It’s a big money-spinner among the 50 million regular players of FarmVille and the hundreds of millions who regularly play other social games.
For the uninitiated, FarmVille is a simple to grasp game where you build and maintain a virtual farm and as it is played over Facebook, your friends and family become involved too. You can share your latest crop, sell them to your friends for virtual cash and help each other maintain your farms when you’re just too busy having an actual life.
It is possible to have a pretty good gaming experience without paying a penny but in order to advance yourself through the game more rapidly, you have the option of buying virtual currency to buy and build more things. It’s a big money-spinner among the 50 million regular players of Farmville and the hundreds of millions who reguarly play other social games.
The company behind FarmVille, Zynga has reported revenues of $600m a year.
What’s so interesting about social games is that the majority of the players are women, highly unusual in the games industry as a whole.
But FarmVille is not that original. A rival developer, Slashkey launched a similar game FarmTown way before Zynga launched theirs. Zynga was also accused of copying the their Mafia Wars game from a rival who created one called Mob War. They reportedly settled out of court. Zynga told us that most games are from established themes and that they are constantly innovating in order to engage with users and increase revenue.
One way around the issue is by licensing an established brand. Playfish, who are owned by US gaming giant EA Games does this with their NFL and Fifa licensed games and Zattikka have clearly done so with Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Games.
This addition of intellectual property makes it harder for a rival to copy a game entirely. In the case of Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Games, it’s almost impossible as I doubt another gamemaker would try and replicate their Mr Creosote game (where you feed and feed Mr Creosote until he vomits over an old lady).