A quiet phenomenon since first taking root in Facebook's social-networking community in June 2009, FarmVille, Zynga's massively popular online casual experience about farming and (what else?) socializing has become even more popular by the day. By the time you read this story, their community will have grown by leaps and bounds, reaching 80 million active users a month.
Yes, this is huge. But it gets better, and keep reading to see how this will affect everything...
FarmVille's metoric rise to fame is one of the surest signs of the rise of the 'casual experience' that helps command the gaming industry's fastest growing segment, and one that will soon replace the coveted 'core' user as the most sought-after demographic...if it hasn't already. The game's massive userbase translates into a daily average of about 31 million active users, with an astonishing 54 million active users taking part in their virtual farms on a weekly basis. For those that like applied math, this translates into roughly 1.2% of the world's population actively taking part in this virtual world of farms and relationships.
But the emphasis in on active users, as the FarmVille community is an active and thriving one. The website AllFacebook is reporting that a recent fund raising campaign for the victims of January's earthquake in Haiti raised more than $1 million in virtual gifts, which is equal to the donations of the Major League Baseball Association, Google, NBA Players Union, and even Blizzard's own World of Warcraft community.
FarmVille fans are also quite the romantics, with over 220 million Valentine's Day gifts sent to their virtual sweethearts in 18 hours over the cherubic holiday. Clearly, these are a people in love.
But it hasn't been all sunny days pumpkin patches, as the game has also attracted its fair share of controversey. Some users have charged parent company Zynga of running misleading promotions that led to unwanted charges on their cell phone accounts. Others have charged the company with promoting the Zwinky toolbar, which many claim is little more than unwanted spyware.. Currently, both Facebook and Zynga are involved in a class-action lawsuit that is investigating the merits of many of these claims.
The most egregious claim, however, remains that FarmVille itself is little more than a clone of the popular Farmtown online game. This isn't the first time the company has been accused of pilfering ideas from another popular game, as they recently settled with the creator of Mob Wars over claims that Zynga stole ideas and concepts for their own Mafia Wars.
Playing FarmVille requires an active Facebook account, a design that no doubt helps influence massive internal marketing efforts and sharing minute details with family and friends (among others). So it shouldn't come as any surprise that the growth of FarmVille should parallel that of its host service Facebook.com, which recently became the second-most popular website in the United States, surpassing former-number two Yahoo, attracting over 134 million users in January. These numbers are fast encroaching at the heels of Google, who's been the most trafficed website (since itself displacing Yahoo in 2008). Reports have users spending most of their time on Facebook, no doubt engaging in some virtual agriculture and inside trading of their own.
Controversey aside, there's no doubt that FarmVille will continue to grow and expand its domain, much like its virtual denizens and their virtual crops. To see if this is one social-networking phenomenon you want to stake your claim into, check out the official FarmVille website (Facebook account required) right HERE!
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