What happened to FarmVille?

  • FarmVille is a social network game where players engage in aspects of farm management such as planting, growing, harvesting, and tending to livestock. The game was launched in 2009 by American game developer Zynga.
  • FarmVille was an addictive game that required the constant attention of its users. Many quit the game after the novelty of performing repetitive tasks wore off, but a move by Facebook to decrease social media notifications also impacted the game’s ability to attract new players.
  • FarmVille was shut down at the end of 2020 after it became clear that Adobe was discontinuing support for Flash. A mobile-based version of the game called FarmVille 3 was released in 2021 to relative success.

History of FarmVille

FarmVille is a social network game where players engage in aspects of farm management such as planting, growing, harvesting, and tending to livestock. The game was launched in 2009 by American game developer Zynga.

FarmVille was an instant success on Facebook where it became the network’s most popular game for more than two years. Peak users topped out at around 84 million in March 2010 and from that point, FarmVille experienced a slow (but steady) decline in interest.

On December 31, 2020, FarmVille was officially killed off before somewhat of a renaissance in late 2021. Let’s chart some of the 13-year history of the game below.

Usability issues and Facebook relationship

FarmVille was an addictive game that required the constant attention of its users. If one did not frequently check on their crops, they would wither and die. Such was the level of commitment required that many would set their alarms and wake up in the middle of the night to maintain their farms.

Of course, Farmville was set up in such a way that a player could ask their friends and family to help them. This became a major source of annoyance for some because Facebook bombarded them with notifications and news feed updates.

Many complained to the social network who believed FarmVille was spammy. In response, Facebook reduced the degree to which game invites and updates were visible in user feeds. This ultimately meant less interest in the game and a reduction in new users.

Many others quit the platform as their farms became too large to manage, while others simply became bored of it after FarmVille’s high novelty factor wore off.

Negative publicity

Negative publicity about FarmVille persisted as the number of users continued to decrease. Time Magazine called it one of the “50 Worst Inventions” in recent decades because of its addictive nature and gameplay which consisted of mindless, repetitive chores.

The gaming industry as a whole was also indifferent to FarmVille despite its obvious popularity. When it won an award at the Game Developers Conference, a company representative was booed on stage as he accepted it. Zynga co-founder Mark Pincus would also later note that it was difficult to recruit game developers because they believed their peers would not respect them for taking the position.

Shutdown

Zynga announced in 2020 that it would be shutting the game down by the end of the year. The news came as no great surprise to users since it was already known that Adobe was discontinuing Flash on December 31. 

Nevertheless, it was a bitter pill to swallow for many who had spent over a decade working on their farms.

Rebirth

A new mobile-only version of the game called FarmVille 3 was launched in November 2021. 

With FarmVille 3 a relative success, Zynga was acquired by Take-Two Interactive in January 2022 for $12.7 billion. It was hoped that the deal would combine Zynga’s mobile and next-generation platform expertise with Take-Two Interactive’s superior capabilities and intellectual property, which includes the popular Grand Theft Auto series.

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