Pandemic gamers have been gravitating toward mindless games with low stakes to occupy their time and distract themselves from the world around them. The market for such games is incredibly vast today, but in 2009, gamers had very little to choose from. Zynga responded to the call with FarmVille, an agriculture simulation game in which players can plow land, grow crops and raise livestock with the help of their Facebook friends.
After the popularity of the initial game began to fizzle out, FarmVille 2: Country Escape was released in 2014. In November 2021, the developers at Zynga struck yet again with the game FarmVille 3. The new game has all of the addicting qualities of the other FarmVille games; however, there are so many responsibilities for the player that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Players who enjoyed the initial game are left wondering: Did we really need a third game?
The History of FarmVille
The original FarmVille began with a single idea: to involve the average internet user with many facets of farmland management without them ever having to get their hands dirty or even leave the comfort of their homes. In early 2010 — at the game’s peak — there were 34.5 million daily active users and 83.76 million monthly active users. Facebook was flooded with interactive advertisements, requests for resources and posts about in-game accomplishments. Seemingly overnight, the site transformed from a space to post updates and check on friends and family to a place to indulge in the guilty pleasures of mindless gaming.
In an article for The New York Times, Mark Pincus — the chief executive of Zynga at the time — expressed his initial interest to bring FarmVille to Facebook. “We thought of it as this new dimension in your social, not just a way to get games to people,” said Pincus. “I thought: ‘People are just hanging out on these social networks like Facebook, and I want to give them something to do together.’”
Most people enjoyed FarmVille for these very reasons. It promoted asynchronous online interaction and cooperation. People felt a sense of pride for organizing their picturesque farms and gained satisfaction from knowing their friends and family would all see their in-game accomplishments.
By mid-to-late 2010, however, Zynga’s game began experiencing a rapid decline in popularity. Facebook friends became overly bothered by the nagging requests to donate supplies. Parodies of FarmVille advertisements began stockpiling on YouTube. These parodies highlighted all of the game’s most unexciting aspects in an era of action-packed, dramatic video games like Call of Duty and Red Dead Redemption. How could a game about farming compete with the thrill of a first-person shooter game? It seems that people began to realize how incredibly boring farming really was.
FarmVille also unceremoniously made Time Magazine’s “Top 50 Worst Inventions” list. The writers harshly criticized it as less of a game and more of a series of chores completed by endless mouse clicking. Still, they couldn’t go without acknowledging how aggravatingly addicting it was to tend to one’s digital farm.
Over a decade after the first game, FarmVille 3 was released to the public out of the blue. Zynga is known as the “king of copying (or acquiring) successful mobile and Facebook titles,” according to Forbes, but it appears that they are no longer relying on the content of their past. The new edition of the game offers players the same nostalgia of building a farm with the addition of several other upgraded features. The question is if Zynga can compete with the other mobile games on the market.
The biggest appeal of Farmville 3 is the undeniably adorable animals. The game brings more than 150 breeds of animals to the table, including chickens, pigs, cows and sheep that give you supplies such as eggs, milk, bacon and wool. As you nurture and tend to your animals, they will breed and create new breeds. The tiny, wide-eyed babies are guaranteed to pull at the heartstrings of the players. If that wasn’t enough, there are new exotic animals to unlock, such as polar bears, iguanas, wolves and many more.
Another appealing aspect is that you are in complete control of everything that happens on your farm. You can customize your environment with hundreds of decorations in a variety of colors and styles. Thankfully, you don’t have to do the dirty work on your own. There are a total of 30 different farmhands to unlock, all with skills such as cooking and crafting that get more efficient as they level up. The team of farmhands is diverse in racial and gender identity, creating a more realistic experience for players around the world. And much like the FarmVille games of the past, you can also recruit the help of your friends and family. Up to 25 people can join in a “co-op” together to exchange goods and work together to win events.
Unlike other FarmVille games, the newest version is something you are encouraged to put down. Millions of people found themselves addicted to FarmVille games because of the social obligation they felt to play. In FarmVille 3, you don’t feel as obligated to play 24/7 because your crops and animals don’t die no matter how long ago you last played the game.
Although FarmVille 3 is still new and exciting, players have compiled a laundry list of complaints online. The biggest reason why people are deleting FarmVille games from their phones is that they’ve realized how financially demanding it has become. Conveniently, you don’t have to sit through countless advertisements like many other mobile games, but it’s nearly impossible to create the picture-perfect farm that you desire without having to put some of your own money into it. Rather than waiting up to 24 hours for a crafting station to finish building, players can speed up the process by purchasing in-game currencies. Even if you do decide to make these purchases, the items that you receive are not worth the money that you put in.
Players are also taking a disliking to FarmVille 3 because of its difficulty. Even the experienced FarmVille players are having trouble leveling up, breeding animals and earning enough coins to purchase their desired items. Players are getting a hard dose of reality as they realize they have to pay for everything. It costs money to plant crops that sometimes take hours to grow, and nobody has the time or patience for it.
For example, after one hour of waiting for the corn plant to sprout, you are rewarded with one corn. This is in stark contrast to the two-minute wait for two corns in FarmVille 2: Country Escape. Some plants like apple trees and strawberry bushes wither after three harvests, and it costs hundreds to purchase new ones. Good luck storing these crops in your inventory because the storage runs out easily, and it takes weeks of playing to find the parts to upgrade them.
The number of responsibilities placed on the player also makes the game overwhelming. In addition to tending to their farm, they must complete delivery and boat orders, fulfill visitor and “co-op” requests, compete in the sky race and county fair and participate in seasonal events. While these new events encourage players to work toward completing goals, the developers at Zynga have underestimated the amount of time it takes to finish them. Perhaps they assumed that people would love their game so much that they wouldn’t mind spending hours playing, but they have failed to realize that their players are human beings with real lives and jobs. A mobile app about farming is not on the list of top priorities.
What Players Would Like Instead
FarmVille communities are demanding easier gameplay and less reliance on in-app purchases. Zynga needs to make it easier to purchase resources by either decreasing the prices in the store or increasing the players’ chances to earn large amounts of money. It’s important to understand that the app developers are just trying to stay afloat, but it is overly complicated to keep up with the game unless you put your hard-earned, real-life money into it. As a solution, players wouldn’t mind seeing an ad or two.
Did we need a FarmVille 3? Probably not. Three strikes usually mean you’re out. Maybe it’s time for Zynga to retire the FarmVille name. Besides, other games have perfected the art of farming, such as The Sims 4’s Cottage Living expansion pack and Stardew Valley. If Zynga is still interested in keeping FarmVille alive, they are going to have to start listening to their target audience.