Updated: December 3, 2021 11:05:21 am
A decade ago, mobile-game developer Zynga set the foundation for a new type of ‘social gaming’ with its hit FarmVille, a farming-simulation game that at one point was the most popular application on Facebook. While the game that lets people virtually grow gardens, raise farm animals and become farmers has fallen from its dizzying heights since then, Zynga hopes the third title in the agriculture simulation series will introduce a new generation of users to the world of ‘FarmVille’.
Speaking to indianexpress.com over a call from San Francisco, Kishore Kichili, who heads the India market of Zynga, disclosed that the Bengaluru studio of the company has played an important role in the development of FarmVille 3, which is available to play on iOS, Android and desktop M1 Mac. “A large-size team has contributed towards the development of FarmVille 3 and the same is the case with CSR Racing 2, “he said, adding that the team in India is “not only building games but also contributing to the global games”.
Kichili says India is not only an important market for the consumption of mobile games but also key to the development of the company’s recent games available on smartphones and social platforms.
Zynga wants to use its India studio to develop games with a global appeal and it’s already happening, although Kichili did not reveal the lineup of games currently under development. “We have a huge team working on big titles…small teams working on newer titles and a very small team testing concepts in the hyper-casual mode.” Kichili cites access to talent as the key reason why global developers like Zynga are expanding their local presence in India.
Zynga shot to fame with FarmVille upon the game’s debut in 2009, when it was made to play on Facebook. Instantly, it became the most popular game on the social network with millions of players. The mobile version of the social game was introduced a year later when Steve Jobs invited then Zynga CEO Mark Pincus to launch FarmVille on the App Store alongside the debut of the iPhone 4. Although the original FarmVille had to be shut down in 2020 when Adobe ended support for Flash Player for web browsers, the franchise still has a cult following with 700 million installs to date.
FarmVille was a successful attempt at creating a market for social games and both Zynga and Facebook have reaped fruits. In fact, a lot of people jumped onto Facebook in the 2010s to just play FarmVille and the proof of that was roughly 19 per cent of the social networking giant’s revenue in 2011 was tied directly to Zynga. But times change. The game about a digital simulation of a farming community eventually started to fade, and after a point, many Facebook users complained of being poked with an unwanted notification from a farmer.
The rise and fall of FarmVille shows how mobile gaming has evolved. While many like to critically examine the phenomenon of FarmVille, the truth is the game not only brought the terms “casual gaming” and “free-to-play” into the limelight by reaching out to a broad set of users but also opened the gates of advertising and in-app purchases, which has now become the primary business model of the entire gaming industry and app marketplace.
FarmVille 3 is not available to play on Facebook unlike previous titles in the hit franchise and that shows the mobile platforms like iOS and Android are the way to reach out to a larger user base. Kichili agrees that the growth is coming from the mobile platforms and India is at the center of the revolution. But the gaming market has evolved with mobile gamers.
“FarmVille 3 is not a hypercasual game; it’s the next level of hypercasual where the engagement levels, as well as the social aspects, are a bit higher,” he explained. Such games bring in revenue opportunities through in-app purchases and in-game advertising.
Zynga’s FarmVille has similarities to games like Fortnite and Animal Crossing where players build their own worlds, though Kichili did not elaborate on whether the developer wants to seek opportunities in the metaverse, the new buzzword in tech space. Zynga recently appointed a blockchain gaming VP Matt Wolf, who will work to integrate NFTs and blockchain systems into Zynga’s existing games. It’s being speculated that the US-based developer may plan to integrate NFTs into FarmVille too.
While the FarmVille franchise remains integral to Zynga, the developer is looking forward to launching its first cross-platform title next year with Star Wars: Hunters, which will be available on mobile devices, PC, and Nintendo Switch. In the past few months, Zynga has taken the route of mergers and acquisitions to expand the user base and reach new markets.
It agreed to acquire StarLark, a Chinese game developer, and the mobile golf title Golf Rival from Betta Games for $525 million in cash and stock. The company also acquired the advertising tech platform Chartboost that will help the developer increase its audience scale at a time when there is uncertainty over Apple’s rollout of its AppTracking Transparency framework, which requires apps to get permission to track user behaviour.
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