Farmville Economics: Sweet Seeds are Almost Genius…

Zynga launched a great promotion this weekend called “Sweet Seeds”, and I thought it deserved at least a little direct attention. So yes, this is “yet another Farmville post” (YAFP).

A brief description from Farmville Village:

Zynga has just launched “Sweet Seeds for Haiti” a special FarmCash crop you can buy with 50% of the proceeds going to charity. These plants are unique in that they never wither and give maximum experience points, with a special gift in your gift box for you, too!

My first reaction to this announcement was “Genius!” Not to be cynical, but Zynga seemed to have a pattern of rolling out crops with superior economics and rapid turnarounds to help drive huge activity spikes. (The Super Berries in August, for example, were well timed with a surge over 10M daily active users.)

By rolling out a super-charged crop for charity, they could get the benefit of increased activity and funnel money to a deserving cause. Win-win. It seemed like a brilliant approach to match up business & altruistic goals, and set forward a powerful concept of buying virtual goods as a mechanism for charitable fundraising.

In fact, at first, the only thing that surprised me a bit was that only 50% of the money was going to charity. I suppose there might be some costs associated with payment processing and handling the operational surge of activity. Typically, however, if you are going for a charity, you tend to absorb those costs to avoid the appearance of profiting from people who are looking to donate to a good cause.

Then I actually looked at the economics for Sweet Potatoes. And I was left scratching my head.

The stats for Sweet Potatoes are as follows:

  • 3 XP
  • 10 coins to plant
  • 125 coins at harvest

By itself, these statistics would make Sweet Potatoes truly a super crop, except for one detail:

  • 1 day to grow

115 Coins of profit per day puts Sweet Potatoes between Broccoli & Cabbage for daily profit, #16 on the table I published last week.

Really not very super. Super Berries had huge numbers because they could be harvested every 2 hours. But a full day? You’d do better on experience and profit planting almost any of the 8 hour (or faster growing) crops.

3XP (+1XP for plowing) does compare favorably with all daily crops, except for Peas. Peas offer:

  • 3 XP
  • 176 coins of profit / day

As far as I can tell, there is absolutely no reason you would plant Sweet Potatoes if you already have Peas. None. And it certainly wouldn’t be worth $5 (25 FV) to do so. True, this crop doesn’t whither… but that just makes the activity goal even more unlikely.

All this would be different if the crop took 4 hours to grow instead of a day. But with the current numbers, planting Sweet Potatoes just doesn’t make any sense.

I’m going to hazard a few guesses as to why Zynga set these numbers here:

  • Theory 1: They didn’t care about people at higher levels. Of my 50 neighbors, only one is at a level where they can buy Peas. So these numbers would look good to at least 98% of the audience.
  • Theory 2: The target market is sensitive to time. The 1 day cycle and removal of withering suggests that they were targeting a segment of users that don’t want to spend all day planting & harvesting.
  • Theory 3: The load generated by Farmville has been so high on Zynga given it’s phenomenal success, they decided last minute to extend the growing time to a day, to minimize activity for a period of time. In a way, the Sweet Potatoes are Bizarro Super Berries, working to diminish activity, instead of encourage it.
  • Theory 4: They didn’t run the numbers on the economics. (I find this impossible to believe.)

I still believe the concept behind the Sweet Seeds announcement incredibly sharp. Plenty of time and opportunity for Zynga to tune these type of events going forward.

Almost genius. Almost.

by Adam Nash

4:17 AM

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