Zynga harvests FarmVille app for iPhone

The wildly popular Facebook game goes mobile on the same day Apple's iPhone 4 goes on sale.

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Coming to a small screen near you: FarmVille for iPhone.
Coming to a small screen near you: FarmVille for iPhone. Zynga

The most popular game in the Facebook world is coming to the iPhone.

Gamemaker Zynga announced on Thursday the launch of FarmVille for iPhone--the same day that Apple begins selling its next-generation smartphone. Players can now tend their farms from wherever they find themselves and can get status updates regarding their farms via push notifications.

"Mobile devices are an extension of people's daily social lives everywhere in the world and the Apple iPhone is the most innovative breakthrough in this area," Mark Pincus, founder and chief executive officer of Zynga, said in a statement. "We are excited to bring FarmVille to the Apple iPhone and introduce our social games to a new audience of mobile users around the world."

Nearly 64 million people play FarmVille each month, more than twice the number of players claimed by No. 2 game, Texas HoldEm Poker, according to a tally by AppData. As impressive as that gap is, FarmVille's popularity has been waning since its peak of around 83 million players in March.

Certainly, Zynga is hoping the new iPhone app will help it reap some of that former glory. And with good reason: for a sector that hardly existed three years ago, social-gaming publishers brought in $490 million in revenue last year and that figure is expected to reach $835 million in 2010, according to Inside Social Games analyst Justin Smith.

Zynga may have chosen the right moment to seed the iPhone market: AT&T says demand for the iPhone 4 is 10 times what it was for the iPhone 3GS, and Apple says it took 600,000 preorders for the new phone through its sales channels. A Nielsen report released earlier this month pegged the iPhone OS at 28 percent of the smartphone market--behind only BlackBerry maker Research In Motion, which has a 35 percent share.

The new app also debuts a little more than a month after Zynga and Facebook put out a press release to try to assuage rumors that the two were feuding over the social-networking site's Facebook Credits currency platform, which would have resulted in Zynga paying Facebook a 30 percent cut of its revenue. Terms of an agreement were not revealed, but Zynga had reportedly been so angry that it was considering launching its own game network.

The free FarmVille app is available beginning Thursday at the Apple Store.