Zynga recently announced it would be shutting down its era-defining online game “Farmville” on December 31, 2020. The developer explained it is shuttering it because Facebook will stop supporting Flash Player, the software that powers the game, on New Year’s Eve. Gamers will still be able to make in-app purchases on the title through November 17.
“Farmville” will live on through its various spin-offs and one sequel, which will still be available on multiple platforms.
End of an Era
Although the title’s time in the sun has ended, “Farmville” was once one of the world’s most popular online games.
A studio called MyMainLife released the agricultural simulator on Facebook in June 2009. The game’s relaxed dynamics and simple controls made it appealing to a wide swatch of users. Within two months of its launch, “Farmville” attracted 6 million unique users per day.
Zynga, then best known for its popular online poker game, acquired MyMainLife and its hit game in August 2009.
From there, “Farmville,” powered a social interaction system that encouraged gamers to recruit their friends and family, grew much larger. By March 2010, 83.76 million people played the Facebook-based distraction every month. As its ubiquity increased, the title became a reliable revenue engine, generating $235 million in its first year of release.
Although it is free-to-play, “Farmville” users need in-game coins and cash to purchase specific resources. Players can either earn currency via completing tedious, repetitive tasks or buying it with real-world money. The title’s pioneering freemium business model helped Zynga bring enough sales to account for 19 percent of business partner Facebook’s revenue in 2011.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Like many iconic video games, “Farmville’s” inexorable decline began soon after it reached peak popularity.
In 2012, the title faced new competition from the likes of King’s “Candy Crush Saga” and Supercell’s “Clash of Clans.” The former game found success by combining “Farmville” social dynamics with more engaging mechanics while the latter thrived by enabling players to form groups and engage in virtual warfare. By comparison, the farm simulator’s lack of major updates made it seem stale.
Zynga seemed to lose focus on its flagship game right as it faced its biggest challenges.
During the early 2010s, the developer worked to make new properties like “CityVille,” and “Draw Something,” into hits. The company prioritized its $1 billion initial public offering and acquiring other studios like Newtoy (“Words with Friends”). Unfortunately, the firm struggled to produce another “Farmville” sized cash cow, and some players abandoned the studio because they found its advertising tactics overly aggressive.
The developer attempted to keep the public from forgetting “Farmville” by releasing a series expansions and one hit sequel. Nevertheless, the firm’s breakout title eventually lost its mass appeal, and its entire games library now only commands 70 million monthly active users. Moreover, newer games with revamped freemium models like “Fortnite” and “Call of Duty: Mobile” now dominate the online gaming sector.
As Zynga prepares to wind down “Farmville” forever, the title’s legacy seems clear. It ushered in the era of free-to-start gaming and proved the financial viability of making casual online titles. Consequently, “Farmville’s” impact on the games industry and medium will extend long past its 11-year existence.