As I was playing Tiny Tower yesterday, I was thinking about how similar it was to Farmville. You have floors of your tower that take a certain amount of time to build and restaurants, retail stores, and recreational facilities that need stocking and collecting. Similarly, Farmville has crops that take a certain amount of time to grow and need to be collected within a certain time frame. Playing Tiny Tower reminded me about the whole Farmville craze- how fast it rose and how fast it fell.
Here is a graph of Zynga games’ Daily Active Users, measured from Dec 12, 2011 to June 12, 2012:
Farmville’s previous success has been attributed to many factors, with the main reason being that Zynga had launched it on Facebook. As a platform with millions of users of all ages, Facebook had the biggest possible market for Farmville. Through Facebook, people could easily rope their friends in to help on each other’s farm and trade gifts. Farmville created a virtual world with real life emotional attachments between people, as well as attachments to virtual property. But, as Richard MacManus puts it, Farmville users grew tired of “meaningless games”, the frequent crashes, and the increasing prices of special items.
Cow Clicker is a game that satirizes the Farmville-type obsession that some people experience. Users click on cows every six hours and the cow moo’s. They can also pay “Mooney” through Facebook credits to speed up the timer. Although the game was a parody of The Ville games, it ended up becoming incredibly popular. In June 2011, Cow Clicker’s creator, Ian Bogost, made an event called the Cowpocalypse. The Cowpocalypse featured a timer that counted down to the apocalypse, where the game would be terminated. However, each click on a cow and each dollar spent would delay the timer. Enough clicks and money was made where the game lasted until September.
I still find the psychology behind these games to be very peculiar. This phenomenon is very interesting and I am especially intrigued by the results of the Cowpocalypse event. Bogost did not hide the fact that the game was a parody on Farmville games, and yet people still played them. Why are people, including me, inclined to keep playing them when they know that they gain essentially nothing from them?