Voices 01/11/2010

Farmville: let’s play with agriculture!

It is impossible to miss Farmville if you are on Facebook. The online game is now a world success, and Italy is not an exception.

What is Farmville? Farmville is a management game like the famous Sims, but in this case the player is assuming the persona of farmer instead of the usual powerful tycoon or mayor.

Actually, this is not a completely new idea. In 1993 Maxis produced a farm simulator, but with scarce success. Besides the poor graphics of those times, the main limitation of the game was to be too much realistic, boring the player with tractor, silos and other technical problems.

On the other side, Farmville is easier, even if still very complete, and the player needs to carefully plan the seeding and the cultivation to get a proper harvesting. Obviously everything has its cost: plants, fertilizers, work and so on. Hence, it is easy to go over budget and not to have any income after harvesting. That’s very similar to what it is actually happening in agriculture. Given the accuracy of the game, it is very useful, even for farmers, in order to learn the timing of seeding and the main agricultural techniques.

So, what’s the difference between Farmville and the old SimFarm? Why this success? For sure interactivity helps, and it is nice the possibility to play against friends in real-time, something that was impossible in the 1990s; but it is appreciated also because of the incomes can be invested in luxury tools or in embellishments for the farm. Hence, the target is not just to make money to enlarge one’s farm and to buy new machinery, as it was in the old SimFarm, but also to satisfy one’s vanity by enlarging and embellish the virtual farm.

So, it is not for chance that, according to the available data, most of the players are women (60%) and the game is played mainly by adults. Videogames are usually related to the world of teenagers, but in this case the game involves mainly adults, for half an hour per day, on average. The numbers of Farmville are astonishing: 80 million of players per month, 31 million on average per day. On the 200 millions of people that connect to Facebook every day, the 15% enter Farmville.

Why talking on our magazine about this game? Mainly because, given these numbers, the virtual agriculture risks to be more known than the actual one, with the risk of trivializing the second one. Farmville is a game; agriculture is not.

di Graziano Alderighi