Viral mechanics: FarmVille 2

Matthew Warneford

Following on from our post on the viral mechanics employed in Sim City Social, this time we’re turning our attention to FarmVille 2, the sequel to the biggest social game ever!

The original FarmVille is only three years old and still has 3.2 million users logging on to tend to their virtual farm each day! Considering FarmVille at its peak had 83 million monthly active players it’s clear to see that a lot has changed in those three years. For a broader view of the changes Zynga has made, take a look at this short video:

What we’re interested in are the viral mechanics employed by the game. When it was released in September FarmVille 2 design director Wright Bagwell said: “The team have worked very hard to ensure that all the sounds in the game help the player relax, from the music in the background to the sound that plays when the cursor hovers over wind chimes.”Sound effects aside, FarmVille was famous for its non-audible noise, which usually took the form of an incessant string of wall posts.

Initial indications suggest that FarmVille 2 has been designed to be a much calmer experience; it would be a modern social game, building upon the lessons learnt from its predecessor.

As the video explains, there are many new elements to FarmVille 2. But while Zynga champions these as something novel (friends working on your farm, story, characters), they’ve been utilised by plenty of other social games, since the original FarmVille.

Of course, what does set FarmVille 2 apart is its presentation. It’s beautiful, especially when you consider it’s being played in a browser. Zynga have Flash 11 to thank for that. But aesthetics to one side, has FarmVille really altered its use of viral mechanics and loops?


As the flow chart and timeline shows, the answer is yes, in a big way. The playthrough used for this post was one hour and no real money was spent. Over that time there were 14 viral instances, 9 of them were requests to share accomplishments, three to invite friends to play and two to request resources.

The suggestions to invite friends came relatively late on, with the first occurring after ten minutes of play, followed by two every ten minutes after that. Each instance was subtle and demonstrated the advantages of playing with friends. It wasn’t until the final 15 minutes that I had to request resources from friends to continue and I refused them both, getting on with other farm-related chores instead.

When compared to the number of viral actions that occurred during an hour of Sim City Social, clearly FarmVille 2 is a much more relaxing game, as its designer promised. Of course, this could change later in the game but considering you’re given a good hour to settle in, it’s a welcome change.

Much of FarmVille remains unaltered with many of the mechanics it introduced to the world three years ago still present. Zynga just seems to have delivered them in a smarter and prettier way, while dialling them down a few notches.

Of course, what’s hard to know is whether Zynga has dialled the sharing down to enhance gameplay, or because Facebook has considerably altered how games can use the social network’s facilities, and left Zynga little choice.

Other Articles