Zynga have revealed that they launched Farmville as the most 'minimum viable product' possible.
Mark Skaggs, Vice President of Product Development at Zynga, explained that at the game's inception at GDC today. The philosophy for its development was "Fast, light and right". Skaggs commented that at the beginning his idea was “Lets just go for it, get it done as fast as possible. Pedal to the metal.” Read on for some astonishing figures on FarmVille's rapid growth and domination of the Facebook game scene.
In order to get FarmVille live on Facebook as fast as possible, it was released as a "minimum viable product" - just the most basic game it could be, which would then be expanded and added to over time, with new features added as rapidly as possible to keep the user base interested. The move clearly paid off, with unbelievable player numbers amounting in a short period. The team were set goals to encourage them to help attract unique users; if they could one million players in 30 days, the team would be taken to a top-end restaurant. If they could get a million players before June 30th (within 11 days - the game launched June 19th), Zynga's CFO joked he'd take the team to Paris. Incredibly, FarmVille smashed these targets to pieces - they hit one million unique users in just six days. Since then, the game has peaked at 32.5 million players in a single day.
Skaggs explained what he believes to be one of the key strengths behind FarmVille: “I've seen my wife play Solitaire, bejeweeled etc. It's their moment alone. With the invention of Facebook, they're connecting with their friends, family, etc etc. When you put gameplay in there, you have the mom network spreading the word about your game. The Matriarch Network.”
Launching FarmVille in such a basic state was an interesting move for Zynga, but it paid off. The game rocketed to the most popular Facebook game, and has continued to remain there. Skaggs recognises staying there is a challenge, discussing how post-launch you have to work hard to keep the players happy: “After launch, everything is much harder. If the servers go down, you have to drop everything you're doing to fix it.”