Zynga Opens a New Frontier for Social Gamers

Social game developer Zynga has introduced its latest creation — “FrontierVille” — on Facebook. “FrontierVille” is similar to Zynga’s immensely popular “FarmVille” in that players and their networks maintain a place — in this case, a frontier outpost.

The game starts with a covered wagon and plot of land where the player starts digging to build a farm.

Chores, which earn points, include buying supplies, keeping livestock alive, planting crops to feed the family, and harvesting them. Later, the player gets to explore the wilderness and found a town. Players can invite friends in their networks to help out, or hire them with in-game currency. The higher the hired help’s reputation, the more credits earned.

“FrontierVille’s” technical functionality goes beyond “FarmVille’s” in many respects: Users can control multiple avatars on a single screen, for example. “FrontierVille” also introduces a virtual family that can be customized. There is an element of organic change in the game as well. Saplings grow to full-sized trees; weeds spring up that have to be cleared; bears invade the property that have to be chased away.

Another Hit

If the game takes off, it will be yet another casual gaming hit for Zynga, which also started “Mafia Wars” on Facebook. Set in New York and Moscow, “Mafia Wars” revolves around jobs that will let the player’s avatar build a criminal empire. Players recruit friends and engage in mob fights with other players.

It was “FarmVille” that truly put Zynga on the social media map. Since its debut on Facebook, Zynga has introduced it as an app for the iPhone, and it recently inked a deal with Yahoo to put its game offerings on that portal as well. “FarmVille’s” popularity has been dropping in recent months, though, and the introduction of “FrontierVille” is no doubt intended to spark new interest among social gaming fans.

Gaming Newbies

“FarmVille” is notable in that it has attracted a lot of people who weren’t active Internet users, Michael Pachter, managing director of equity research for Wedbush Securities, told TechNewsWorld. “It was the social hooks that grabbed people — women especially — to play the game, even if they weren’t gamers or techies.”

The cows have to be milked, the crops tended, etc. — and inviting friends to help out is one way to get the chores done.

Zynga’s success has attracted other developers to the casual gaming category, noted David Erickson, director of e-strategy for Tunheim Partners.

“Other companies are making inroads and we can expect even more to come to market,” he told TechNewsWorld.

The ones that will succeed, however, will be firms whose core competency is social gaming, said Erickson. “There is a dynamic to this concept that you have to truly grasp in order to be successful.”

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