiar blogger-face on RPS. Didn’t see you before on here :)

      /Off to read the blogpost.

  12. wcaypahwat says:

    I’ve managed to avoid it so far. Thank god. I blocked any farmville posts from my feed, so I’ve no idea how many of my ‘friends’ play it, or similar games. I know it’s quite a few though.

    My sister picked it up for a couple of weeks. managed to outfarm all her friends in that time, then quit.
    Apparently real farming experience does give an advantage in-game. Whodathunkit.

  13. Mark says:

    I’m always amazed ay how astonishinly snobbish and elitist (“RPS Readers” – Ed) can be. If people wanna play a simple fucking game to pass some time, so what? Ever read a book that isn’t a novel or a “classic”? Theres a whole bunch of (“Folk” -Ed) out there who think you aren’t even a reader until you’ve read some James Joyce and Tolstoy – you are those same (“Chaps” – Ed).

    Basically the comments here and in that article are – “rofl look at all the n00bs playing silly little games, not proper leet manly games like me, I am way cooler.”

    (“Golly Bother” – Ed) you all, I wish i’d been born a jock.

    ED: The “play nice” was both for the pro and anti people, Mark.

    • Grunt says:

      You’ve obviously never played any of Zyngas output, have you, Mark? If you had you’d know WHY noses are being turned up. It’s not elitism: it’s a healthy recognition of great evil in our midst.

    • spinks says:

      And yet, you (probably) won’t see anyone here bitching about minesweeper or bejewelled, which are also very popular timewasting games with casual players. Why do you think that is?

    • Garg says:

      That’s because Minesweeper doesn’t ask for your credit card details to help some Chinese gold farming operation, or whatever the hell it was that Zynga has been doing unscrupulously. Minesweerper is no saint either, it just single handedly costs the global economy exactly 1.323 trillion billion dollars every second in lost work hours.

      Basically the problem people have isn’t that it’s a casual game, but that it’s run in a cynical and money grabbing way. That may be capitalism, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

    • Wulf says:

      @Garg

      Exactly.

      The crying shame is that people like Mark (whom I’m sure is normally a reasonable person) just isn’t aware that some of those who play games like Farmville aren’t gamers, and they think that what they’re given is standard for games. Unscrupulous conduct? Being milked for money? Emotional manipulation? They think that’s par the course for gaming, and what–I think–people are objecting to is that Farmville and systems like it are taking advantage of ignorance.

      Now, I made a far comparison above: What if Minecraft only gave you 100 free bricks and you had to pay for more? A seasoned and intelligent gamer would see that as nickel-and-diming, and we’ve had an ongoing war against poor quality DLC for years now. So it’s not just being snotty, it’s just a matter of fairness because we believe that we should get what we pay for, and that companies shouldn’t be able to manipulate and milk us. And that’s the thing, we’re not ignorant, we know what gaming is and we’re aware of what it can be at the best of times, and at the worst of times, and we know what we–personally–feel is unethical. I think that many here feel that expensive skin pack DLCs, horse armour DLCs, and Farmville are all one as bad as the other, but I might be wrong about that.

      It has nothing to do with the game being casual because I’ve put in my casual hours, and then some. The entire damn PopCap library, even. Yes, I own it. And I think games like Peggle, Plants vs Zombies, and Bookworm Adventures are well loved RPS favourites. We have no problem with these, and why? I bought mine on Steam, the prices were good for what I got, and I wasn’t milked with shit DLC or microtransactions beyond that point, either. So, to that end, no matter what anyone thinks I actually think of PopCap as the good guys. They even have demos!

      Furthermore, emotional manipulation in order to get extra money is… I feel that’s horrible, in my personal opinion it’s a damned abomination. The only people who should ever have the right to do this even a little bit are charities. Farmville is not a charity. Again, imagine if Minecraft had a pet, a pet which required foods and medicines which had to be bought with real world money. How would the average gamer react to that? There’d be an outcry! And yet there it is, the same kind of system in Farmville, run by questionable, greedy people, greedy people who’re taking advantage of non-gamers who don’t realise that gaming can be cheaper and fair.

      And this isn’t just my opinion in regards to Farmville, either. I have this opinion toward any MMORPG that has the same system. I’ve damned a huge number of Asian RPGs, and why? Experience scrolls, where exp grinding is ridiculously hard unless you buy your experience with real money, because I find that just as nasty. Now better examples would be stuff like Free Realms and Mythos. Mythos especially. In those games you can buy things, nice things even, but you can actually play the game properly without the need to buy anything from the item shop. That I prefer.

      The point here is that it’s not at all about elitism, this isn’t being elitist, this is just desiring fairness and being outraged at those who take advantage of people who don’t know any better (yet). If these people were introduced to the likes of Ultima Online and Minecraft, Harvest Moon, and so on, then they’d see what gaming could be. And if they then chose to return to Farmville and willingly opted to be milked with all the information at hand, then so be it, that’s their choice, you know?

      But the majority don’t know of Minecraft, or of Ultima Online, and they need to be told. This is why I’m sure some think that Farmville is bad, very, very bad.

      I’m sure that understanding that, Mark might just be feeling a little silly about the RPS audience now, because I know I’m a casual supporter, and I know there are many people like me here. John Walker is Mr. Casual. So this community really isn’t the right font for such outrage, but I do understand that there can be elitist gamers out there, yes. Sometimes we even have the odd one in here, I’ll admit that too, but on this topic… what can I say? The cause is just.

    • Mark says:

      I was being deliberately unreasonable for effect, i’m impressed the post wasn’t simply deleted :P

      I was reacting to the majority of durp durp posting in both comment sections though, namely a bunch of people being the usual dicks about casual gaming. Wulf’s more articulate argument about the way the game is run sounds about right – allthough the point about it giving ignorant new/non gamers a bad idea of what gaming is actually like is matched by the fact most of the commenters are doing the exact same thing with their comments.

    • Wulf says:

      See? I knew you were a reasonable sort, and I’d figured this was more in the vein of being defensive about casual games, but… the vast majority at least respect casual games here, honest guv! John Walker would give them sad, sad puppy dog eyes if they didn’t, and they’d feel very ashamed. This even includes hunt-the-object games, some of which I’ve quite enjoyed (I loved Drawn: The Painted Tower, that was a beautiful little thing).

      And I agree that people who just dismiss casual games without fully understanding them are just ignorant and perhaps a bit elitist, especially those who make fun of casual games, that’s just silly. Though I think many here could get behind the idea that if someone is bashing casual games just because they’re casual, they’re just being a bit of a clueless loon.

      There’s plenty of space for casual games in the PC market, and on my hard drive!

  14. Jockie says:

    The only Facebook game i’ve touched (apart from a brief look at Cliffskis Sims game) is Bejewelled Blitz because I have a mile long competitive streak and there were friends scores to beat, was always careful to make sure nothing got spammed all over my friends walls though. Wouldn’t touch Farmville with a 10ft pole though.

    Mind you, when the Civilisation facebook game comes out I’ll probably be all over it, apparently one of the co-creators of Civ works for Zynga now.

  15. Vinraith says:

    Regarding “85 million.” I know several people who play Farmville that have multiple Facebook accounts for the purpose. The “game” basically requires you to have various milestone numbers of neighbors to do various critical things, so if getting friends/family to join in sufficient numbers fails (or if, god forbid, you’re a decent enough sort not to want to spam your friends list with this shit) it makes sense to just start manufacturing “neighbors.” I don’t know how many people think to do that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a significant percentage of those “85 million” Facebook accounts didn’t actually correspond to a person at all.

  16. Tei says:

    My FarmVilla account is a big empty area with the words TEI written on the most useless crop. I created a account, just to fuel my sister account (more neightbors= more money). I suppose a big part of these 85 m. are something like that, and not real accounts.

  17. jsutcliffe says:

    I don’t really have a strong opinion one way or another on Farmville. Having played other gardening games and quite enjoyed them (e.g. Viva Pinata, Harvest Moon) I’m not going to jump up and say that Farmville’s not a proper game, and this kind of socialsation of gaming through integration with services like Facebook is actually fairly intriguing — I have no interest in playing Farmville, but I’m quite interested to see what happens with Civilization Network.

    On the other hand, my Facebook friends list sure did take one hell of a winnowing when I deleted everyone who was spamming the news feed with Farmville nonsense. Those notifications need to be opt-in.

    • Wulf says:

      I like farming too, I have to say. I really enjoy setting up a nice walled garden in Minecraft, it’s one of my favourite things to do. I have a wall around everything, two or three blocks thick/high, and inside I have a little garden of wonders; trees, a field of crops, proper irrigation, flowers, and all well lit. One of the two things in Lord of the Rings: Online I really enjoyed was farming, so I could give people fun things to play with (the other thing was the music playing). In Ultima Online, when farming was introduced there, I had a sizeable farm, along with the appropriate farm animals. And I’ve played the likes of Harvest Moon, of course. I just find it oddly relaxing and enjoyable.

      I wouldn’t play Farmville though due to how they milk people, but that has nothing to do with it being a farm game, or a casual game, but rather it has everything to do with the evils of microtransactions.

    • TeeJay says:

      I enjoyed the biodeck in Startopia – you could bio-engineer the terrain to produce suitable plants and employ Karmaramans (four armed purple skinned hippy aliens) to harvesting their resources.

      “The fantastic thing about the Bio-Deck is how you can sculpt and landscape it to your whims. You can raise and lower land, pour or drain lakes, build snowy hills or scorching deserts. You get four controls: raising and lowering land; adding or subtracting water; cooling or heating the soil, or saturating or drying out the soil. There are nine types of nanosoil, determined by the combinations of moisture and temperature and a tenth: water. Each type can only produce the one type of plant and shrub, but you can mix and blend nanosoils together to get some pretty nice organic effects. Any plant that finds itself outside its habitable soil and conditions will slowly wither and die.

      The most effective Bio-Deck – i.e. the one that attracts the most paying customers – is the one that has the most interesting terrain. Raise lots of mountains, build some nice swimming holes and create different terrain to please different kinds of Peep. The more you mix and match environments, the more visitors they tend to attract. You can accessorize them further and beam Statues and other Deck items like Litter Bins and Street Lamps. But in order to do this you need to set them up on one of the lower decks and then beam them to the Bio-Deck via your Transporter Buffer.”

      Real Time Strategic Carnage, Startopia pages: http://www.rakrent.com/rtsc/rtsc_startopia.htm

  18. Heliocentric says:

    Can’t ignore 85 million? Just watch me!

  19. The_B says:

    I used to play FV, but ensured I never posted anything to anybody’s wall or even my own newsfeed. I don’t think it was shame as such or more I just had very little interest in the aspect of the game that those posts provided.

    I mainly stopped as, quite honestly, I just got bored. Whether, metaphorically, that means I’m just immune to cocaine and can only get off on the heroin, I have no idea.

    • The_B says:

      Although I will point out I haven’t really moved on permanetly to any other Facebook game except for Bejewelled Blitz, which I was playing before and after Farmville anyway, so it – as far as I can tell – had no real effect on my gaming habits whatsoever.

    • Arathain says:

      Bejewelled Blitz is damn fine, frankly. Particularly for someone who was once a major DS Zookeeper addict (high score on the timed mode- 5.9 million. I could never break 6 million, which was frustrating, because I knew I could have done better that game).

      Anyway, it’s like Zookeeper, but shorter and with explosions.

    • Wulf says:

      I’m interested in this Bejewelled Blitz, but I wouldn’t engage in Facebook for it, sadly.
       
      I get my fix from multiplayer Tetris Friends and Dino-Run.
       
      I will note that Dino-Run in multiplayer is incredible, and I’ve organised more than a few games of that with friends. Extra hilarity is added if you donate and get the code for the hats. Abraham Rex in: The Extinction Run, yeah, that’s totally my scene.

  20. Sagan says:

    I had always thought gaming becoming mainstream would be cooler.

  21. the wiseass says:

    Avatar was a popular movie, that doesn’t make it a good movie. The backstreet boys were widely popular, that doesn’t make it good music. We are living in a time, where Simon Cowell can literally turn shit into gold, where Tokyo Hotel is even considered music and where people are playing Farmville like it’s the next best thing.

    On the other hand, Moon was not so popular but can be considered as one of the best sci fi movies ever, Stanislaw Lem isn’t well known but is one of the best writers ever and Psychonauts was a brilliant game but did not find a huge audience.

    I’ve long given up to define popularity as a synonym for quality. Usually the good stuff that makes you actually think isn’t very popular, while the mindless stuff that just wants to entertain you becomes massively popular. Maybe I’m wrong and I’m just weird or maybe I’ve actually got a brain that I can use to look a little further than the tasteless entertainment mud that is spoon fed to me every day.

    So Farmville got 85 million registered users (I pretty much doubt they’re all active players), that gives me 85 million reasons to lose hope in humanity. I’d rather much see it like that.

    • Wulf says:

      Hm, someone else who thought Avatar was only an ‘average’ movie, I thought I was the only one. I couldn’t get into it because throughout the movie I couldn’t stop thinking that they’d just took the script from Dances with Wolves (I love that movie) and overlaid it with special effects. Given the choice of watching Avatar or Dances with Wolves, I’d pick the latter.

    • RedFred says:

      I pretty much totally agree with you. Just because something is popular does not mean it is good.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wulf

      I’ve not seen Avatar (it didn’t look interesting from the trailers), but I’ve been told it’s very close in plot to an old 90′s animated movie called Fern Gully. I admit, though, that even from the trailers I got a very strong Dances With Wolves/Last Samurai sense.

      @the wiseass

      It’s pretty easy to conclude that popularity is no guarantor of quality, lots of examples present themselves. It can be harder to remember, I find, that popularity doesn’t automatically mean something is bad, either. One of the things that makes finding a good thing difficult, be it movie, book, game, or whatever, is that there are no easy formulas and no one’s taste is going to be quite the same as yours.

    • TeeJay says:

      I posted this a few days ago

      …in most many areas of culture the “best” stuff (imo) is “niche”. Personally I don’t look at ‘sales charts’ or ‘popularity contests’ to find stuff that I like or rate, otherwise I’d be reading Da Vinci Code/Harry Potter, watching Gone With The Wind, Avatar, Coronation Street and Strictly Come Dancing, listening to Coldplay, Take That and the Radio 2 breakfast show…

  22. Grunt says:

    Zynga are the devil.

  23. Sagan says:

    @ everyone who says that you can ignore 85 million people:
    You are wrong. Because a lot of developers don’t ignore those 85 million. And now you have people like Brayn Reynolds, Sid Meier, Soren Johnson and Richard Garriott working on Facebook games. Maybe something brilliant will come out of that, but I think it is more likely that they could make better games if they made full-price games.

    • Grunt says:

      I’m confused. When did the meaning of the pronoun “you” change to mean “all games developers”? I’m still pretty sure I could ignore 85 million people just as surely as I’d ignore any other probably false statistic.

      If we get better games out of the Facebook model then, yes, perhaps good things will come of it but when you have developers like Dave Perry of Shiny Entertainment (that used to make creative, inventive, worthwhile games before they sold their souls for the Matrix film rights) saying that adding more clicks into a game to allow customers to purchase a way to remove them is a valid way of making money, a la the Zynga ‘hook-em and manipulate-em until they open their wallets’ model, then there’s something eminently worrying going on, that should probably best be ignored.

    • Lilliput King says:

      “I’m confused. When did the meaning of the pronoun “you” change to mean “all games developers”? I’m still pretty sure I could ignore 85 million people just as surely as I’d ignore any other probably false statistic.”

      We can’t ignore it because the people that are making our games aren’t going to ignore it.

      This isn’t a difficult concept.

  24. Heliocentric says:

    Ha, i never played farmvile(intentional typo). I asked a friend who played it what the attraction was. If told me “its addictive”, that and all the spam i got was all i needed to know.

  25. drewski says:

    It’s just WoW for people who think videogames are childish, really.

    There’s a really good article on Cracked.com about video game mechanics tweaked toward compulsive behaviour, I forget to keep the link but you can get it in the comments on Ellie’s piece (which is excellent.)

    As for the raw numbers – sure, maybe 85 million people don’t actively play Farmville, but it wouldn’t surprise me if about 1/4 Facebook users have at least signed up and played it once. I know I was getting the hell spammed out of my news feed until Facebook finally allowed you to block specific applications, rather that just specific friends.

    Block Mob Wars? Oh yes. Block Farmville? Absopositively.

  26. Buemba says:

    If nothing else, Farmville has my respect for actually convincing my mother to play a videogame. She never expressed the slightest interest in ever trying a game before even though gaming has been a part of my household’s routine since the NES and Master System era and my sister plays several Wii games that would be right up her alley daily.

    Unless my dad’s exaggerating, now my mom is more hooked on Farmville than I’ve ever been on any game. I don’t know how to feel about that.

    • Wulf says:

      I suppose I’m lucky in that respect, my family is modernised.

      I mean… my gran played Golden Axe and Streets of Rage. Totally not kidding. She’s recently played Castle Crashers on the 360, too. Yes, my gran. It seems like my whole family is in tune with technology, and myself more so than any of them.

      She absolutely loves the Wii, too, for letting her play old classics like Ecco and Toejam & Earl.

    • Gassalasca says:

      Wow. I envy you, Wulf. By the way, how old is your gran, if you don’t mind my asking?

    • Wulf says:

      She’s 68! And she still loves games. Has her own Wii/DS Lite, and a laptop too. She even enjoys Doctor Who. So I tend to have a great familial connection with my gran, as she tends to be more connected with what I do than most older people I’ve met.

      That’s the nature of my family though, we love technology. I worry that if I were ever to have a Grandson, he’d end up being bloody Forge.

    • Gassalasca says:

      My grandparents are older (early nineties), so I am kind of proud of them for even using email regularly. But generally, I hope to be the one to start the family tradition of being tech-savvy old geezer. I’ll start by teaching my kid how to build a PC… as soon as I have one, and it turns three (the kid I mean, not the PC).

  27. cliffski says:

    I played FV for a week to see how it worked, because I thought I’d be lax as a game developer if I just never tried it.
    I was surprised at how shallow and crap it was. i expected there to be some ‘game’ in there. I didn’t expect chess, but I didn’t expect something that shallow and pointless either.
    It seemed to lack all personality or atmiospjhere or anything. Its one fo thsoe game that is huge ebcause… its huge. Everyone you know plays farmville, soy ou end up playing.
    A bit like that other gaming masterpiece: Evony.

    No doubt I count as one fo those 85 million pointless stats. A stat that means nothing, because I never let FV spam my friends, nor did I ever gvie zynga a single cent. I suspetc thats true of 99% of FV players.

  28. TenjouUtena says:

    Seriously? I can’t ignore 85 million people? That’s your best argument?

    There’s more Twilight Fans then that, and no one seriously writes reviews stating that ‘Oh it’s popular so everyone must go like it.’

    And honestly, Zynga’s “Rapidly Developing FarmVille: How We Created and Scaled a No. 1 Facebook Game in Five Weeks” could be 5 minutes long: ‘Go steal someone else’s idea, and market it better’

  29. mandrill says:

    I read Rock Paper Shotgun to hear about real games. Not datamining marketing tools like Farmville.
    Less about Facebook non-games please.

    • Arathain says:

      A politely intended counter: I come to RPS to read about all aspects of PC gaming, and this particular one is too huge to ignore, and too interesting not to discuss.

      My wife has played. She was playing Farm… Town? I think, for quite a while. She ran a cafe (Cafe World?), and occasionally goes back to that one. She plays Treasure Madness regularly. That one seems a bit better than the others, frankly- at least you get to play a range of puzzle games, not all of which are awful. She’s also never given them a cent of money, and feels no need to.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      Exactly — I come to RPS because I know it won’t all be mainstream fluff (no that there’s anything wrong with mainstream fluff), and that you can realistically expect to read about more fringey aspects of PC gaming here — Kieron and his indie obsession, Jim talking about serious wargames that scare me, John and his quest for a good story, and Alec and his [not sure about Alec's speciality]. If all I wanted to hear about was Blockbuster Game IV: The Blockbustering there are any number of other sites that could give me that info.

      Also, I read RPS for its Britishness, but that’s beside the point.

    • Wulf says:

      Everything jsutcliffe has said is what I would’ve said, though I would’ve emphasised the love of indie/fringe coverage, here.

      And really, ignorance is bad. It’s good to talk about these things, and then it’s good to show these things to other people who might not be so knowledgeable so they can read them and talk too. RPS is as much of a community and discourse site as it is a news site, and there are times I’ve been glad of that. This is one of them.

    • Vinraith says:

      @mandrill
      jsutcliffe and Wulf have already put it better than I could, but I’d particularly like to emphasize Wulf’s “ignorance is bad” item. Not being aware of a bad thing doesn’t make it go away, and not being aware of why a thing is bad actively encourages it. Personally, I come to RPS to find out about interesting new games, reminisce about old ones I’m fond of, promote those games I really enjoy, and find out what’s going on in the industry. This falls into that last category, because while you certainly can ignore 85 million people the industry obviously won’t.

  30. Mistabashi says:

    The secret to this game’s success is definately due to it’s isometric tile-based graphics. I mean, I can’t be the only person that gets moist at the very sight of some isometric bitmaps, can I? Ok, maybe that isn’t quite such a universal fetish, but it’s got to account for at least some of those 85 bajillion players.

  31. cjlr says:

    It’s the combination of hilariously transparent cash grab and reasonably okay way to kill a few minutes that makes it succeed.

    Those 85 million people arent’ gamers. They won’t ever be gamers. They probably wouldn’t even call Farmville a video game. They’re the ones who’d otherwise be playing solitaire and minesweeper. Or in casinos.

    • Grunt says:

      Casinos! Exactly! That’s what bugs me about Zynga’s games – they’re 21st century slot machines, designed with the same hypnotic principles of bright shiny rewards (flashing lights and patterns of old have been replaced with special items/animals/etc) in order to foster addictive tendencies and – it is hoped – generate cash. The people who play these Facebook games are the modern-day equivalent to those mindless zombies you see sitting in Vegas casinos pumping money in every few seconds.

    • Wulf says:

      Never did like casinos either, so I have to agree.

      I think the concept of casual gaming is fantastic, and the concept of games for people who aren’t-gamers-and-never-will-be-gamers is okay too, it’s just the way it’s all designed like a slot machine that’s bothersome. It’s like those online gambling sites and all, it’s much the same vein.

      I’d really love to see someone develop this kind of thing with a fair price and without the questionable elements, just for those people who want it.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Grunt and Wulf

      The casino aspect is half of it, the other half is basically a pyramid scheme. The notion that to achieve anything you have to drag as many other people into playing the game as possible, and then get them to devote more and more time to feeding you items and accepting items you feed them. A large part of Farmville’s success is that it requires active and continuous evangelism to progress, so it spreads exponentially. That also applies peer pressure against ceasing to be an active player, in that you are “abandoning” others who “depend” on you for their continued progress in the “game.”

    • Grunt says:

      Absolutely, Vinraith. I had a job once, in my misguided youth, supposedly selling these awful overpriced hoovers (£900 each, as I recall). I only lasted a day because it very quickly became apparent that they wanted me to start selling among my friends and relatives. As you’ve stated, Zynga operate on similar principles. They’re as bad as that Amway nonsense that percolated in the early 90′s. What they’re doing is insidious and underhanded and shame on any developer that’s jumping on the bandwagon chasing pound/dollar signs.

      We gamers are decent people (mostly) with a fine set of principles based on years of creativity and freedom of expression. To see the masses sucked in by these…cons….that describe nothing of the true beauty of our hobby isn’t just a shame, or something to be ignored – it’s something that should be actively resisted to safeguard our very future as an entertainment/artform.

  32. Uhm says:

    People need to lighten up.

  33. Tei says:

    Off-topic.

    I buy all my games in Steam, but wen I get bored I read what one Warez site have to show. And for some reason theres about a 50% of real games, and other 50% of “pixel hunt” things. I don’t know if this is a warez site artifact, or is how the world is going now.

    Are the Casual market here already? betwen us? playing games and all, having a gigantic presence on the PC market, one that is almost invisible to us?

    We will never know, but I am suspicioud that something is moving out here. Maybe even gaming is getting a “mainstream” side.

    • Matt W says:

      “Are the Casual market here already? betwen us? playing games and all, having a gigantic presence on the PC market, one that is almost invisible to us? ”

      Yes. See: Popcap. It may be invisible to a lot of the “hardcore”, but the publishers are well aware of it. See: Playfish.

  34. Matt W says:

    Regardless of whether you like/approve of what they’re doing, this stuff is significant. People are of course completely within their rights to wilfully ignore it, deride the people playing it as “simpletons”, treat it with contempt and/or take perverse pride in not understanding it. Some of these attitudes are childish and/or stupid, but that doesn’t make them invalid. Be aware, however, that most of ther are very likely going to lead to having some extremely unpleasant surprise in the future.

    Facebook games are not “the future” – no one thing ever is, however much serially-inaccurate professionals who really should know better keep proclaiming. But the underlying trends are not going to go away. If you aspire to be informed about the future of gaming, you’re going to have to wrap your heads around this stuff. Read page 4 of the article again, because it’s the most succinct summary of the “social” hooks which are driving this thing that I’ve found yet. Read it with an inquiring mind and have a think about it. Far more people will grind Diablo 2 in multiplayer than in single player.

    Also, more Ellie Gibson on RPS please – she’s the only person left on there for whom I’d read an article just because of the byline.

  35. Jannakar says:

    @Uhm

    Sure, but Eurogamer are definitely touching peoples’ special places by bringing up Farmville. Nothing like a bit of casual gaming to bring down the red mist.

    Now, if they would run a special Farmville-on-iPhone review, they might get the internet to explode.

  36. Taillefer says:

    Entertaining article. I was going to show it to some people, but I’m not sure I want them to know you can play Farmville without logging into Facebook. I’ve lost enough friends, you know.

    • Taillefer says:

      I think there’s incredible potential for facebook games. There’s no reason it can’t start serving games that are of interest to gamers. Even games concentrating on a single-player experience, but delivered through facebook seems straight forward enough. Potentially, facebook could be part game-delivery platform, with all the foundation for groups and discussion around those games in place. Of course, we need the right devs.

      I have no interest in Farmville one way or the other (apart from not wanting all games to imitate it), but if it leads to some developers realising they have another way of providing me with entertainment, that’s fine by me.

  37. Hat Galleon says:

    Mandrill, I get what you’re saying, but I don’t agree. The fact that Farmville has such popularity is an important thing to the future of PC game development, and also brings up some design concepts that could (or should, depending) be put into other PC games to great effect. I understand that you want to hear about games with fun or feeling rather than soulless, repetitive games, but the uninteresting (gameplay-wise) games give context to the interesting ones, and can even teach valuable lessons about gaming in general. Just sit through it, learn something from it, and then enjoy the next good-game-based article that they post.

  38. Berzee says:

    To add to the discussion of highbrow versus lowbrow entertainment and art, here’s G.K. Chesterton defending “penny dreadfuls” — http://www.cse.dmu.ac.uk/~mward/gkc/books/penny-dreadfuls.html.

    Of course he does not defend Evil Penny Dreadfuls such as are Facebook Games.

    (this is mostly a reply to whoever mentioned Stanislaw Lem but the reply functionality is bizarrely and startlingly uncooperative today).

    • Bret says:

      Man. Chesterton is awesome when he’s really going.

      Not sure if it entirely applies to all the arguments here, though.

      I mean the sucky game ones, sure. But the scam ones still apply.

      Maybe moreso.

  39. Spindaden says:

    “More people than there are in Germany.

    Which got us thinking. Can 85 million people be wrong?”

    I just thought “godwinned“.

  40. Mario Figueiredo says:

    >> As she concludes: “Here’s the thing: whether they’re right or wrong, you can’t ignore 85 million people.”

    Yes, you can.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      And especially when you are already ignoring Facebook and its 400 million subscriptions.

    • drewski says:

      It’s a bit like discussing 21st century TV trends and ignoring reality shows, though. Yes, you as a user can ignore them, but anyone who wants to look at gaming as a serious pursuit (either from a journalism, gameplay or business perspective) can’t.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I’ll give you a tip: click the Farmville tag on this article. I’ll wait while you consider if you want to edit your post.

      In any case, I do see where you are coming from and I partially agree. But do not include “journalism”, or “gameplay” (whatever that means) in it. Journalism can at large ignore Farmville, if they so wish. It all boils down to how much a member of the mainstream journalist group you want to be, or what’s the focus of your gaming news website/blog/whatever.

      As for gamers they can too. Even (especially?) if they are serious gamers, even if they are gamers in search of something new. Farmville is some sort of phenomena, I agree. But there is very little of gaming phenomena in it, when compared to the business phenomena. Everything Farmville does in gameplay (is this what you meant?) has been done since the 90s by sim games, by casual games, by browser games, and even by social MMOs.

      The real value is in the business. And Farmville has all the ingredients of yet another bubble. We’ll see.

    • TeeJay says:

      I’m not a journalist or developer and I’m not sure what the important “gamplay” lesson taken from Farmville is. Journalists probably should be interested in how to fill in their tax returns or who the editor is on magasine X, but does that mean they *have* to write about it? Does this mean the average PC gamer should be interested in hearing about it?

      People go into a real craze about World of Warcraft and some publications seem to like writing about it in every single edition, but for a lot of people they just get really sick of hearing about it, and there isn’t a massive amopunt of evidence that it’s design principles or business models have been successfully copied or exported to other games, have influenced gaming in general or that any massive lessons have been “learnt” by studying it. Maybe it has had some massive impact but I am trying hard to think how it has impacted on single-player RPGs, strategy or FPS (single and multi) games or various arcadey and oddball stuff – ie the kind of thing I actually play.

      I learnt long ago to mentally filter out stuff about WoW and started avoiding places where it was obsessively discussed. I have never played it and despite and fuck-tonnage of column inches written about it I still don’t have any desire to do so.

  41. Wulf says:

    I might be saying something that seems contentious here, but I ask whomever has started reading to read it fully, because I’m not out to raise ire.

    As I’ve mentioned, the problem I have with games like Farmville are the same problems I have with DLC, slot machines, or any other system that uses questionable methods of damn-near brainwashing to convince people to part with their money. The games are fine, what the games are being used to do isn’t.

    Is this what a lot of developers are going to start working on soon?

    I can’t help but think that about 2015-2018 we’re going to see independent gaming blow up to a massive size, why? It sounds like some developers are all ready working on questionable things and they’ve no taste for it, eventually their own conscience might get the better of them and they’ll want to make their own game, something which is fair to the players.

    I can see independent coming to mean a lot more to people, and people in general, not just gamers. I can actually see the birth of independent teams putting together stuff like Farmville, with a basis on fairness rather than money-grubbing. And that’s going to be interesting.

    It might even come about sooner than that.

    Regardless, I do find this all very interesting.

    • Taillefer says:

      Yeah, it’s the way I was trying to look at things. I’m kind of repeating my post here, but some devs will see this simply as an opportunity to imitate the model and make quick profit for little effort. But others are going to look at it as an opportunity to serve a vast amount of people with something they’ve lovingly crafted, and that’s what I’m excited about.

      These games don’t have to be massively multiplayer, they don’t have to involve any part of Facebook at all apart from using it as a method of delivery to the user. They can be free and ad-supported, or direct payments. We can play VVVVVV from within our accounts or Neptune’s Pride. The potential is there. It’s just waiting for the right people.

    • Severian says:

      @ Wulf & Taillerfer

      Yes, exactly. FV is shite but that’s because it’s at the forefront of a gaming revolution (excuse the hyperbole) which will combine the power of the internet/social gaming with small-time, indie developers. Of course some people are going to use time-honored Skinnerian reinforcement and foot-in-the-door techniques to make a quick buck. But there are hundreds of young game developers out there who will use this new distribution model to bring us fresh, creative, and exhilaratingly fun new games. I prefer optimism. In a competitive model, people WILL choose not to be exploited if they are given something equivalently easy-to-use and fun(ner).

    • AHdaddy says:

      Playing the Devil’s Advocate, what is wrong with giving away something for free and letting the user themselves determine what level of investment they want to put into it. How many times has the ‘serious’ gamer bought the latest $59.99 blockbuster effort only to get home and realize “Wow, this really sucks!”. One can evaluate the quality of a game and choose to pony up or not. If one gets 40 hours of entertainment out of Farmville, is it not worth $59.99, even incrementally? I see some posters use the word ‘hooked’. Is that just not a synonym for ‘entertained’?

      I wonder where some take offense at Farmville. Is it the Sup Par game play, the solicitation for funds, the pyramid scheme aspects? Each of these can be explained away rationally without the ‘evil’ label. A free, entertaining, easy to use and run experience where I get to choose how involved I am? And from the developers standpoint I am entertaining 85 millions of people, and I can share my achievements with friends? I could see rationalizing that. To justify the ‘evil’ label some have used, do we need some evidence that the developers are enticing users invest to beyond their means? That is where the distinction may lie between Farmville and a slot machine.

    • Wulf says:

      “[...] what is wrong with giving away something for free and letting the user themselves determine what level of investment they want to put into it.”

      Because the way in which it does this is predatory, I’m no stranger to understanding behavioural patterns and conditioning. If it were like Mythos and there was no attempt to create a compulsion within the player to spend money then I’d be all for that, but they tend to use things like emotional manipulation and addictive elements to keep the player playing, and more importantly, paying.

      On the same note, I don’t like crappy DLC because it tries to use the base of a brilliant game to sell next to no content (or shitty content) at a ludicrously high price, I don’t like slot machines because they try to nurture an addictive side to a person’s behaviour, I don’t like World of Warcraft because it uses grinding and raiding to try to ensure that addicts will fund their game, and I don’t like Farmville because it uses similar, questionable tactics to make people part with their money.

      If it was honest, I’d have no issues. But it isn’t, the objectionable tactics of Zynga muddy the game.

      “How many times has the ’serious’ gamer bought the latest $59.99 blockbuster effort only to get home and realize “Wow, this really sucks!”.”

      Me? None in a good few years now, that I can recall! I ignore marketing campaigns. Plus, I tend to pick up mainstream games in sales, so I rarely ever pay even the price you’re citing. And the thing here is that I have no compulsion to pay a price higher than I want to, this is not true of Farmville. Therefore, that can’t work as a fair comparison, can it?

      “If one gets 40 hours of entertainment out of Farmville, is it not worth $59.99, even incrementally?”

      I would say no, and I would again point out that this is an unfair comparison. If Farmville was the kind of mainstream game you’re trying to force a comparison to then you’d pay for it once, and no more than once. You’re suggesting I buy a mainstream game, say, Mass Effect 2, and then every month I re-buy it for the same price as I paid for it originally.

      Thanks but no thanks. That’s milking, and even the big publishers know enough to not be that stupid.

      “I see some posters use the word ‘hooked’. Is that just not a synonym for ‘entertained’?”

      Not really, no. Is a drug addict ‘entertained’ after the drug wears off but they can’t shake the addiction? Is a gambler ‘entertained’ after they lose all their money at a slot machine? No, to me, the kind of ‘hook’ you’re talking about is manufactured addiction, and I think that manufactured addiction is a very unethical thing, from a personal point of view.

      “I wonder where some take offense at Farmville.”

      I think you all ready know, but I’ll play along… Devil’s Advocate and all, like you said!

      “Is it the Sup Par game play,”

      Not at all, because as I’ve said many times throughout this thread, I really dig casual games. I don’t think casual games have sub-par gameplay.

      “[...] the solicitation for funds, the pyramid scheme aspects?”

      Yes and yes.

      I’ve all ready talked about the fact that manufactured addiction and the manipulation of emotions in order to generate profit are questionable at best (and unethical at worst), so I’d like to talk about the pyramid scheme and the trouble that can cause. The pyramid scheme is a nasty thing because they use it to get people to do some of their social engineering for them, and that’s insidious.

      Consider: One of a family plays Farmville, and they want the entire family to sign up and play to get more stuff, someone refuses and they’re given the cold shoulder, someone does sign up and they play only to keep the one person happy with a trickle of new items. They are then not playing for their own happiness but for the happiness of someone else, they’ve been roped in. Someone all ready covered this ground, it was Tei, I believe, and he put it very eloquently.

      So again we have questionable tactics. Social engineering is used to convince new people to play, and then emotional manipulation and manufactured addiction are used to keep them playing. Once again, from a personal standpoint I see that as something of an abomination, it is so because it preys upon people in many different ways. It’s not an honest predator either, that I could respect, no, this predator does its work through the role of a puppetmaster.

      “Each of these can be explained away rationally without the ‘evil’ label.”

      No one here has used an ‘evil’ label. That’s just putting words into the mouth of myself and others. In fact, I don’t believe there’s even one instance of that, or even the implication thereof. They’re just a business and they’re trying to make money, my beef with them is that they’re doing this through a very unethical means. There are more honest, better ways to make money.

      “A free, entertaining, easy to use and run experience where I get to choose how involved I am?”

      If we’re talking about Farmville, it’s not easy to say how much control each individual has over how involved they are. That’s the problem. And it’s clearly designed to work that why, otherwise the emotional manipulation, the pyramid scheme, and the manufactured addiction wouldn’t need to be there in the first place. If something is genuinely fun, you don’t need to turn it into a peer-pressure enforced drug.

      “And from the developers standpoint I am entertaining 85 millions of people, and I can share my achievements with friends?”

      I have no argument with that.

      “To justify the ‘evil’ label some have used, [...]”

      Weasel words. Who have used?

      Why is it that I eventually come across questionable debating tactics when someone takes up an argument with me? Don’t be intellectually dishonest.

      “[...] do we need some evidence that the developers are enticing users invest to beyond their means?”

      The pyramid scheme is the evidence, I’d say. It’s fairly obvious. The logical person asks oneself what a pyramid scheme is used for, and therein lies the answer. If it wasn’t true then–once again–there would be no pyramid scheme.

      “That is where the distinction may lie between Farmville and a slot machine.”

      Not really, no. I respectfully disagree.

    • AHdaddy says:

      @ Wulf,

      Thanks for the post. Again arguing for the sake of argument….

      “they tend to use things like emotional manipulation and addictive elements to keep the player playing, and more importantly, paying.”

      I think I will disagree on the level of addictiveness part. This is not crack cocaine. No one is holding a kitten over a cliff, and so long as the game does not get in the way of work or family life to a detrimental degree, I would hesitate to use the label. I for one would play civilization turn after turn long into the night. Never did I think I was addicted. I thought ‘boy is this fun!’. In short I think the use of addict and addictive is too purjorative. If we label them as addicts, then we don’t have to deal with them as ‘real’ gamers; Merely mindless dupes. I think that misses the point.

      “And the thing here is that I have no compulsion to pay a price higher than I want to, this is not true of Farmville.”

      This is an arguable point. There are many threads on RPS that delve into what the right price is for a game. And many people that regardless of price would purchase a certain game due to its novelty or production value or what have you. I think the pressure to buy more than you can afford is not limited to Farmville, and not limited to Microtransactional games. Will some spend more than they should? Sure. I would not argue the game by definition requires this. Again, you get to choose your own level of engagement.

      RE the use of ‘evil’. I hope you think I am not taking you out of context.

      “I wouldn’t play Farmville though due to how they milk people, but that has nothing to do with it being a farm game, or a casual game, but rather it has everything to do with the evils of microtransactions.” -Wulf

      I am not necessarily offended by milking. If I get a demo of a regular old non-microtransactional game is that not enticing me to but the full version? Can it be argued that Farmville offers the additional choice of the user deciding when the game ends? An off the shelf game has a hard coded finish. How much is fair to pay for an open ended game? What if new, fresh content is always supplied?

      As far as questionable debate tactics go:

      “Consider: One of a family plays Farmville, and they want the entire family to sign up and play to get more stuff, someone refuses and they’re given the cold shoulder, someone does sign up and they play only to keep the one person happy with a trickle of new items. They are then not playing for their own happiness but for the happiness of someone else, they’ve been roped in. Someone all ready covered this ground, it was Tei, I believe, and he put it very eloquently.”

      Seems a bit ‘arguing the hypothetical’ to me. I don’t doubt it happens to some, I only argue that it can be extrapolated too far. And the sample size here is N=1.

      In the end, I want to get at a few questions. Some are raised by you, some by others on this thread.

      Are there 85 million users? I see no reason to doubt that number.
      Are those 85 million users ‘gamers’ in the same sense someone playing Team Fortress 2 is? I would say yes. They are willing to pay to be entertained electronically. If you really think there is a difference, what is the distinction?
      Are they duped into overpaying? How can one assume this? If they are on par with gamers like you or I or the RPS community what evidence is there that this is the case? If you reject they are gamers, I would enjoy a definition.
      I certainly do not believe any of the 85M are idiots as some posts to this thread indicate; They merely use a different ‘console’ if you want to call it that. It is free and it is called Facebook. I find it interesting to note that my Xbox 360 recently provided access to Facebook. Are we at the point where we should be looking at it the other way around? That Facebook will have support for 360 games? So if Facebook is the most used ‘console’, explain to me why people who play Farmville are not gamers.

      Reading your posts I see you have concerns about the ethics concerned with micro-transactions. I guess the argument here is that it is just another payment model. It is no more insidious than any other. Just because people want to play does not mean it is addictive. Maybe an analogy here is old school arcade games. If I play Galaga, I put in my quarter. If I die, I can put in another to continue. How much have I spent on Galaga? Who knows. But I have never though of myself as a Micro-transactional victim. Nor would anyone think to label me as such. Does this then become a double standard? Just throwing it out there.

    • Wulf says:

      Oh well, cause is just, so…
       
      “I think I will disagree on the level of addictiveness part. This is not crack cocaine. No one is holding a kitten over a cliff, and so long as the game does not get in the way of work or family life to a detrimental degree, I would hesitate to use the label.”
       
      Do you think it’s impossible for games to manufacture addictiveness? I’ll tell you a little story…
       
      I have a friend in Sweden, his name is Simon, and he has a brother who is totally addicted to World of Warcraft. This addiction was borne of grind and the acquisition of new items, his brother was weak to the manufactured addiction and was totally drawn in, and now… ? Well, let’s just say that if his parents try to pull him away from World of Warcraft, he goes into a rage, he screams, he throws things, he breaks things, and he’s even waved a knife around.
       
      Games can manufacture addiction, and this is usually done through grind by encouraging people to play for longer to acquire the next item in the chain, to keep playing in order to be as good as everyone else, because if you don’t have the latest items then you’re no good in that game. Farmville–to me–seems to use very much that same form of manufactured addiction, grind and greater items are present, and people are encouraged to grind and pay in order to get to the next tier of items.
       
      When a person gets pulled into the cycle of manufactured grinding it’s actually hard for them to pull out. I have many stories of people suffering from manufactured addiction, and I will freely admit that these stories are anecdotal because that’s all they are, that’s all they ever could be, but yet they matter to me, and I’ve taken the time to observe these games and understand how it is they work, how it is they become some sort of virtual drug, with the sort of outcome I described in my first paragraph.
       
      A person can become enthralled with the sense of personal reinvention and improvement, for their avatar but not for the real instance of their self outside of the game, in fact they can easily pump a number of hours into the game toward that end, trying to improve their avatar, keeping their animals from dying, and both giving the game a lot of hours and giving Zynga money in the process. I’m expecting that eventually these kinds of manufactured addiction will be required to carry a label, like cigarettes, because they’re quite dangerous. The human mind is an easy thing to manufacture addiction inside of.
       
      “I for one would play civilization turn after turn long into the night.”
       
      Civilisation is not a fair comparison.
       
      - I’ve never encountered grind in Civilisation.
      - I’ve never encountered emotional manipulation in Civilisation.
      - I’ve never had Civilisation compel me to spend money every few days to keep playing.
       
      “Never did I think I was addicted. I thought ‘boy is this fun!’.”
       
      Because it was, Civilisation is quite, quite different from Farmville. I’m surprised you don’t realise that.
       
      “In short I think the use of addict and addictive is too purjorative. If we label them as addicts, then we don’t have to deal with them as ‘real’ gamers; Merely mindless dupes. I think that misses the point.”
       
      Now you’re being intellectually dishonest again, aren’t you? That’s entirely on purpose and you’re trying to mislead the reader into believing that I have some kind of prejudice against casual gamers. That kind of breaks down since I’m a casual gamer myself, and I own a large number of casual games, I likely play as many of them as John does. So… what, you’re accusing me of self-hatred?
       
      I don’t care whether casual gaming is ‘real gaming’ or not, all I know is that there are casual games which I enjoy. The casual games I enjoy don’t involve the same questionable tactics that Farmville does. Plants vs Zombies didn’t make me pay for new plants, after all.
       
      “This is an arguable point. There are many threads on RPS that delve into what the right price is for a game. And many people that regardless of price would purchase a certain game due to its novelty or production value or what have you.”
       
      Really? Really We’re living in alternate Universes, then. Many of the RPS regulars that I’ve observed tend to wait for sales, or only buy games if they’re below a certain limit. I remember the furore over the price of Modern Warfare 2. This is the same site that has a bargain bucket article every weekend, which plays up to its price-savvy audience. You might be talking about other mainstream sites, maybe Destructoid or Kotaku, I don’t know because I don’t read them, but what you’ve said is very untrue of RPS, at least from everything that I’ve seen.
       
      “I think the pressure to buy more than you can afford is not limited to Farmville, and not limited to Microtransactional games.”
       
      I never said it was, hence my argument against casinos, poor DLC, overpriced games in general, and so on, and so on, and so on, ad nauseum…
       
      “Will some spend more than they should? Sure. I would not argue the game by definition requires this. Again, you get to choose your own level of engagement.”
       
      Again, I disagree because I think the game uses behavioural conditioning and social engineering on many levels in order to coerce a higher level of engagement, you praise Farmville as a pro-choice game, and I’m sorry but that’s a line of bullsquid I just can’t buy.
       
      “RE the use of ‘evil’. I hope you think I am not taking you out of context.”
       
      I did a bit, yes. You replied to me and I’ve never actually called it evil, all I’ve called it is unethical, and if I’m right with my accusations of social engineering and behavioural conditioning then Zynga are practising unethical business practises. They’re not the first company to do so, are they? Blizzard does, Ubisoft now are, Microsoft have done so, it’s common in the business world, but that doesn’t mean that we, as intelligent consumers, shouldn’t recognise and fight unethical practises.
       
      I do believe that any business can turn over a new leaf and learn better ways, but they need to be taught that unethical practises aren’t the way for them to make money, and that unethical practises will hit them in the wallet (where it hurts).
       
      In regards to where I said ‘the evils of microtransactions’ I did not imply that Zynga is evil and it’s intellectually dishonest to try to paint me into a corner by making that claim. I do think that microtransactions are a problem, because it’s hard for people to keep track on how much they’re spending and therefore they’re unethical by their very nature. Admittedly, I should have said the unethical nature of microtransactions but I think you all ready knew what I meant: simply that microtransactions are a problem and designed to be mildly dishonest by their very nature.
       
      “I am not necessarily offended by milking. If I get a demo of a regular old non-microtransactional game is that not enticing me to but the full version?”
       
      Not really, no. If you get the demo then you’re all ready interested in picking up the full game, it’s just that the demo, the reviews, and the comments about the game will allow you to rationally weigh up whether you want to buy the game.
       
      However…
       
      If the demo uses social engineering and behavioural conditioning (along with other questionable tactics) to convince people that they need to play it, then it’s just as bad as Farmville. Again, however, I can’t think of any demos within the past decade even that have done that. Could you name one demo that actively tries to convince people to buy the game rather than simply showing what the game is?
       
      “Can it be argued that Farmville offers the additional choice of the user deciding when the game ends?”
       
      The monthly transactions don’t play into that, do they? You don’t pay monthly transactions for a demo or for a full game, I’ve pointed that out many times. If Farmville had a one off payment at the start, a la Guild Wars, then I doubt I’d have anywhere near the problem with it that I do. In fact, I think that if they knew that Farmville would only draw in one payment of $40 or so, per user, they’d take out the behavioural conditioning, social engineering, and other questionable elements because they’d know that those would no longer be necessary.
       
      “An off the shelf game has a hard coded finish.”
       
      Define a ‘hard coded finish’. You’re talking about an ‘ending’. Yes, some games have endings, and some games (Mass Effect 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum, for example) let you play beyond the ending. In fact, playing beyond the ending is becoming the norm for games, since it gives the player chance to go back and find whatever they missed.
       
      But again, it’s not a fair comparison because–as I’ve pointed out many times–it’s intellectually dishonest to try to compare a microtransaction game with a one-off payment game. You all ready know that a one-off payment game and Farmville are as different as chalk and cheese, so you shouldn’t be trying to convince the reader that they are the same thing, because doing so is intellectual dishonesty.
       
      “How much is fair to pay for an open ended game? What if new, fresh content is always supplied?”
       
      How do you define ‘content’ in Farmville? All I see is graphic reskins and I don’t really define that as content. You’ll be trying to convince me that the Mass Effect 2 skinpacks are worthwhile DLCs, next. See? That’s the problem, you don’t have any issues at all with the things that I take umbrage at.
       
      And as for a fair price for an open-ended game, I can but point at Guild Wars as an ideal model. They release generous content packs for a very, very fair price, they don’t try to convince you to give them money beyond that, and once you’ve paid for the game once you can just keep playing for as long as you like. I and a few other friends have done just that.
       
      “Seems a bit ‘arguing the hypothetical’ to me. I don’t doubt it happens to some, I only argue that it can be extrapolated too far. And the sample size here is N=1.”
       
      Actually, not so much. Read up on pyramid schemes. If a person is playing game X and they’re convinced by game X to send mails to party Z in order to acquire item Y, then they’ll very likely do so. In fact, this is a purely logical conclusion. It’s the same as in World of Warcraft raids, if you read up on the drama there, some people have been driven to crying because of how their guild has abused them for leaving. The guild needs that person in order to continue raiding, and if they leave then they damn the entire guild. All you have to do is a little Internet searching for these stories.
       
      Farmville implies the same method: You cannot do the work on yourself, by the very nature of the game you have to strongarm other people into doing the work with you, you need a group of people in order to accomplish that goal. It’s not unreasonable at all to posit that Farmville works like a World of Warcraft raiding guild, and if one of the players helping out with raid/items leaves then they’re going to get the cold shoulder. So to avoid drama, they keep grinding.
       
      Really, read up on some of the stories out there of what has happened when someone has left a guild. The same practises are involved with Farmville. Social engineering is used to pull someone into the raid/grinding circle, and then all sorts of manipulation is used to keep them there.
       
      It’s an old tactic, as old as MMOs.
       
      “Are there 85 million users? I see no reason to doubt that number.”
       
      I see every reason to doubt that number, but that’s subjective, isn’t it? I think they’re actually counting the number of accounts created by the pyramid scheme rather than the number of active accounts, but there’s no way to say either way.
       
      “Are those 85 million users ‘gamers’ in the same sense someone playing Team Fortress 2 is? I would say yes. They are willing to pay to be entertained electronically. If you really think there is a difference, what is the distinction?”
       
      You’re the only person making any kind of distinction and you’re being intellectually dishonest by doing so. I invite everyone to read every single one of my posts.
       
      - I am a casual gamer.
      - I don’t think that I, or casual gamers, are second class citizens.
      - I recognise that one of the writers of RPS loves casual games as much as I do.
       
      You’re being intellectually dishonest by trying to force this on me… in fact, I’ve seen a lot of intellectual dishonesty since the outset of this argument, and that’s something that just rubs me the wrong way. It’s like you can’t argue cleanly so you have to do this. You have to try and paint me as some bastard who despises casual gamers. But considering my previous posts, and my previous posts throughout the history of RPS, the lie is quite apparent, isn’t it?
       
      I don’t like lies. I don’t like intellectual dishonesty.
       
      “Are they duped into overpaying?”
       
      Yes. The existence of pyramid schemes, social engineering, emotional manipulation, and grinding (manufactured addiction) lends credence to this. And yet you keep sidestepping these issues… always sidestepping…
       
      “How can one assume this?”
       
      I don’t think there are any assumptions at play, here, you’re just implying that there are, which is intellectually dishonest. If there are assumptions at play then cite where you think those assumptions are, and detail how they are assumptions and not logical conclusions.
       
      “If they are on par with gamers like you or I or the RPS community what evidence is there that this is the case? If you reject they are gamers, I would enjoy a definition.”
       
      I don’t reject they are gamers, and I don’t see why you need to raise an intellectually dishonest argument about me being some kind of casual gaming antichrist twice.
       
      I feel that you’ve picked the wrong person to argue with, you desperately want to argue with someone you can paint as being hateful of casual games and casual gamers. But in the previous argument you ignored my statement that I’m not, in my previous posts you ignored the evidence that I’m not, and you’ll keep trying to paint me as something that I’m not. I find that funny because it’s such an obvious lie.
       
      You really should have picked a better person to argue with, you can’t keep trying to claim that I’m something that I’m very clearly not, you need to go and find someone who does hate casual gamers, but sadly, that’s not me. You can cry it and wail it at the top of your lungs, but it won’t make it any more true.
       
      “I certainly do not believe any of the 85M are idiots as some posts to this thread indicate;”
       
      Weasel words. Which posts indicate? You’re the only one that’s made that insinuation.
       
      “They merely use a different ‘console’ if you want to call it that.”
       
      I have no argument with that and fail to see why it’s brought up.
       
      “It is free and it is called Facebook. I find it interesting to note that my Xbox 360 recently provided access to Facebook. Are we at the point where we should be looking at it the other way around? That Facebook will have support for 360 games? So if Facebook is the most used ‘console’, explain to me why people who play Farmville are not gamers.”
       
      All this is irrelevant and to do with your intellectually dishonest claim that I think that casual gamers are second class citizens.
       
      Oh yes, I’m a casual gamer. I hate myself and all people like me. I’m a total bast because I like Peggle.
       
      Sigh. This is embarrassing.
       
      “Reading your posts I see you have concerns about the ethics concerned with micro-transactions. I guess the argument here is that it is just another payment model.”
       
      The argument isn’t about payment models but:
       
      - That people can’t easily track how much they spend.
      - Questionable tactics are used to try to convince people to spend money without realising how much they’ve spent.
       
      “It is no more insidious than any other.”
       
      You’re honestly claiming that all payment systems are the same? All right, I’m game. You like to compare Farmville with games falsely, so I’ll turn that false comparison into a real one: With a game, you see the price next to the game (and even on the cover if you’re buying it at a store) and you pay just that, you don’t pay more than that for it. With microtransactions you pay X amount of money over X amount of time, and you’re convinced to keep spending money without being able to keep an active tab on how much you’ve spent. You are honestly saying these two are the same?
       
      Oh dear.
       
      “Just because people want to play does not mean it is addictive.”
       
      I never said that was the case.
       
      “Maybe an analogy here is old school arcade games. If I play Galaga, I put in my quarter. If I die, I can put in another to continue. How much have I spent on Galaga? Who knows.”
       
      I was a kid when I played arcade games, and I was given a finite amount of money to hit the arcades with, I knew how much I’d spent and that was that. Though I agree that arcade games did milk people, back in the day, and I have no issue with the claim that arcades milk people. You’re making the claim that arcades do milk people? Right. I have no issue with that. I agree. That’s wrong too and new arcades should move away from that. So, your point is?
       
      “But I have never though of myself as a Micro-transactional victim. Nor would anyone think to label me as such. Does this then become a double standard? Just throwing it out there.”
       
      Not at all, the double-standards here aren’t coming from me.

    • Wulf says:

      Addendum.

      In fact, in the nostalgia thread I even made my thoughts about arcades public, that I realised they milked people and that I didn’t like that. If you’re a regular here–and I really don’t think you are–then you likely would’ve seen that post and you’d have known that I don’t like the notion of people being milked no matter where it happens.

      You know, I’m really nothing at all like what you’re trying to paint me as. But… paint away, don’t let me stop you.

    • AHdaddy says:

      My, get a bit testy hmmm. I guess ‘intellectual dishonesty’ was the word of the day. But just saying it 10 times in a post does not make it true.

      “I have a friend in Sweden, his name is Simon, and he has a brother who is totally addicted to World of Warcraft. This addiction was borne of grind and the acquisition of new items, his brother was weak to the manufactured addiction and was totally drawn in, and now… ? Well, let’s just say that if his parents try to pull him away from World of Warcraft, he goes into a rage, he screams, he throws things, he breaks things, and he’s even waved a knife around”

      So does my 4 year old when I take away his matchbox cars. Kids like toys. Take away games=angry kids. What you attribute to developers trying to brainwash kids can easily be chalked up to normal child behavior.

      “Games can manufacture addiction, and this is usually done through grind by encouraging people to play for longer to acquire the next item in the chain, to keep playing in order to be as good as everyone else, because if you don’t have the latest items then you’re no good in that game. ”

      You have just described pretty much every game ever. I fail to see how this supports your argument that micro-transactions are unethical.

      “A person can become enthralled with the sense of personal reinvention and improvement, for their avatar but not for the real instance of their self outside of the game, in fact they can easily pump a number of hours into the game toward that end, trying to improve their avatar, keeping their animals from dying, and both giving the game a lot of hours and giving Zynga money in the process. I’m expecting that eventually these kinds of manufactured addiction will be required to carry a label, like cigarettes, because they’re quite dangerous. The human mind is an easy thing to manufacture addiction inside of.”

      Just because something can be abused does not mean that it is pervasive. Nor does it make the maker of that thing unethical. Farmville like cigarettes? Now you go to far. You have just made it possible for someone to argue that video games in general should be banned.If Farmville is addictive, so is WOW. If WOW is addictive so is Dragon Age etc. Slippery Slope my friend, not prepared to go there.

      “Could you name one demo that actively tries to convince people to buy the game rather than simply showing what the game is?”

      Really?!? Yes, every game that has ever put out a demo. You make a difference without a distinction.

      “The monthly transactions don’t play into that, do they? You don’t pay monthly transactions for a demo or for a full game, I’ve pointed that out many times. If Farmville had a one off payment at the start, a la Guild Wars, then I doubt I’d have anywhere near the problem with it that I do. In fact, I think that if they knew that Farmville would only draw in one payment of $40 or so, per user, they’d take out the behavioural conditioning, social engineering, and other questionable elements because they’d know that those would no longer be necessary.”

      For someone trying to convince me that they do not think that Farmville users are 2nd class citizens, the previous statement causes me concern. For the record, I merely think your statements are overly paternalistic. Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to think that players of Farmville are being taken advantage of against their will. You seem afraid someone is going to unknowingly spend $400, or worse do some real financial damage, through Micro-transactions. I think you overstate the problem. I need proof of a trend.

      “You’re honestly claiming that all payment systems are the same?”
      I merely mean to infer that Micro-transactions in themselves are not unethical. Nor is enticing someone to buy ‘more’ of a game.

      “I was a kid when I played arcade games, and I was given a finite amount of money to hit the arcades with, I knew how much I’d spent and that was that. Though I agree that arcade games did milk people, back in the day, and I have no issue with the claim that arcades milk people. You’re making the claim that arcades do milk people? Right. I have no issue with that. I agree. That’s wrong too and new arcades should move away from that. So, your point is?”

      The point of course being that Micro-transactions have been around forever, and the world has not imploded. One would think that there would be a lot more stories of how Micro-transactions ruin lives over the past 30 years. We have survived the scourge of Dragon’s Lair, Gauntlet and NBA Jam just fine. Pac-man is not unethical, nor is Farmville.

      “But again, it’s not a fair comparison because–as I’ve pointed out many times–it’s intellectually dishonest to try to compare a micro transactional game with a one-off payment game. You all ready know that a one-off payment game and Farmville are as different as chalk and cheese, so you shouldn’t be trying to convince the reader that they are the same thing, because doing so is intellectual dishonesty.”

      This strikes me as a ‘because I say so’ argument. I do not take it as obvious that a micro-transactional game is different from a single pay game. I refuse to be backed into a corner or brushed aside. You will have to do better.

      “If you’re a regular here–and I really don’t think you are”
      Again, Really?!? Have a bit more class than that.

      Maybe in conclusion I would argue that there is a market for different payment modes. Microtransactions can be better for users who have a an unknown commitment to a game. It is pay as you go. This is not unethical. Does Zynga want you to buy more? Sure they do. But that is no different from any other truly capitalistic enterprise. For me at least, you never really tie it all together. You say ‘Games can manufacture addiction’, but you never make it clear how the Farmville brand of addiction is any different than say Diablo. You have not proved, to me at least, that the person *needs* to buy more Farm coins, and is physiologically unable to stop themselves. And without that, I cannot view Zynga as unethical.

      I appreciate the time you took to address the points.

  42. autogunner says:

    I enjoyed my farmville farm, i worked on it everyday in between lectures until I had a little slice of agricultural paradise with forest borders and neat hedgerows, a long drive, fields for cows, sheep, etc and a stable. I parked my tractor by my neat little cottage then signed off forever. Its still floating around in cyberspace, a perfect little farm.

  43. Robin says:

    All that 85m number means is that for millions of idiots it’s easier to click on a banner or activate an app once in a 30 day period than it is to figure out how to uninstall it. Virality is not the same thing as genuine earned popularity.

    Animal Crossing: Wild World on the Nintendo DS is a more impressive achievement than Farmville in every respect. Millions of people worldwide have played it continuously for months, even though it’s not free and is mostly an offline experience. It also differs from Farmville in that it’s actually fun, has a more socially responsible and ethical viewpoint and business model (although this is not exactly difficult when we’re comparing to Zynga), and allows players to be genuinely creative.

    But cloning Farmville is seen as a better get-rich-quick scheme than trying to compete with Nintendo. It’s the Crazy Frog all over again. Saturation marketing with no attempt to engage customers. And inevitably it will go down in flames and leave the space open for worthwhile games, some of which are out there already, being starved of publicity by the feeding frenzy.

  44. Colthor says:

    Nice article, but it probably should’ve mentioned that FarmVille is a really, really blatant Farm Town rip-off.

  45. BooleanBob says:

    Too much moaning and not enough Ellie appreciation in this comment section. She’s behind so many of EG’s greatest hits: read her interview with Mark Rein, or her review of Afrika for the PS3, or Goldenballs for the Wii. Or her retrospective on Fruit Mystery! Or, more recently, her review of DoA: Paradise, the immortal verdict of which – ‘not worth taking your trousers down for’ – is an opportunity sadly missed for the browser title of this very site.

    She’s the bee’s wotsits.

    • Wulf says:

      Why must every instance of seemingly negative reinforcement designed for a positive outcome and a better future be reclassified as ‘moaning’? If someone’s negative about something they don’t necessarily have to be moaning, speaking negatively without reason, or toward a bad end.

      Would we tell the French revolutionaries that they were moaning? Eesh!

      I’m sorry, and I have no issue with the rest of your post, but very often I’ve seen very practical discussion brushed aside as simply ‘moaning’, it seems to be a staple of the Internet. Sure, sometimes negativity is bad, and people are just being self-entitled or trolling, but I honestly don’t believe that this is at all the case, here.

      And now I’m going to check out Ellie’s previous articles, because they sound like a real hoot!

    • cjlr says:

      @Wulf
      “… very often I’ve seen very practical discussion brushed aside as simply ‘moaning’, it seems to be a staple of the Internet.”

      Truer words were never spoken, brother, and I agree with your assessment. Every time anyone expresses any emotion whatsoever (particularly a negative one!) one is automatically labelled a fanboy, or worse, the dreaded angry internet man. This is an instant dismissal of any possible strong opinion, and that’s utter horseshit, antethical to the very idea of discussion.

    • Matt W says:

      There are some absolutely stunning interviews. The one with Konnie Huq, for example, is a gem.

    • Matt W says:

      Oh fuck me, I just found the Mark Rein interview for the first time (http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/epics-mark-rein-interview?page=1). I don’t think I’ve ever come closer to actually pissing myself laughing at an interview.

      “Eurogamer: Is this interview just going to be you hawking your wares for the next 20 minutes?”

      “Eurogamer: Gears of War 3. You made quite a successful series of shooter games called Gears of War, do you remember?

      Mark Rein: You know we’re still working on Gears of War 2, right?

      Eurogamer: No, Gears of War 2 was released last November. Didn’t anyone tell you? Have they pretended you’re still working on it all this time?

      Mark Rein: We’ve just put out title update four and we have new DLC…

      Eurogamer: Yeah, no one cares about that. When’s Gears of War 3 out?”

      “Eurogamer: What you need, to make the Unreal Engine more exciting, is a “bigger, better, more badass”-style tagline.

      Marky R: Like, “Smaller, tighter, more badass.”

      Eurogamer: That sounds like an advert for some pornography.

      Marky R: Yes, it sounds too much like a porn commercial.

      Eurogamer: Perhaps we could have a competition where Eurogamer readers write in with suggestions?

      Marky R: No, I don’t think so. I’ve read the forums. No.”

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      @Wulf,

      It’s either “you are moaning” or “your blanket argument”, or something similar. It’s distressing sometimes that the ability to conduct a normal debate where opinions don’t match (there’s nothing to discuss if opinions match) has to face the usual demoralization arguments.

      As for Ellie article, I cannot take seriously the opinion of anyone who sets themselves out to research a game and ends up like a reporter sent out to cover a soccer match and by half time is already barracking for one of the teams.

      It’s not this isn’t what is expected from someone writing about games. But contrary to BooleanBob’s review of Ellie’s previous artciles, I see people’s work a piece at a time. And if there is something I feel I should criticize, I will, regardless of their previous work. And it won’t change my views of them (unless they start doing it often).

      I’d expect no less from anyone if I were the one writing about games, or anything else for that matter. Even this post. But as for this particular Ellie’s article, this is what I learned:

      - Nothing new about the game that hasn’t been covered by thousands of articles all over the web.
      - That Ellie got addicted.
      - That Ellie (an editor to Eurogamer) helps spread the false word that 85 million people play the game without trying to validate this information.
      - That I still don’t like the game.

      Last point is irrelevant in the context of what I’m going to say next. And that is:

      Ellie’s article has nothing to offer that you don’t see on a fan’s website. It’s an article from a fan to fans. It’s not an article meant to educate, elucidate, explain, inform. It’s essentially useless.

    • BooleanBob says:

      @Matt W: I’d never read the Konnie Huq one, it’s incredible. Konnie seems so broken, which kills me, because there were still a couple of years of childhood in me for that weird pre-internet British era where the Blue Peter presenters were right at the top of the celebrity pyramid – practically royalty. But now…

      @Everyone else: There’s no real discussion here, just the din of a handful of lazy egoists slapping themselves on the back for remaining close-minded to the world around them. Quick question, chaps: what’s the root of ‘ignorance’? Anyone?

      And no, Wulf, the ‘work’ you’re contributing to this site is not in any way comparable to the efforts of the French revolutionaries.

  46. malkav11 says:

    I haven’t played Farmville, but I was briefly addicted to some of Zynga’s other social networking games such as Mafia Wars and Vampire Wars. I can safely say that there is nothing like gameplay there for those. It is a series of levers which dispense numbers that go up and checkpoints that can only be passed if you either push the game on other people, “friend” people you don’t know, or spend real world money. It’s no surprise that they’re successful – slot machines have hooked people for decades. But there’s no meat. No reason to spend your time except addiction.

  47. Saul says:

    I’m pleased to report that Valve beat Zynga in the semi-finals of the Developer showdown on the Escapist. It was a close-run thing, however, which is rather scary considering the (presumed) audience the Escapist attracts.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Saul

      As pointed out in the forum thread about this, the Escapist has Facebook integration (meaning you can log in via your Facebook account, rather than having to register with the site to vote like non-Facebook users). The result is that it was very easy for Zynga voters to vote on the Escapist, and it was of course very easy for Zynga (a company quite literally built on spam postings) to mobilize their supporters via Facebook. To be honest, I’m surprised they didn’t win, since for all practical purposes the developer showdown is a “who can most effectively mobilize their supporters” contest and Zynga is undeniably masterful at such things.

    • Bret says:

      I’m pretty sure Gabe Newell has one of those John Constantine deals with the devil(s) going on.

      It may include access to the snack room.

    • Spacewalk says:

      Mobilize their supporters eh, sounds like a cult to me.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Spacewalk

      Careful. Remember that Valve and Bioware are the ones that actually won.

    • TeeJay says:

      “I’m surprised they didn’t win”

      Is there any money in it for them?

  48. RedFred says:

    A guy I used to work with played that game Evony basically all the time. Having since stopped working with him I have no idea about his Evony playing habits. I do, however, see that his Facebook is littered with Farmville popups now. He also regularly gambles on pokies.

    Do I see the trend? Yes, I do.

  49. Tei says:

    I had the most fun with FarmVille wen my sister accidentally logued on my account (tryiing to login on his account), only to see a empty land (his account looks like a busy superfactory ). His face and WTFLOL was priceless.

  50. GT3000 says:

    Honestly, I can’t fault Zynga. They aren’t a evil corporation trying to steal your money, much like any service you allow them into your home. They aren’t forcing their way in. They’re doing what any intelligent person does, why offer a product for free when you can charge people for it? The same is the same of DLC, if the product is good enough to parcel off and price tag then so be it. However, if it isn’t I won’t shell for it. I vote with my wallet.