FarmVille: Enhancements and new Monetization Ideas
I must admit that I have spent a lot of time on my online farm growing grapes and coffee. I have also grown many a vegetables and even grown flowers. The best part is I have made a boat load money doing this, more than I have made in real life. In case you are not following me, I am talking about FarmVille, a Facebook game by Zynga. Recently I find my interest in this game fading and this has gotten me thinking. What could Zynga do to keep me engaged and also monetize FarmVille while doing the same?
Zynga has a creative team and they are making a lot of money already. There are all kinds of revenue estimates floating around. They vary from 50 million to 200 million USD depending on the source. They have close to 130 million users (with 50 million daily active users) hooked on their games. FarmVille is just one of their games, they have Poker, Mafia Wars, FishVille, YoVille, Cafe World and list keeps growing. Great work by Mark Pincus and his team. While these ideas are specific to FarmVille the spirit could be applied to most other similar games.
Here is how my farm looks like:
Now back to my topic. What kind of features / enhancements would I like to see in FarmVille that also help Zynga increase their revenue without upsetting the spirit of the game. What will help make these suggestions valuable is how much you are able to keep it real while executing on them.
Today, the economy is kind of non evolving. You buy seeds, plant them, they grow and you sell them for a fixed amount. Now, this is quite simple to understand. The question is can we expand this model to add some excitement:
Integrated Sponsorships – Engage sponsors in a more integrated manner. Let’s take an example. I grow flowers. Often these flowers have been fertilized by my friends. What if we could sell premium (fertilized) flowers to a sponsor (say 1-800-Flowers). This could earn me more than just normal selling and also gives an image boost for the sponsor that they buy premium flowers. These are subtle messages and at the same time add another dimension to the game for people like me who are playing.
Sponsor Marketplace – As an extension to the idea above, make a marketplace infrastructure for sponsors to participate. Think of the example above and now imagine that both 1-800-Flowers and Flower.com offer different rates for different flowers w/ varying incentives. These incentives could be more money or better seeds for your next crop for example. The idea is to allow these sponsors to be able to participate
In Game Advertising - In addition to the above, the buyers may ask you to put a sign in your farm visible to your friends that says something like – “I sell my flowers to Flowers.com”. This makes FarmVille an in game advertising platform. Another example here is that Chevron could sponsor a refill if you put their sign board on your farm.
One of the most boring part of the games is waiting for the “little me” to go Plow and then Plant Seeds. It seems to take forever. Some of the times I use a trick to lock the “little me” in some corner and close down exits so that I (the farmer) cannot move any more. This helps me get over the process faster
Upgrading Farm Technology – FarmVille is already doing some things here. You have tractor, harvester and seeder. They are useful tools. However, as you grow in levels, there should be a way for you to upgrade other aspects of farm technology. Can I buy an irrigation/ sprinkler system for my plants? Can I setup a seed research farm? These might be great ways to pull in sponsors. For example, I could buy sprinkler system from Home Depot in virtual reality of course.
This is one area where this games does quite a bit already. I can’t think of any major changes here but some minor ones might help increase community participation. One of the things that drives users playing this game is “healthy” competition. This means that you always want to do better than your friends. This keeps you going. The question is how can this be enriched even further. Here are some thoughts:
Farm Parties – There should be a way to host Farm parties. In terms of the people playing, it allows for some more creativity and fun with your friends on FarmVille. For these parties you can make arrangements with various sponsors. Buy beverages and other party items from sponsors and so on. These parties will allow you to invite neighbors and friends. This will be help increase the social interaction and each of your friends would like to host similar parties if not better. This idea needs to be executed well to be really effective but could prove to be a powerful concept.
Overall, these are just some of the ideas I had but you get the overall concept. There needs to be more if you want to increase the life of the game. At some point, this will still become mundane once people have tried out all available options but till the time you are hooked on, it could be made more fun. If you have other great ideas or would like to discuss the ones above, please share your thoughts through the comments.
In case you want to hear Mark’s (Zynga’s CEO) point of view on app economy. You can listen to his Web 2.0 Summit ‘09 address here.