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).


For quick reference, here are the links to my first five Farmville posts:

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.

Update:  Here are additional posts on Farmville Economics, published after this one: