I need to start this post with a disclaimer: I hate Farmville. OK, I know hate is a not-nice word, so I will reconsider... nope, hate describes it.
If you have managed to remain blissfully ignorant of the object of my wrath, Farmville is an online game millions of people play on Facebook. A strange game set on your own virtual farm, the object seems to be the continual harassment of your friends who do not play Farmville. In the game, you plant virtual fields, grow virtual crops, sell those virtual crops for virtual money and spend real money on virtual things. If you are on Facebook, you have undoubtedly received invitations to join and seen a steady stream of status updates from your farmfool friends.
Fully 10% of Facebook users have registered to play this game, and as a result the founders Zynga have a cash crop of suckers who shell out hundreds of millions of dollars a few cents at a time.
Zynga is now worth something in the neighbourhood of $20 billion dollars. Most of the revenue Zynga harvests from Farmville (and it’s other equally annoying games Mafia Wars, Cityville, ad nausium) comes not from advertising, but from in-game micro-sales, where players basically buy shortcuts to success. Yep, do you see a parallel? Monsanto-Zynga? $20 billion for a game where you can’t even chop someone up? Ridiculous!
Now Zynga is hoping to farm more fertile soil, moving from the rich fields of Facebook and striking out on their own. They announced this week at “Zynga Unleashed” a real world event in San Francisco that they are planing a Zynga specific gaming portal. A good (if potentially flawed) idea, as having all your revenue having to flow though a single partner, as they do in Facebook, leaves any company open to catastrophe. I suppose the big question will be if people will discover the new games and get sucked in without the peer pressure and mob mentality that exists on Facebook.
Zynga is in the process of filing for an IPO of $2 billion dollars.