I’ve been planning on writing an article about the various Facebook games, and the different techniques they use. Well, it seems that Brian Meidell has beaten me to it, at least as far as FarmVille is concerned, with his article “What I learned from FarmVille - So you don’t have to play it”.
Brian describes the various techniques FarmVille uses to draw in more players, with the only objective of getting a fraction of them to pay for FarmCash. This is their source of income, which tops $500 million a year, and gives the company a value of about $5.5 billion (larger than Electronic Arts!).
The other games I’ve sampled, from both Zynga and My Playdom, such as FrontierVille, Mafia Wars, Market Street, and ESPNU College Town, all use the same tricks as FarmVille. Yes, there are small variations, such as having a limited amount of energy as opposed to having a waiting period while crops grow, but the end result is the same: about 2-3% of the users pay for the rare currency (FarmCash, Crowns, Horseshoes, or whatever they are called).
The most interesting aspect is the fact that none of the games are extremely rewarding, but all of them play on the compulsion factor: your friends need help, you need to ask your friends for help, etc., creating a spiral of interdependency of the players. And if you forget to play, there’s always the helpful option of receiving reminder emails (with a small gift included).
Read Brian’s detailed analysis, and be amazed…!