Facebook's 'Farmville' Gets Users To Pay For Play

More than 63 million people play the Facebook game called "Farmville" every month, and some even shell out real money to get ahead in the virtual reality. Host Scott Simon speaks to Dean Takahashi, who writes about gaming for the technology news blog VentureBeat, about why the game is so popular.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

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.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: