Agile Development Lessons from Zynga Farmville
I played Farmville for a short time because all my friends and family were playing. At every gathering, Farmville dominates the conversation at least part of the time. So I had to play just so I could understand the conversation. I had some fun creating my vineyard. But my friends are interested in gaining mastery in various produce, collecting various items posted on the Facebook news feed and attaining new levels. None of those things interested me. I wanted to maintain the integrity of my vineyard, make sure my reasonable number of animals had plenty of room to roam and ensure my plot of land was never cluttered. My game objectives were inconsistent with the general mode of play. Eventually I turned control of my farm over to my "ghost farmer" and I haven't looked back. Since I work in the dot com business, however, I'm extremely interested in Farmville and Zynga from a business perspective. I recently ran across a nice blog post which covers many things near and dear to my heart such as the development methodology, release process, code architecture, monetization model, and many other gems gleaned from zynga's Amitt Mahajan.
He and Amitt also talked about the ability of tying each experience to a point of monetization—at user account creation, users status page and status viewing; but also that the best way is to bring the promotion into the game. He talked specifically about a promotion they ran with FTD where in the game you could buy a virtual boquet; and integrating product placement into the story line yielded he said 3-5x conversion rates. He also was big on two tier currencies; which I understood as a base currency that users mostly earn through time and effort in the game; and a second more mega currency that maps to premium monetization of user actions; and links with more “subscriber” class buyers.