Zynga tries to resuscitate virtual farming with FarmVille 2

The game creator wants to attract new players -- as well as bring back some former FarmVille addicts -- with a more interactive version of the farming game.

Zynga

If you're one of the tens of millions of former FarmVille players who gave up the old homestead, Zynga hopes it has a way to coax you back.

The game maker unveiled FarmVille 2 today, with the aim of bringing back former addicts as well as attracting new players.

The game was designed to more completely emulate farming with a stronger storyline and a virtual ecosystem. This means that when you grow crops, they're harvested to be used in a kitchen to make baked goods or sold on the roadside for coins. The coins can then be used to buy more items and supplies for the farm.

The same idea applies to the farm animals. When fed, chickens lay eggs and cows produce milk. The animals will also produce another important component of farming: fertilizer.

Zynga

"We wanted it to feel very fresh," FarmVille 2 Director of Design Wright Bagwell said, of the game. He said FarmVille 2 isn't meant as a replacement for FarmVille, but that it's another iteration that focuses on the idyllic notion of life on the farm.

"We expect that people will want to play both games," Bagwell said, adding that Zynga plans to add content to FarmVille as well.

It's unclear if the 3.2 million daily players left on the original game will really want to play both versions, save for some people with cultlike loyalties to the franchise. When FarmVille launched in 2009, it quickly became an Internet gaming phenomenon, its name spoken in cubicle corners everywhere. FarmVille has been played by at least 83 million people.

Since then, the game has lost some steam. At its peak, it had 32 million daily active users -- more than ten times the number today.

Zynga, like many Internet companies, faces the challenge of capturing revenue from the growing number of mobile users.

When asked about why Zynga is producing a game that doesn't tap into a mobile market, Bagwell said the company's focus is on having games on many different platforms. But, he added, that doesn't mean the FarmVille line won't be launched on mobile in the future.

"My goal is to make just a really compelling game, it wasn't so much about second-guessing the concept or analyzing the market.... I'm hoping what we built will catch people's attention," he said.

FarmVille 2 Creative Director Mike McCarthy said the new game is a response to players looking for a faster interface. The game is meant to be played in quick, five-minute sessions -- a breath of fresh country air for city dwellers living on their desktops.

Thanks to Flash 11, FarmVille 2 features faster actions -- instead of clicking on each individual plot of crop, users can now drag the mouse cursor over an entire area to plant or water seeds.

MCarthy said there is also an emphasis on making the game even more social.

Players can earn crops or supplies by helping out on their friends' farms. And, in the future, players will be able to bring their crops to a nearby village to sell, barter, or trade tips with other farmers. The game can also be played in 16 different languages, instead of just English.

 

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