Facebook's 'Farmville' Gets Users To Pay For Play
SCOTT SIMON, host:
Every morning people of all ages across the United States wake up, plough the fields, plant new crops and buy livestock. Theyre not necessarily farmers, but Facebook users playing a hugely popular online game called Farmville. Dean Takahashi writes about gaming, among other things, for the technology news blog VentureBeat. He joins us from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Mr. Takahashi, thanks for being with us.
Mr. DEAN TAKAHASHI (Stanford University): Thank you.
SIMON: So how do you play this game exactly?
Mr. TAKAHASHI: You just start clicking on your Facebook page. Theres a little window that opens up when you start the game, and then you plant, you grow and you sell stuff, and maybe you buy things as well. And thats it. Its just a very simple game with two-dimensional graphics, you know, funny farm music, and a cornucopia of choices of things you can do.
SIMON: Any idea how many people are playing this game?
Mr. TAKAHASHI: 63.8 million monthly active users. Its the most popular thing you can do on Facebook now.
SIMON: Mr. Takahashi, any idea why Farmville is so popular?
Mr. TAKAHASHI: You know, as a hardcore gamer, I really dont get it. This is a game for the rest of the people out there who dont consider themselves to be gamers. There are lots of women playing it, lots of teenagers, people who are wanting to socialize with their friends, and this is the way they do it.
SIMON: Something just occurs to me, this is dime-store psychology, but the number of people who are actually farming in this country is in decline and has been for some time. I wonder if farming has now become as fanciful as Space Invader games for millions of Americans.
Mr. TAKAHASHI: Yeah, its a fantasy. Its something they wish they could do but they can no longer do in a big crowded city. People just want to get back to something simpler. It almost reminds me of the organic movement - you know, theyre very interested in where their foods come from these days. And in the same way, here you get to grow your own foods.
SIMON: Except, of course, youre not its just a game.
Mr. TAKAHASHI: Right, its all virtual. But it is real money though. There is definitely a lot of money being made in these games.
SIMON: Yeah. How does that happen?
Mr. TAKAHASHI: They dont charge for the game. They give it to you for free and thats how they hook you. And then you find theres things that are frustrating for you, like it may take a whole day for you to accomplish something that you dont want to wait for. And so you can buy something like a tractor, for example, to plough your fields faster. And you pay for these with real money.
SIMON: Who are you paying when youre buying a virtual tractor?
Mr. TAKAHASHI: Youre paying the company that had to make the game and the companies like Facebook that have to host the game.
SIMON: So Mr. Takahashi, how are your crops doing this fall?
Mr. TAKAHASHI: I have not paid enough attention to them, so some of them are withering right now.
SIMON: Dean Takahashi writes about gaming and technology for the blog VentureBeat. Thanks so much.
Mr. TAKAHASHI: Thank you.
SIMON: This is NPR News.