In my quest to figure out what the big deal with Farmville was, I had spent about 3 weeks playing it now. I have to admit, I didn’t get into it till a week or so ago. In this post I will attempt to analyze all the game mechanics that make this game so popular.
Screenshot of my farm in Farmville
- Collecting. This game is full of ways and things to collect. People love collecting. Some of the things you can collect here are: gold, ribbons, things (level, experience, farm animals, buildings, decorations, vehicles, and neighbors).
- Time Sensitivity. I had my first experience of this was when I came back into Farmville in a few days and saw that my crops had withered. So if you don’t log into Farmville frequently enough, there is a real “game consequence” that happens, you lose your crops – and wasted all that time and money. This element keeps bringing you back into the game.
- Progression. This is a common gameplay element. The more you farm, the more experience you get. The more experience you get, the more levels you accumulate and the more access you have. This is crucial in giving the user a sense of progress. Without progress, there is no sense of accomplishment. This element is important in making the user feel that all that farming (quite a repetitive task) is not all for nothing.
- Social. In order for you to really succeed in this game, you have to be social. This is very important in making a viral game. Whereas earlier Facebook apps took advantage of the Facebook app workflow (by forcing you to invite your friends to the Facebook app before you even tried the app), this game pulls in your friends in the actual game. They do this by rewarding you for adding neighbors (your real Facebook friends), or helping your neighbors out by fertilizing their crops (you get experience for that task). Also this game gives you free gifts that you can give your friends.
- Customization. A good game will let you personalize your experience. This game is no exception. Visiting other people’s farms, it’s obvious that everyone has a different take on Farmville. Some people are very industrious and have used their space only for farming, while others have made areas where they’ve peronalized their Farmville space to make it their own.
- Competition. By letting you visit your neighbor’s farms, Farmville is letting you see what your neighbors have accomplished and harness that competitive drive in your to beat your neighbors. Seeing and coveting what your friends have accomplished in the game is a powerful motivator.
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