Fishville Economics: Points, Experience & Levels

My Zynga addiction clearly knows no bounds.  Last week, Zynga launched a new game called Fishville, and clearly at this point I have no ability to resist any new Zynga game.

Screen shot 2009-11-12 at 12.57.13 AMFishville has a deceptively simple frame:  you have a fish tank, and you buy fish eggs for it.  The fish hatch, you feed them, and then when they are fully grown, you sell them for profit.

What I’ve found most interesting about the game is the new dimensions they are exploring in the economics of the game.  Fishville adds a couple distinguishing twists versus Farmville or Café World:

  1. Multiple Tanks. How many people wish they had more than one farm in Farmville?  In Fishville, Zynga has two types of expansion – the ability to put more fish in a single tank and the ability to buy new tanks.  This may not seem relevant from a structural standpoint – after all whether you add 20 fish to one tank or 10 to 2 tanks shouldn’t matter – but it should create a new dynamic around buying virtual goods to decorate different tanks.
  2. Harvest Levels. This is the real twist to the economics.  Fish grow up in stages, up to four levels.  The revenue in coins and the experience you get goes up linearly with each level.  So if you have a 4 hour fish, you can harvest them at 4 hours at Level 1, or 16 hours at Level 4.  You still have to feed them or they die (similar to withering crops in Farmville), but you don’t need to “replant”.

The Harvest Levels have the most impact on the game economics.  In financial terms, each fish now has a fixed cost and a variable cost, as well as a fixed experience pay-off and variable experience pay-off.

For example, let’s take the Mini Dart Goby, the first fish.

The Goby costs 7 coins for an egg.  That’s a fixed cost.  If you grow it to Level 1, you’ll get 18 coins, for a profit of 11 coins.  Easy, right?  Hold on.  If you wait until Level 4, you’ll get 72 coins over that same 7 coin cost, for a profit of 65 coins.

The fixed cost means that your “profitability” or “profit / minute” goes up the longer you wait to harvest.

Seems like a no-brainer to wait until Level 4?  Not so fast.

With Experience Points, the math works in reverse.

The Mini Dart Goby gives you 2 XP for dropping the egg.  At Level 1, you’ll get 8 XP, for a total of 10 XP.  But if you wait until Level 4, you’ll get 32 XP, for a total of 34 XP of the time period.  In this case, your “XP / Minute” goes down the longer you wait to harvest.

It gets even harder.

You can harvest a fish in-between levels… but you don’t get any credit for the time between levels.  So if you are half-way between levels, your “profit / minute” and “experience / minute” will be terrible.  In fact, the math says you need to harvest at level boundaries pretty closely.  (I think in a future blog post, I’ll graph this.)

For now, here are some tables I’ve made for the fish I have data on.  Unfortunately, this game is so new, I can’t find any guides online with data for all fish.  Special thanks to Erin Hoffmann, who serves as both data provider and my toughest competitor in Fishville.

The most interesting aspect to these tables is that while the profitability / minute rises for each level, Zynga has kept the fixed costs proportional enough that the ranking of the fish does not change significantly between 1 level or 4 levels.

Here is the profitability of different fish at Level 1:

Fish Profit / One Level Minutes / One Level Profit / Minute
Sardine 7.00 3.00 2.33
Mini Dart Goby 11.00 5.00 2.20
Red Spot Cardinal 23.00 15.00 1.53
Swissguard Basslet 17.00 60.00 0.28
Shy Hamlet 54.00 240.00 0.23
Percula Clownfish 81.00 480.00 0.17
Royal Dottyback 99.00 960.00 0.10
Hawaiian Hogfish 72.00 720.00 0.10
Scooter Blenny 133.00 1440.00 0.09

Here is the profitability of different fish at Level 4:

Fish Profit / Four Levels Minutes / Four Levels Profit / Minute
Sardine 43.00 12.00 3.58
Mini Dart Goby 65.00 20.00 3.25
Red Spot Cardinal 137.00 60.00 2.28
Swissguard Basslet 98.00 240.00 0.41
Shy Hamlet 321.00 960.00 0.33
Percula Clownfish 468.00 1920.00 0.24
Hawaiian Hogfish 432.00 2880.00 0.15
Royal Dottyback 567.00 3840.00 0.15
Scooter Blenny 796.00 5760.00 0.14

Here is the experience productivity of different fish at Level 1:

Fish XP / One Level Min / Four Levels XP / Minute
Mini Dart Goby 8.00 5.00 1.60
Sardine 4.00 3.00 1.33
Red Spot Cardinal 16.00 15.00 1.07
Swissguard Basslet 20.00 60.00 0.33
Shy Hamlet 75.00 240.00 0.31
Percula Clownfish 135.00 480.00 0.28
Hawaiian Hogfish 170.00 720.00 0.24
Royal Dottyback 220.00 960.00 0.23
Scooter Blenny 290.00 1440.00 0.20

Here is the experience productivity of different fish at Level 4:

Fish XP / Four Levels Min / Four Levels XP / Minute
Mini Dart Goby 26.00 20.00 1.30
Sardine 13.00 12.00 1.08
Red Spot Cardinal 52.00 60.00 0.87
Swissguard Basslet 68.00 240.00 0.28
Shy Hamlet 255.00 960.00 0.27
Percula Clownfish 459.00 1920.00 0.24
Hawaiian Hogfish 629.00 2880.00 0.22
Royal Dottyback 814.00 3840.00 0.21
Scooter Blenny 1073.00 5760.00 0.19

If you’d like to help, I’m missing data for the following fish:

  • Blue Damsel
  • Inland Silverside
  • Pajama Cardinal
  • Longnose Hawkfish
  • Annularis Angelfish
  • Blue Spot Grouper
  • Blue Hippo Tang
  • Bartlett Anthias

For each, please leave a comment with:

  • XP / Egg
  • Revenue / Level
  • XP / Level
  • Minutes / Level

Hope this helps the new Fishville players out there.  Enjoy.

Update (11/14/2009): New blog post coming tomorrow, with updated tables and new info.  Also, fixing the issue around the whole “Level 4/Adult” confusion, and publishing a Google Doc to help others benefit from the raw data.  I’m still finding that people are ignoring the XP from the dropping of the egg, and only focusing on the XP from harvesting, so I’ll update tables to make that more clear.

Updates:  I’ve now posted additional columns on Fishville:

Café World Economics: Updated Tables

I really haven’t had enough time to write the second post I had been planning on Buzz measurements and the profitability by unit time of different dishes.  So, instead, this week I’m posting updated tables for some of the new dishes that Zynga has rolled out.  (Still looking for an accurate breakdown of CP for Impossible Quiche, BTW.  I’m only at Level 25 myself…)

gameBig_cafeworld

This is the second post in my Café World Economics series.  The first one is here:

Here are my Café World tables, updated for the three new dishes Zynga rolled out last week.

First, the table of dishes, sorted by total profit per day:

Dish Profit / Day Profit / Hour Min Per Cycle
Bacon Cheeseburger 6336.0 264.0 5.0
Overstuffed Peppers 5970.0 248.8 720.0
Kung Pao Stir Fry 5910.0 246.3 240.0
Fiery Fish Tacos 5880.0 245.0 120.0
King Crab Bisque 5370.0 223.8 1440.0
Chips and Guacamole 5280.0 220.0 3.0
Impossible Quiche 5092.5 212.2 2880.0
Powdered French Toast 4824.0 201.0 20.0
Super Chunk Fruit Salad 4800.0 200.0 15.0
Tony’s Classic Pizza 4248.0 177.0 300.0
Chicken Gyro and Fries 4032.0 168.0 10.0
Grand Tandoori Chicken 3985.0 166.0 1440.0
Voodoo Chicken Salad 3920.0 163.3 720.0
Herbed Halibut 3785.0 157.7 1440.0
Crackling Peking Duck 3580.0 149.2 1080.0
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail 3264.0 136.0 30.0
Tikka Masala Kabobs 3120.0 130.0 60.0
Spaghetti and Meatballs 2730.0 113.8 480.0
Spitfire Roasted Chicken 2585.0 107.7 1440.0
French Onion Soup 2550.0 106.3 240.0
Triple Berry Cheesecake 2470.0 102.9 720.0
Caramel Apples 2340.0 97.5 120.0
Homestyle Pot Roast 1967.5 82.0 2880.0
Vampire Staked Steak 1695.0 70.6 1440.0
Pumpkin Pie 1690.0 70.4 720.0

Here is the second table, dishes sorted by Café Points per Day:

Dish CP / Day CP / Hour Min Per Cycle
Bacon Cheeseburger 2016.0 84.0 5.0
Chicken Gyro and Fries 2016.0 84.0 10.0
Chips and Guacamole 1920.0 80.0 3.0
Powdered French Toast 1512.0 63.0 20.0
Super Chunk Fruit Salad 1344.0 56.0 15.0
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail 1008.0 42.0 30.0
Fiery Fish Tacos 588.0 24.5 120.0
Tikka Masala Kabobs 528.0 22.0 60.0
Kung Pao Stir Fry 450.0 18.8 240.0
Caramel Apples 420.0 17.5 120.0
Overstuffed Peppers 412.0 17.2 720.0
Grand Tandoori Chicken 403.0 16.8 1440.0
French Onion Soup 366.0 15.3 240.0
Voodoo Chicken Salad 336.0 14.0 720.0
Tony’s Classic Pizza 326.4 13.6 300.0
Spaghetti and Meatballs 300.0 12.5 480.0
Triple Berry Cheesecake 280.0 11.7 720.0
King Crab Bisque 252.0 10.5 1440.0
Herbed Halibut 225.0 9.4 1440.0
Crackling Peking Duck 221.3 9.2 1080.0
Spitfire Roasted Chicken 210.0 8.8 1440.0
Impossible Quiche 175.5 7.3 2880.0
Pumpkin Pie 152.0 6.3 720.0
Homestyle Pot Roast 139.5 5.8 2880.0
Vampire Staked Steak 113.0 4.7 1440.0

As per some of the comments, I’ve realized that there is an overhead in time for setting up a dish. It’s likely small (15-20s), but still, that’s a material increase on a 5 minute dish. I’ll provide that update in a future post.

In truth, I had hoped to have my first FishVille Economics post up by now. Unfortunately, the little spat between Zynga & Facebook seems to have precluded it for now. Fishville has been down all day.

Update:  New Café World Economics posts are available:

Farmville Economics: Cranberries, Pattypan Squash, Acorn Squash

Zynga launched several new crops this week: Cranberries, Pattypan Squash, and Acorn Squash, so I thought I’d update my tables for active players out there. So yes, this is Yet Another Farmville Post (YAFP).

gameBig_farmville

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

I’ve updated my tables to include the new crops.  You’ll notice that none of the new crops are significantly differentiated by either experience or profit.

Please remember, all tables normalize the values for one square per day (24 hour day), and include the cost and experience involved with plowing the square per cycle.

Here are the crops, ranked by Profit / Day:

Crop Profit / Day
Super Berries 900.00
Asparagus 183.00
Sugar Cane 177.00
Peas 176.00
Tomatoes 174.00
Green Tea 170.40
Grapes 170.00
Onions 166.00
Sunflowers 165.00
Ghost Chili 164.00
Acorn Squash 163.20
Coffee 162.00
Blackberries 162.00
Lillies 159.00
Blueberries 156.00
Carrots 150.00
Raspberries 132.00
Broccoli 129.00
Pattypan Squash 120.00
Cabbage 116.50
Lavendar 104.50
Sweet Seeds 100.00
Red Wheat 84.67
Aloe Vera 80.00
Yellow Mellon 77.00
Peppers 77.00
Rice 72.00
Corn 71.67
Red Tulips 69.00
Pumpkin 69.00
Cranberries 67.20
Pineapple 66.00
Potatoes 65.00
Strawberries 60.00
Pink Roses 59.50
Yellow Bell 54.00
Watermelon 50.75
Cotton 39.00
Squash 33.00
Soybeans 33.00
Daffodils 30.00
Artichoke 29.75
Eggplant 24.00
Wheat 21.67

Here are the crops ranked by Experience / Day:

Crop XP / Day Cycle (Hours)
Super Berries 24.00 2.00
Blueberries 12.00 4.00
Raspberries 12.00 2.00
Strawberries 12.00 4.00
Blackberries 12.00 4.00
Aloe Vera 8.00 6.00
Ghost Chili 8.00 6.00
Pumpkin 6.00 8.00
Sugar Cane 6.00 8.00
Tomatoes 6.00 8.00
Cranberries 4.80 10.00
Green Tea 4.80 10.00
Acorn Squash 4.80 10.00
Asparagus 4.50 16.00
Rice 4.00 12.00
Sweet Seeds 4.00 24.00
Onions 4.00 12.00
Peas 4.00 24.00
Carrots 4.00 12.00
Grapes 3.00 24.00
Pattypan Squash 3.00 16.00
Red Tulips 3.00 24.00
Peppers 3.00 24.00
Soybeans 3.00 24.00
Sunflowers 3.00 24.00
Coffee 3.00 16.00
Lillies 3.00 24.00
Broccoli 2.50 48.00
Pineapple 1.50 48.00
Yellow Bell 1.50 48.00
Daffodils 1.50 48.00
Squash 1.50 48.00
Eggplant 1.50 48.00
Lavendar 1.50 48.00
Cabbage 1.50 48.00
Pink Roses 1.50 48.00
Cotton 1.00 72.00
Wheat 1.00 72.00
Red Wheat 1.00 72.00
Corn 1.00 72.00
Potatoes 1.00 72.00
Watermelon 0.75 96.00
Artichoke 0.75 96.00
Yellow Mellon 0.75 96.00

Here are the crops ranked by Profit + Experience / Day (using 15 coins for XP value):

Crop Profit + XP / Day
Super Berries 1260.00
Blackberries 342.00
Blueberries 336.00
Raspberries 312.00
Ghost Chili 284.00
Sugar Cane 267.00
Tomatoes 264.00
Asparagus 250.50
Green Tea 242.40
Strawberries 240.00
Peas 236.00
Acorn Squash 235.20
Onions 226.00
Grapes 215.00
Sunflowers 210.00
Carrots 210.00
Coffee 207.00
Lillies 204.00
Aloe Vera 200.00
Broccoli 166.50
Pattypan Squash 165.00
Sweet Seeds 160.00
Pumpkin 159.00
Cranberries 139.20
Cabbage 139.00
Rice 132.00
Lavendar 127.00
Peppers 122.00
Red Tulips 114.00
Red Wheat 99.67
Pineapple 88.50
Yellow Mellon 88.25
Corn 86.67
Pink Roses 82.00
Potatoes 80.00
Soybeans 78.00
Yellow Bell 76.50
Watermelon 62.00
Squash 55.50
Cotton 54.00
Daffodils 52.50
Eggplant 46.50
Artichoke 41.00
Wheat 36.67

And here are the crops by Risk Adjusted Profit / Day:

Crop Risk-Adjusted Profit / Day Risk of Complete Default
Peas 226.53 12.97%
Broccoli 217.37 1.68%
Grapes 206.37 12.97%
Sunflowers 201.57 12.97%
Lillies 195.82 12.97%
Asparagus 185.57 25.62%
Cabbage 181.47 1.68%
Lavendar 165.80 1.68%
Super Berries 154.22 84.35%
Sweet Seeds 153.58 12.97%
Coffee 153.35 25.62%
Red Wheat 142.52 0.22%
Onions 135.58 36.01%
Yellow Mellon 130.15 0.03%
Green Tea 126.03 42.69%
Carrots 125.98 36.01%
Corn 123.93 0.22%
Acorn Squash 122.29 42.69%
Pattypan Squash 122.23 25.62%
Peppers 117.11 12.97%
Sugar Cane 115.57 50.61%
Pineapple 115.54 1.68%
Potatoes 114.40 0.22%
Tomatoes 114.27 50.61%
Red Tulips 109.43 12.97%
Pink Roses 107.05 1.68%
Yellow Bell 99.87 1.68%
Ghost Chili 96.00 60.01%
Watermelon 91.44 0.03%
Blackberries 80.30 71.14%
Rice 79.19 36.01%
Blueberries 78.89 71.14%
Cotton 77.22 0.22%
Soybeans 74.87 12.97%
Squash 72.46 1.68%
Cranberries 72.37 42.69%
Pumpkin 68.82 50.61%
Daffodils 68.54 1.68%
Aloe Vera 67.61 60.01%
Eggplant 60.71 1.68%
Artichoke 60.47 0.03%
Strawberries 56.35 71.14%
Wheat 52.43 0.22%
Raspberries 38.19 84.35%

Enjoy. Happy Farming.

Café World Economics: Profit & Cafe Points

I suppose it was inevitable.  There comes a point when you have reached a level of wealth in Farmville where you can buy anything (even the Villa).  A point when you have enough experience that you can plant any crop.

It’s natural at that point for the eye to wander, seeking out the next great Zynga game.  And for me, that happened a little over a week ago when I decided to take the plunge into Cafe World.

gameBig_cafeworld

Cafe World has a number of elements that I had originally suggested for Farmville:  animated sims, shorter time spans, more functional enhancements.  It’s a much more complicated simulation, and as a result, it took me quite a bit longer to get the hang of it.

There are a few very interesting new aspects to the game that make modeling the economics difficult.  Expect future posts from me on how to model “The Buzz Factor”, which affects the velocity that your food is consumed over time, and how to model “Spoilage”, which is similar to Farmville but more absolute.

A couple quick tips, for the fans out there:

  • Your Buzz Rating drops by 1.0 for every customer who comes in and leaves without food.  The minimum is 5.0, the maximum is 105.0.  There are two ways to preserve it, however.  First, when you run out of food, remove the doors on your restaurant.  This will close the cafe, and keep your Buzz rating flat.  Second, your buzz rating will not fall if you are not actually running the game.  That means it’s safe to run out of food, as long as you aren’t watching…
  • If you block your waiter(s) in, then they will serve the food infinitely fast.  This is just like the Farmer trick from Farmville.  I highly recommend doing this with the three serving stations against a corner.  One warning – for this to work, you need to give the waiter/waitress *two* squares of freedom.  With just one, it doesn’t seem to work.

To get things started, however, I thought I’d just run the simple numbers on profitability and experience for each recipe.  I found elements of this information on various posts across the web.  (Here is one from Cafe World Strategy.  Here is another from Cyberanto.  This one was the best, from Simple Think.)  Unfortunately, no one seems to know the Café Points experience breakdown between preparing & serving the Impossible Quiche… I guess no one is at that level yet. (I had to guess in my table).

First, profitability.  Each dish below is normalized as follows:

  • All values are normalized for a 24 hours day
  • A “cycle” is based on cooking time, but includes the cost & cafe points for cleaning the oven once
  • I assume an infinitely fast player for cleaning/preparing/serving

Dish Profit / Day Profit / Hour Min Per Cycle
Bacon Cheeseburger 6336.0 264.0 5.0
Overstuffed Peppers 5970.0 248.8 720.0
Kung Pao Stir Fry 5910.0 246.3 240.0
Fiery Fish Tacos 5880.0 245.0 120.0
King Crab Bisque 5370.0 223.8 1440.0
Chips and Guacamole 5280.0 220.0 3.0
Impossible Quiche 5092.5 212.2 2880.0
Powdered French Toast 4824.0 201.0 20.0
Super Chunk Fruit Salad 4800.0 200.0 15.0
Tony’s Classic Pizza 4248.0 177.0 300.0
Chicken Gyro and Fries 4032.0 168.0 10.0
Voodoo Chicken Salad 3920.0 163.3 720.0
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail 3264.0 136.0 30.0
Spaghetti and Meatballs 3255.0 135.6 480.0
Tikka Masala Kabobs 3120.0 130.0 60.0
Spitfire Roasted Chicken 2585.0 107.7 1440.0
French Onion Soup 2550.0 106.3 240.0
Triple Berry Cheesecake 2470.0 102.9 720.0
Caramel Apples 2340.0 97.5 120.0
Homestyle Pot Roast 1967.5 82.0 2880.0
Vampire Staked Steak 1695.0 70.6 1440.0
Pumpkin Pie 1690.0 70.4 720.0

The next table shows the same information, but for Café Points instead of profit. This is more useful if your primary concern is “leveling up”.

Dish CP / Day CP / Hour Min Per Cycle
Bacon Cheeseburger 2016.0 84.0 5.0
Chicken Gyro and Fries 2016.0 84.0 10.0
Chips and Guacamole 1920.0 80.0 3.0
Powdered French Toast 1512.0 63.0 20.0
Super Chunk Fruit Salad 1344.0 56.0 15.0
Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail 1008.0 42.0 30.0
Fiery Fish Tacos 588.0 24.5 120.0
Tikka Masala Kabobs 528.0 22.0 60.0
Kung Pao Stir Fry 450.0 18.8 240.0
Caramel Apples 420.0 17.5 120.0
Overstuffed Peppers 412.0 17.2 720.0
French Onion Soup 366.0 15.3 240.0
Voodoo Chicken Salad 336.0 14.0 720.0
Tony’s Classic Pizza 326.4 13.6 300.0
Spaghetti and Meatballs 300.0 12.5 480.0
Triple Berry Cheesecake 280.0 11.7 720.0
King Crab Bisque 252.0 10.5 1440.0
Spitfire Roasted Chicken 210.0 8.8 1440.0
Impossible Quiche 175.5 7.3 2880.0
Pumpkin Pie 152.0 6.3 720.0
Homestyle Pot Roast 139.5 5.8 2880.0
Vampire Staked Steak 113.0 4.7 1440.0

Two things seem clear to me from these tables:

  1. Overstuffed Peppers is the dish to beat.  12 hours cooking time means you don’t have to babysit the game endlessly.  One of the most profitable, and does a fair job of building experience.
  2. Fast Food is King. If you have the patience and time, serving burgers can’t be beat.  All the numbers are incredibly weighted towards the foods with short cycles.  After all, when you can literally serve something 288 times in a single day, that’s a huge multiplier.

In future posts, I’ll try to rebalance these numbers across risk of spoilage and personal time value, to bring some sense to the madness.  I can tell already, however, that the Overstuffed Peppers is going to be the best balance of time & profit.  Of course, my cafe is still dawdling at Level 14…

Update:  New Café World Economics posts are available:

Farmville Economics: Flowers & Updated Tables

Zynga launched several new crops this week in the form of cut flowers, so I thought I’d update my tables for active players out there.  So yes, this is Yet Another Farmville Post (YAFP).

gameBig_farmville

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

I’ve updated my tables to include both Sweet Seeds and the new cut flowers.  You’ll notice that, as per my last post, Sweets Seeds really aren’t as good as they should be.  At least, it’s not clear to me why Super Berries were so much better.

Please remember, all tables normalize the values for one square per day (24 hour day), and include the cost and experience involved with plowing the square per cycle.

Here are the crops, ranked by Profit / Day:

Crop Profit / Day
Super Berries 900.00
Asparagus 183.00
Sugar Cane 177.00
Peas 176.00
Tomatoes 174.00
Green Tea 170.40
Grapes 170.00
Onions 166.00
Sunflowers 165.00
Ghost Chili 164.00
Coffee 162.00
Blackberries 162.00
Lillies 159.00
Blueberries 156.00
Carrots 150.00
Raspberries 132.00
Broccoli 129.00
Cabbage 116.50
Sugar Cane 104.50
Sweet Seeds 100.00
Red Wheat 84.67
Aloe Vera 80.00
Peppers 77.00
Yellow Mellon 77.00
Rice 72.00
Corn 71.67
Red Tulips 69.00
Pumpkin 69.00
Pineapple 66.00
Potatoes 65.00
Strawberries 60.00
Pink Roses 59.50
Yellow Bell 54.00
Watermelon 50.75
Cotton 39.00
Squash 33.00
Soybeans 33.00
Daffodils 30.00
Artichoke 29.75
Eggplant 24.00
Wheat 21.67

Here are the crops ranked by Experience per Day:

Crop XP / Day Cycle (Hours)
Super Berries 24.00 2.00
Blueberries 12.00 4.00
Raspberries 12.00 2.00
Strawberries 12.00 4.00
Blackberries 12.00 4.00
Aloe Vera 8.00 6.00
Ghost Chili 8.00 6.00
Tomatoes 6.00 8.00
Pumpkin 6.00 8.00
Sugar Cane 6.00 8.00
Green Tea 4.80 10.00
Asparagus 4.50 16.00
Rice 4.00 12.00
Sweet Seeds 4.00 24.00
Carrots 4.00 12.00
Peas 4.00 24.00
Onions 4.00 12.00
Grapes 3.00 24.00
Red Tulips 3.00 24.00
Peppers 3.00 24.00
Soybeans 3.00 24.00
Sunflowers 3.00 24.00
Coffee 3.00 16.00
Lillies 3.00 24.00
Broccoli 2.50 48.00
Pink Roses 1.50 48.00
Pineapple 1.50 48.00
Yellow Bell 1.50 48.00
Daffodils 1.50 48.00
Squash 1.50 48.00
Eggplant 1.50 48.00
Sugar Cane 1.50 48.00
Cabbage 1.50 48.00
Cotton 1.00 72.00
Wheat 1.00 72.00
Red Wheat 1.00 72.00
Corn 1.00 72.00
Potatoes 1.00 72.00
Watermelon 0.75 96.00
Artichoke 0.75 96.00
Yellow Mellon 0.75 96.00

Here are the crops ranked by a sum of profit and experience per day (see previous posts for why I ascribe 15 coins to the value of one point of experience):

Crop Profit + XP / Day
Super Berries 1260.00
Blackberries 342.00
Blueberries 336.00
Raspberries 312.00
Ghost Chili 284.00
Sugar Cane 267.00
Tomatoes 264.00
Asparagus 250.50
Green Tea 242.40
Strawberries 240.00
Peas 236.00
Onions 226.00
Grapes 215.00
Carrots 210.00
Sunflowers 210.00
Coffee 207.00
Lillies 204.00
Aloe Vera 200.00
Broccoli 166.50
Sweet Seeds 160.00
Pumpkin 159.00
Cabbage 139.00
Rice 132.00
Sugar Cane 127.00
Peppers 122.00
Red Tulips 114.00
Red Wheat 99.67
Pineapple 88.50
Yellow Mellon 88.25
Corn 86.67
Pink Roses 82.00
Potatoes 80.00
Soybeans 78.00
Yellow Bell 76.50
Watermelon 62.00
Squash 55.50
Cotton 54.00
Daffodils 52.50
Eggplant 46.50
Artichoke 41.00
Wheat 36.67

And finally, the most important table: Risk Adjusted Profitability.  This takes into account the risk of spoilage and the time it takes for each crop to harvest.  I’ve found this to be the best table to answer the question of “what should you plant”:

Crop Risk-Adjusted Profit / Day Risk of Complete Default
Peas 226.53 12.97%
Broccoli 217.37 1.68%
Grapes 206.37 12.97%
Sunflowers 201.57 12.97%
Lillies 195.82 12.97%
Asparagus 185.57 25.62%
Cabbage 181.47 1.68%
Sugar Cane 165.80 1.68%
Super Berries 154.22 84.35%
Sweet Seeds 153.58 12.97%
Coffee 153.35 25.62%
Red Wheat 142.52 0.22%
Onions 135.58 36.01%
Yellow Mellon 130.15 0.03%
Green Tea 126.03 42.69%
Carrots 125.98 36.01%
Corn 123.93 0.22%
Peppers 117.11 12.97%
Sugar Cane 115.57 50.61%
Pineapple 115.54 1.68%
Potatoes 114.40 0.22%
Tomatoes 114.27 50.61%
Red Tulips 109.43 12.97%
Pink Roses 107.05 1.68%
Yellow Bell 99.87 1.68%
Ghost Chili 96.00 60.01%
Watermelon 91.44 0.03%
Blackberries 80.30 71.14%
Rice 79.19 36.01%
Blueberries 78.89 71.14%
Cotton 77.22 0.22%
Soybeans 74.87 12.97%
Squash 72.46 1.68%
Pumpkin 68.82 50.61%
Daffodils 68.54 1.68%
Aloe Vera 67.61 60.01%
Eggplant 60.71 1.68%
Artichoke 60.47 0.03%
Strawberries 56.35 71.14%
Wheat 52.43 0.22%
Raspberries 38.19 84.35%

Stay tuned for my next post, my very first on Café World, my new Zynga addiction.  Very different simulation & economics, and should be good for a few interesting analytical posts.

Updates: I’ve now posted follow-on posts about Farmville Economics:

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).

gameBig_farmville

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:

Farmville Economics: Risk Adjusted Crop Profitability

It’s clear that my addiction to spreadsheets and Farmville knows no bounds, so as predicted, here is my fifth post on the topic.

gameBig_farmville

Here are the quick links to my first four posts:

The wizards at Zynga have been busy, and with regular updates every week (or even more frequently), a large number of new crops have been introduced.  As the comments on my other posts have become quite demanding, here are two of my original tables, updated for all the new crops (as of September 20, 2009):

Crop Profit / Day
Super Berries 900.00
Asparagus 183.00
Sugar Cane 177.00
Peas 176.00
Tomatoes 174.00
Green Tea 170.40
Grapes 170.00
Onion 166.00
Sunflowers 165.00
Coffee 162.00
Blackberries 162.00
Blueberries 156.00
Carrots 150.00
Raspberries 132.00
Broccoli 129.00
Cabbage 116.50
Red Wheat 84.67
Aloe Vera 80.00
Peppers 77.00
Yellow Mellon 77.00
Rice 72.00
Corn 71.67
Pumpkin 69.00
Pineapple 66.00
Potatoes 65.00
Strawberries 60.00
Yellow Bell 54.00
Watermelon 50.75
Cotton 39.00
Soybeans 33.00
Squash 33.00
Artichoke 29.75
Eggplant 24.00
Wheat 21.67

Assumptions: All numbers are normalized for one planting square per day, and assume a “perfect” farmer who can operate all 24 hours of a single day.  It’s assumed that you will need to harvest, plow, and plant every cycle for a given crop.

As it turns out, many times players are optimizing for experience per day, rather than for profit.  As a result, here is an updated table that shows experience per crop, with the same assumptions:

Crop XP / Day Cycle (Hours)
Super Berries 24.00 2.00
Strawberries 12.00 4.00
Raspberries 12.00 2.00
Blueberries 12.00 4.00
Blackberries 12.00 4.00
Aloe Vera 8.00 6.00
Pumpkin 6.00 8.00
Tomatoes 6.00 8.00
Sugar Cane 6.00 8.00
Green Tea 4.80 10.00
Asparagus 4.50 16.00
Rice 4.00 12.00
Carrots 4.00 12.00
Peas 4.00 24.00
Onions 4.00 12.00
Soybeans 3.00 24.00
Peppers 3.00 24.00
Grapes 3.00 24.00
Coffee 3.00 16.00
Sunflowers 3.00 24.00
Broccoli 2.50 48.00
Eggplant 1.50 48.00
Squash 1.50 48.00
Yellow Bell 1.50 48.00
Pineapple 1.50 48.00
Cabbage 1.50 48.00
Wheat 1.00 72.00
Cotton 1.00 72.00
Potatoes 1.00 72.00
Corn 1.00 72.00
Red Wheat 1.00 72.00
Artichoke 0.75 96.00
Watermelon 0.75 96.00
Yellow Mellon 0.75 96.00

It’s fairly obvious from the numbers above that crops that can be planted and harvested multiple times per day have a significant advantage. This advantage is largely due to the +1 XP you get from plowing a square, and the multiple turns per day. While the longer duration crops have higher experience, they don’t generate enough experience to match the multiple cycles of crops like the berries, or the 8-hour crops like Tomatoes.  Of course, this ignores the time value of money, the primary topic of my first blog post on Farmville Economics.

It seems as if Zynga has been doing their homework when building out their technology tree with additional crops.  Using my 15 coin / XP estimate, the table combining the value by coins and experience is dominated by the new crops:

Crop Profit + XP / Day
Super Berries 1260.00
Blackberries 342.00
Blueberries 336.00
Raspberries 312.00
Sugar Cane 267.00
Tomatoes 264.00
Asparagus 250.50
Green Tea 242.40
Strawberries 240.00
Peas 236.00
Onions 226.00
Grapes 215.00
Carrots 210.00
Coffee 207.00
Aloe Vera 200.00
Sunflowers 210.00
Broccoli 166.50
Pumpkin 159.00
Cabbage 139.00
Rice 132.00
Peppers 122.00
Red Wheat 99.67
Pineapple 88.50
Yellow Mellon 88.25
Corn 86.67
Potatoes 80.00
Soybeans 78.00
Yellow Bell 76.50
Watermelon 62.00
Squash 55.50
Cotton 54.00
Eggplant 46.50
Artichoke 41.00
Wheat 36.67

The title of this blog post, however, is Risk Adjusted Crop Profitability.  One of my orginal concerns was that measures of profitability were not properly taking into account the amount of risk that each crop incorporated.

When you plant a crop in Farmville, it grows for an allotted time.  During that time, you cannot harvest the crop, nor can you recover your capital.  It’s completely illiquid.  After that time period, you have an equivalent time period (100% of the growing time) to harvest the crop.  At that point, your investment is liquid and recoverable.  After the harvest time has expired, over the next equivalent time period (between 100% and 200% of the growing time), your crops will wither square-by-square, until none are left.

As a result, a crop that yields a few more coins of profit, but that involves an up-front investment of fifty coins, may not actually be worth the risk of withering.

In case you think I’m being melodramatic, it’s a very common problem.  People invest all of the wealth into planting crops, get distracted or misunderstand the rules, and then end up with withered crops and no money left over to re-plant.  They have to depend on “lotteries” and “helping neighbors” to recapitalize.  (In fact many don’t, which may be a problem Zynga needs to monitor.)

So how do we model risk-adjusted profitability?

In typical financial modeling, you would have a “cost of capital” – namely a borrowing rate that would be your cost of money over a period of time.  However, for this analysis, it didn’t seem appropriate – maybe I’ll revisit sometime in the future.

To model the Farmville risk, I tried to literally focus on the following facts:

  1. How much capital (coins) up front you risk by planting one square?
  2. What is the risk that you won’t be available during the harvest time?
  3. Probability of harvest + Probability of wither = 100%
  4. Multiply the profits per cycle with the probability of harvest
  5. Normalize to a risk-adjusted profit per day

In order to model #2, I’ve used the following assumption: you are expected to check Farmville once every 24 hours.  You can replace this with your own number, but given that Farmville has 15M+ active daily users, this assumption seems fair.

So, assuming any hour is the same as any other (on average), there is a 1/24 probability that you will be able to check Farmville in a given hour.  24 * 1/24 = 100%

I’m also assuming that your ability to check on a crop in any given hour is independent of the ability to check any other hour.  This keeps the probability calculations simple.

This means that for shorter lived crops, there is real default risk:

  • There is a 23/24 chance in any hour that you will not check on the crop.
  • This means, for a 4-hour crop, there is a 23^4/24^4 = 279841 / 331776 = 84.3% chance that you’ll miss checking on the crop during harvest time for full profit.
  • This means, for a 4-hour crop, there is an 84.3% chance you’ll miss the withering time, where you’ll receive partial profit.  (I’m assuming a linear decay rate)
  • This results in a default rate of 71.1% on a four-hour crop.

Using calculations similar to those above, I generated an expected profit per cycle.  I’ve regenerated the table (ignoring experience) for the crops, and ranked them by risk-adjusted profitability:

Crop Risk-Adjusted Profit / Day Risk of Complete Default
Peas 226.53 12.97%
Broccoli 217.37 1.68%
Grapes 206.37 12.97%
Sunflowers 201.57 12.97%
Asparagus 185.57 25.62%
Cabbage 181.47 1.68%
Super Berries 154.22 84.35%
Coffee 153.35 25.62%
Red Wheat 142.52 0.22%
Onions 135.58 36.01%
Yellow Mellon 130.15 0.03%
Green Tea 126.03 42.69%
Carrots 125.98 36.01%
Corn 123.93 0.22%
Peppers 117.11 12.97%
Sugar Cane 115.57 50.61%
Pineapple 115.54 1.68%
Potatoes 114.40 0.22%
Tomatoes 114.27 50.61%
Yellow Bell 99.87 1.68%
Watermelon 91.44 0.03%
Blackberries 80.30 71.14%
Rice 79.19 36.01%
Blueberries 78.89 71.14%
Cotton 77.22 0.22%
Soybeans 74.87 12.97%
Squash 72.46 1.68%
Pumpkin 68.82 50.61%
Aloe Vera 67.61 60.01%
Eggplant 60.71 1.68%
Artichoke 60.47 0.03%
Strawberries 56.35 71.14%
Wheat 52.43 0.22%
Raspberries 38.19 84.35%

Now, I’ve made quite a few simplifying assumptions here, so don’t confuse this with a PhD thesis in Farmville Economics. But it’s amazing to me how this list of crops, more than any other table, best reflects my own internal preferences on what to plant. Maybe that’s because the “once a day” estimate of average availability best fits my own time table during the week.

Another way of revising this estimate is to look at the “risk of complete default” as highly correlated with the “stress level” you feel when you plant a given crop.  Super Berries are awesome, but there is no question that when I plant them, I am hyper-aware of the need to check on them within a 2 hour window to harvest my profits.

Definitely an interesting lens on the topic of profitability.  Please feel free to share alternative views on how to evaluate the risk-adjusted profitability of Farmville crops here in the comments.

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

Farmville Economics: What Price Experience?

Despite the fact that some people find my recent preoccupation with Farmville amusing, the traffic to my original series of blog posts on the Personal Economics of Farmville has been extremely high.  This isn’t surprising given the incoming links from the Zynga Blog and the Wall Street Journal.

gameBig_farmville

Here are the quick links to my first three posts:

Well everyone knows that bloggers can’t resist traffic, so as a result, I thought I’d add a fourth post to the series, highlighting some of the insights into the economic value of Farmville experience points.

It all started with the analysis I presented in the second post, which modified the profitability matrix for each Farmville crop by adding an economic value for Experience.  Here is a snippet:

The question is, how do you blend the value of experience and coins? The truth is, the function for valuing experience is probably too complicated to get right.

However, I did find a simplistic proxy.  1 experience point = 15 coins.

Why? Well, it turns out you can just sit there, plow a square for 15 coins, and get 1 experience point.  You can then delete the square and do it again.  So at least, in theory, you can “buy” an infinite supply of experience points for 15 coins each.

Boy, did that start a firestorm.  It turns out, there is a well-worn analysis that says that Farmville experience is actually worth 10 coins.  Why?  If you plow a square of land (-15 coins, +1 XP) and plant soybeans (-15 coins, +2 XP) and then delete, you spend a total of 30 coins, and you get +3 XP.  Thus 30/3 = 10 coins / XP.

It’s a more complicated series, and it ignores the liquidity issue of requiring the purchase of 3 XP at a time, not 1 XP, but it’s a pretty good proxy for the “cheapest” way to buy experience.

The more I thought about this, however, the more dissatisfied I became with the answer.  The reason?  It ignores the incredible time cost of those set of actions:

  • Click the plow tool.
  • Click the square.
  • Click the market tool
  • Navigate dialog, click soybeans.
  • Click the square
  • Click delete tool
  • Click the square
  • Select “Accept” from the “Are you sure” dialog

Ugh.  For 3XP.  Can you imagine trying to get 4500 XP this way?  I can’t.

As a result, I’m even going to invalidate my original 15 coin / XP assumption.  In fact, you’ll notice that for truly painless actions, like buying a building, the number of XP gained is typically 1/100 the price of the item.  For example, when you pay 250,000 coins for a log cabin, you also get 2500 XP.

I think this effectively bounds the range of the value of XP.  Clearly, it’s worth more than 1/100 of a coin, because you ALSO get the log cabin, which is a pretty snazzy farm improvement.  It’s also clearly more than 1/10, because the time cost of that process is clearly extracting value beyond the coins.

So, value of XP is:

0.01 coins < 1 XP < 0.1 coins

I’m guessing the value of XP is close to 20 coins.  A haybale is only 100 coins, and it gives you 5 XP.  Since a haybale is a pretty negligible improvement, you can assume that most of the price is actually for XP.  So, that would bound the range even tighter:

0.2 coins < 1 XP < 0.1 coins

Now, I know what you are going to say: “You can sell the haybale for 5 coins, making it even cheaper!”.  The problem there is that now you have to go through the delete process, with the confirmation dialog.  Ugh.   I’m trying to avoid that work.

In fact, my analysis is still missing a “cost” for the implicit clutter a haybale creates on your farm.  You have a limited amount of space, so the “price” of a haybale is really:

Cost of haybale = 100 coins + MIN((time cost to delete haybale – 5 coins), opportunity cost of lost 1/16 of a square of land)

Maybe in a future post I’ll explore the opportunity cost of clutter in more detail.  It’s certainly the thing that would prevent you from literally filling your field with haybales to buy experience.  (Interestingly, Farmville just rolled out an improvement today that lets you buy haybales continuously!)

Finally, I have to share a tip that was posted on one of my earlier articles that has represented the single largest improvement in my Farmville quality of life:

If you “fence in” your farmer, then Farmville will harvest, plow, seed a square immediately, without waiting for the farmer to walk to it.

I was skeptical of this advice at first, but I tried it this weekend, and it speeds planting a large farm by AT LEAST 50%.  I use ducks to “fence in my farmer”.  I keep several in a box at the edge of my farm, and first thing I do is walk the farmer into the box.  I then move one duck to close the trap, and boom, 15 minutes added back to my life.  🙂

Your mileage may vary.  Enjoy.

Update: I’ve posted the following new articles on Farmville Economics:

More Farmville Economics: Treeconomics

Wow.  The traffic from the first two blog posts on Farmville has been high.  In fact, the Zynga blog even picked up the two articles.  Very flattering.

I was all set to write a post tonight on the economics of trees in Farmville… but then I caught Pablo’s post on “Treeconomics”.

Brilliant.  Leveraging some of the work I had done, he does a evaluation of a 16-square of trees in terms of “yield” vs. crops.  Very interesting, confirming that a 16-square of Date trees can compare very favorably to almost everything. Before we continue diving into the games, lets come back out into the real world, trees are good for the environment, but if you really need to get them out of your way and plant them somewhere else, then click here to get the best prices on stump grinding from this company. Now back to business…

I’m going to have to think about this a bit more – I want to build a model where I incorporate a few additional factors:

  • The “down payment” for trees.
  • The freedom to never have to “plow” or “plant” again. (value of time)
  • The freedom from working capital for seeds on an ongoing basis.
  • The removal of “withering risk”.  Crops wither after 20% of their growing time, yielding a complete loss of the capital to plow & plant.  Trees never wither.
  • The lack of experience points from trees
  • Incorporate the data from all the trees, not just the ones you can buy.

I’ll still write a follow up here, but tonight there is no need.  Check out this table from Pablo as  sample:

Cost Revenue/Harvest Days to Harvest Daily Revenue Daily Rev/ Invested $ Days to Payback
Date $800.0 $69.0 3 $23.00 2.88% 35
Lime $750.0 $75.0 5 $15.00 2.00% 50
Lemon $475.0 $41.0 3 $13.67 2.88% 35
Peach $500.0 $47.0 4 $11.75 2.35% 43
Fig $350.0 $33.0 3 $11.00 3.14% 32
Plum $350.0 $30.0 3 $10.00 2.86% 35
Orange $425.0 $40.0 4 $10.00 2.35% 43
Apple $325.0 $28.0 3 $9.33 2.87% 35
Cherry $225.0 $18.0 2 $9.00 4.00% 25

And this one:

Daily Profit Total Profit Initial investment Residual Value Profit
Super Berries $900.0 $81,000.0 $81,000.0
Date tree square $368.0 $33,120.0 $12,800 $640.0 $20,960.0
Tomatoes $174.0 $15,660.0 $15,660.0
Raspberries $132.0 $11,880.0 $11,880.0

Too cool.

Now go read it.

Updates: I’ve now posted additional articles on Farmville Economics:

The Personal Economics of Farmville, Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote a fairly popular post about the personal economics of Farmville, the extremely popular Facebook game by Zynga.  There were enough comments and emails about the original post, I decided to write a quick follow-up to cover some of the most common ideas and concerns.

gameBig_farmville

I was also able to get the data on Red Wheat and Yellow Mellon, which were missing from my original post.  Also, this weekend saw the (temporary?) advent of “Super Berries”.  I’ve updated my original table here, showing the rank of all Farmville crops based on net profit per day per square.  Let’s just say there is a reason Super Berries are, well, super:

Crop Profit / Day
Super Berries 900.00
Tomatoes 174.00
Sunflowers 165.00
Coffee 162.00
Blueberries 156.00
Carrots 150.00
Raspberries 132.00
Broccoli 129.00
Red Wheat 84.67
Yellow Mellon 77.00
Peppers 77.00
Rice 72.00
Corn 71.67
Pumpkin 69.00
Pineapple 66.00
Potatoes 65.00
Strawberries 60.00
Yellow Bell 54.00
Watermelon 50.75
Cotton 39.00
Soybeans 33.00
Squash 33.00
Artichoke 29.75
Eggplant 24.00
Wheat 21.67

The most interesting questions and comments came from Abhi Kumar, product manager for Farmville at Zynga.  Needless to say, it was extremely flattering to have Abhi interested in my post, and to hear his thoughts on the topic.

The first point Abhi raised was interesting.  The question was, how would I factor experience into these calculations.  Clearly, experience is crucial to the game in several regards:

  • It’s crucial for rising in the technology tree, to get access to new crops, tools, and other beneficial items.
  • It’s a basic game mechanic that drives people to see their “score” rise.
  • It’s public to your neighbors.  As a social game, this adds an additional game mechanic, similar to a leaderboard, that encourages you to boost your score.

In order to calculate the experience for each crop, I took the experience that each crop delivers per cycle, added one experience point per cycle for re-plowing, and then normalized the values for a single day (24 hours) and a single square.

Crop Experience / Day
Super Berries 24.00
Blueberries 12.00
Strawberries 12.00
Raspberries 12.00
Tomatoes 6.00
Pumpkin 6.00
Carrots 4.00
Rice 4.00
Peppers 3.00
Soybeans 3.00
Coffee 3.00
Broccoli 2.50
Sunflowers 2.00
Pineapple 1.50
Yellow Bell 1.50
Squash 1.50
Eggplant 1.50
Red Wheat 1.00
Corn 1.00
Potatoes 1.00
Cotton 1.00
Wheat 1.00
Yellow Mellon 0.75
Watermelon 0.75
Artichoke 0.75

Not surprisingly, the quick cycle-time of the berries dominates this table.

The question is, how do you blend the value of experience and coins? The truth is, the function for valuing experience is probably too complicated to get right.

However, I did find a simplistic proxy.  1 experience point = 15 coins.

Why? Well, it turns out you can just sit there, plow a square for 15 coins, and get 1 experience point.  You can then delete the square and do it again.  So at least, in theory, you can “buy” an infinite supply of experience points for 15 coins each.

When you include experience at this price, the rank of the crops changes significantly from the original “coins only” version of the most profitable crops:

Crop Profit + XP / Day
Super Berries 1260.00
Blueberries 336.00
Raspberries 312.00
Tomatoes 264.00
Strawberries 240.00
Carrots 210.00
Coffee 207.00
Sunflowers 195.00
Broccoli 166.50
Pumpkin 159.00
Rice 132.00
Peppers 122.00
Red Wheat 99.67
Pineapple 88.50
Yellow Mellon 88.25
Corn 86.67
Potatoes 80.00
Soybeans 78.00
Yellow Bell 76.50
Watermelon 62.00
Squash 55.50
Cotton 54.00
Eggplant 46.50
Artichoke 41.00
Wheat 36.67

In many ways, this final table is a more satisfying answer on what to plant, since it gives a fairly balanced view across coins (which are needed to buy seeds, tools, and other items) and experience (which is also needed to raise your level to buy seeds, tools, and other items).

Clearly, this analysis is very sensitive to the value of an experience point. The more value you ascribe to experience, the more the compound table begins to resemble the experience-only version.

As part of my original post, I had run some analysis that suggested that if you value the time that it requires to check on your crops, harvest them, and re-plow & plant, then you might get a different order.  I’ve now updated the chart to include the three crops that I didn’t have yesterday.

Farmville_Economics_Updated

click to see the enlarged chart graphic

Based on the addition of the new crops, the top five crops in terms of their value in $ US / hour are:

  1. Yellow Mellon
  2. Broccoli
  3. Red Wheat
  4. Corn
  5. Watermelon

All of the values are still well below $1 / hour.

I re-ran these numbers utilizing the experience points.  While they did shift the numbers to the right, they didn’t alter the ranking significantly.  This is likely because the cost in time (15 minutes) for each cycle and the high conversion rate (1500 coins / $1 US) means that the time cost of checking dwarfs the incremental value of the experience per cycle.

That’s why you can see that one wacky line, Super Berries, which starts so high it’s off the chart, but crashes down under the weight of 12 cycle refreshes per day.

A couple people specifically wanted to see this analysis taking into account the new Tractor, which speeds plowing by up to 4x (although you need to buy fuel).  Since I don’t have a Tractor yet (working on it), I estimated what would happen if a cycle plow/plant took only 5 minutes instead of 15.  Here is the updated chart:

Farmville Economics Updated Tractor

click to see the enlarged chart graphic

For those of you playing at home, sorry to disappoint.  It turns out that dropping the time it takes does shift the value per hour out almost linearly.  You’ll note that in this chart, now the equivalent value for Yellow Mellon is over $2.62 / hour.  The order of the most valuable crops, however, does not change, because even five minutes dominates with such a high US $ to Farmville coin exchange rate.

Abhi did make one last point that I agree with completely.  The primary value of the game is not the coins you make.  (In fact, since you can’t really convert coins back to dollars, they are arguably worthless.)  The value is the fun and enjoyment you get from the time spent.

In fact, I could theorize that if you normally bill $50/hour for your time, the delta between your normal rate and the amount you are making with Farmville crops shows just how much you value playing Farmville.

Hope this post was as interesting to folks as the last.  I’ve got to go harvest some Super Berries…

Updates: I’ve now posted additional articles on Farmville Economics:

The Personal Economics of Farmville

I’ve been playing Farmville, a social video game by Zynga, over the past week, and I have to say that I’m extremely impressed.  It’s a very simple simulation game, with well integrated social aspects to promote virality, a good technology tree, and clever virtual goods integration.

gameBig_farmville

If you’ve played the game (and at this point, approximately 9 million people have), then you are likely already familiar with the primary economics of the game.  As a farmer, you have a certain number of plots.  It costs money (coins) to plow a plot and plant seeds.  Different crops take different amounts of time to grow, and are worth different amounts at harvest.  Quite simply, the question is:

Which crops should you plant?

Since I do love an excuse to crack open Excel, I built a simple model that tells you what crops are the “most valuable” to plant.  My model was simple:

  • Revenue is just the value of the crop at harvest
  • Cost is the cost of the seeds + the cost to plow the square

In order to compare crops, I had to normalize the values:

  • Normalized all revenue and costs to “one square”
  • Normalized all revenue and costs to “one day”, namely 24 hours

Thus a crop like Strawberries, which takes 4 hours to grow, can be theoretically planted 6 times in a single day.  Eggplant, which takes 2 days to grow, can be planted 0.5 times in a single day.

This model gives you the following simple table as output, ranked by “coins per square per day”:

Crop Profit / Day
Tomatoes 174.00
Sunflowers 165.00
Coffee 162.00
Blueberries 156.00
Carrots 150.00
Raspberries 132.00
Broccoli 129.00
Peppers 77.00
Rice 72.00
Corn 71.67
Pumpkin 69.00
Pineapple 66.00
Potatoes 65.00
Strawberries 60.00
Yellow Bell 54.00
Watermelon 50.75
Cotton 39.00
Soybeans 33.00
Squash 33.00
Artichoke 29.75
Eggplant 24.00
Wheat 21.67

(Note: I still haven’t gotten the revenue and cycle time for the new crops, Red Wheat and Yellow Mellon)

Most of the strategy guides that I’ve found across the web have basically gone just this far.

The problem with this model, however, is pretty obvious:

It assumes that your time has no value!

Listen, Raspberries might be #6 on this list, but you have to actually harvest and replant 12 times per day! (It’s a two-hour crop).  That only seems reasonable if you truly value your time at $0.  Theoretically, we should give some non-zero value to the time it takes to replant, and see how it affects the rankings.

To do this, I changed the model based on the following assumptions:

  • It takes roughly 15 minutes to replant your farm with a crop
  • 1500 Farmville coins are worth $1 (which is what Zynga charges to buy coins with PayPal or your credit card).

I then graphed out the ranking of the crops on a spectrum from $0.00 / hour value for your time, all the way to $1.00 / hour.

As you can tell from the range, the bad news is that even the best crop flips to being “negative value” per day at a monetary value of approximately $0.70 / hour.

Farmville_Economics

click the image to see enlarged verson

This graph paints a very different picture.  If you rank crops by what hourly wage “zeroes them out” in value, you find that actually, your top three crops should be:

  1. Broccoli ($0.69 / hour)
  2. Corn ($0.57 / hour)
  3. Watermelon ($0.54 / hour)

If you accept the idea that 1500 Farmville coins is worth $1 (which is a bit of a stretch since you can’t convert back to dollars…), then these are the crops that pay you the best “hourly wage” for your time.

There are a few things I’ve left out here:

  • Trees / Animals. I haven’t run these numbers for trees or animals, but it would be trivial to do so.
  • Working capital. These crops require different amounts of liquid cash in your Farmville account.  That capital theoretically has a cost, but I didn’t model it.
  • Experience. Some people are playing for experience points, not coins.  Ignored here.
  • Capital Risk. The different crops have different windows of time to harvest before your revenue goes to zero and your crops wither.  This analysis assumes a “perfect farmer”.

If you find this model interesting or useful, would love to see links back here from anyone who pursues any of these different issues. I first got the idea to do this from this article on GamingBuff.com, so I just wanted to give them a little credit.

Of course, that assumes that there is someone else out there twisted enough to spend time analyzing the personal economics of Farmville…

Updates: I’ve now posted several follow-on posts about Farmville Economics:

Problems with the New Star Trek Movie Reboot

Before I get into this, let me just warn that this post contains spoilers.  Don’t read any further if you haven’t seen the new Star Trek movie.  Or at least, don’t read any further and then complain to me.

First off, I know that the movie is doing really well.  I also know that almost everyone seems to really like it.  So I don’t expect this post to be popular.  Still, there were a few small things (and one large thing) that bothered me about it, and it seemed blog worthy.

The big issue is the premise of the “reboot” logic.  This movie was explicitly designed to appeal to a whole new audience, and as a result, it deviates in many ways from the previous “canon”, ie, the character & future history established by the other movies and TV Series.

Unlike Superman Returns, or The Dark Knight, however, this movie tries to explain away the differences with a plot device.

The plot device is as follows:

A Romulan captain of a mining ship, in the late 24th century, witnesses the destruction of Romulus.  Infuriated, he blames Spock for failing to save the planet (and his wife and child).  He attacks (old) Spock, falls through a black hole and ends up in the early 23rd century.  As a result, the timeline is forever changed, because the first thing he does (almost) is kill George Kirk, James T. Kirk’s father, putting him (and Starfleet) on a different path.

Ugh, it sounds worse when I write it.  It felt pretty par-for-the-course in theater for a Star Trek time-travel plot.

Here’s the big problem. The last two years of the Star Trek series Enterprise were literally based on the Temporal Cold War.  (In fact, this was an extension in some ways of the “Relativity” episode in Star Trek Voyager and the “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode of Deep Space Nine.)  Without descending into a geek singularity, the basis premise is that in the future, time travel technology is mastered, leading to a set of accords among governments to “protect” the timeline.  Some people violate those accords (“The Temporal Accords“), and thus there are future Federation people and ships whose purpose is to help apprehend these criminals and restore the original timeline.

I’m not talking about one or two flaky episodes here with a minor inconsistency.  I’m talking about dozens of episodes and a major timeline of future history with key events between the 20th century all the way to the 31st century.

In any case, in order to believe this plot reboot, you have to believe that somehow with all those time ships and policing, Agent Daniels, the USS Relativity, and all those others just let a random mining captain from Romulus rewrite the history of the Federation without correction.  They go to huge lengths to save Captain Archer, but not Captain Kirk?

Sorry.  That doesn’t work.

I think what I’m more disappointed about is that the movie didn’t even try to explain it away.  For example:

Old Spock from the future, for example, could have added 30 seconds to his explanation to either New Kirk or New Spock to say that this timeline is permanent, or why it won’t be fixed.

Spock: “In general, major timeline changes in the past have been corrected by the Federation in future centuries.  However, we had been warned that the use of “red matter” could leave us vulnerable to untrackable temporal events.  In my rush to save Romulus, I have put the entire future at risk.”

This really wouldn’t bother me if the movie was a clean reboot of the series, like Battlestar Galactica.  But J.J. Abrams is trying to have his cake and eat it too.  He clumsily and awkwardly brings everyone together for the new Enterprise crew (exactly how unlikely was it that Scotty would be on that one base on that one moon…)  In some ways, the half-hearted attempt to maintain continuity with the time travel device is worse than just doing a straight reboot, no questions asked.

Now I realize I fall into a very tiny minority of people who even watched Star Trek Enterprise (or Voyager for that matter).  And I realize I fall in an even smaller fraction who liked Enterprise.  (1 in a million?)

Still, if they wanted to hardball ignore the series, they could have just asserted something early that made it clear that the series Star Trek Enterprise didn’t exist in this universe (ala Superman III/IV being axed in Superman Returns).  For example, they could have just asserted that this was the first human starship with the name Enterprise.

The most ironic element to the reboot plot device is that the one series it doesn’t change is Star Trek Enterprise, because that series takes place before the federation was founded!  So in this timeline, we don’t know whether there will be a Captain Picard, a Deep Space Nine, or a Captain Janeway.

But we do know, of course, that Scott Bakula was captain of the NX-01 Enterprise.  Rich, rich irony for fans who hated that series.

Don’t get me wrong – I liked the movie enough to see it again, and I think it achieved its goal of reaching out to people who have never seen Star Trek before (or didn’t watch much of it.)  I was actually surprised to see so many “wink wink, nudge nudge” moments in the film – references to other characters, catch phrases, moments, etc.  When Spock gives the transwarp transport formula to Scotty, I half-way expected some reference to transparent aluminum (Star Trek IV).

Maybe that’s what bothered me the most – they clearly put some effort into lining this up with canon in minor ways that didn’t really matter, but then ignored the big gaping hole around time travel.

Anyway, just for fun, here are some other small nits that bugged me:

  • There is a canyon in Iowa?
  • Was the Nokia placement really necessary?  Did it even make sense?  There are still private companies in the future?  They still operate?
  • Wow!  The Enterprise is really big now.  Huge.  How big is the crew?  That Romulan ship must be immense.  Kirk can just run around and find his way?  It must be miles long!
  • Captain Pike decides to make a not-quite-graduate with 3 years in the academy First Officer.  Really?  Maybe they know more about nature vs. nurture in the future.
  • Sulu carries a sword around with him?
  • Movie jumps the shark when Kirk crash lands on the ice planet/moon.
    • First, he plays Empire Strikes Back with the native wildlife (unnecessary).
    • Second, he just happens to crash within a few miles of Spock?
    • Exactly how close is this moon/planet to Vulcan, so that it appears huge in the sky of this world?
    • Spock is placed within walking distance of a Federation outpost, and is waiting for… ?
    • Scotty just happens to be stationed at this outpost?
    • Spock doesn’t go with Kirk because he doesn’t want to hurt the bonding experience for Kirk & Spock?  Seriously?  He’s really taking this new timeline thing in stride.
  • “Red” matter?  That’s what they went with?  “Red” matter?  Was this sponsored by Bono or something?
  • Flagship of the fleet goes to new graduate.  I know there isn’t supposed to be a lot of politics in the future, but I have to think someone got passed over here and is kind of pissed about it.

Looking forward to Terminator Salvation (which deals with timeline inconsistencies better), Up, Transformers, GI Joe, Harry Potter…

iTunes Pass Could Be the Key to Digital TV

Read this news today with great interest:

Apple, EMI unveil iTunes Pass

Apple has just launched a new service called Pass for its popular iTunes music store.  It’s like a season pass for a favorite artist, in this case the electro band Depeche Mode…  Before thinking this is Apple’s entree into the music subscription business, which is something Steve Jobs has pooh-poohed in the past, note that iTunes Pass is quite different.

Under an all-you-can eat music subscription plan at a place such as Rhapsody, you have access to the material only as long as you keep paying a fee. With iTunes Pass, you own the content that has been downloaded, even after the pass expires.

I’ve written a bit about this in the past, but it’s shocking to see Apple so close, and yet so far, from what might be a truly disruptive innovation in digital television.

The iTunes Pass is the right idea, but the wrong market.  We don’t need this for music, we need this for digital television & movies.

When Apple launched Apple TV, it highlighted the ability to subscribe to a season of television.  The idea was you pay a fee up front, and then as episodes of that show come out, they would automatically download to your iTunes (and then synch with your AppleTV), allowing you to watch a show with both digital convenience and without waiting until the end of the season to buy a DVD.  This was a great concept for a few reasons:

  1. Ability to easily “catch up” with a season/show that was already underway.  This is a very common problem, particularly with serial shows where you miss the first few episodes before friends/news reaches you with a recommendation.  (This is the reason I didn’t get to watch 24 in real time until Season 3…)
  2. Ability to “own” the shows permanently – not a transient state like a traditional DVR.
  3. Ability to watch on TV.  Let’s face it, that’s where you want to watch the show, not on your PC.
  4. Automatic download, in the background.  Shows would be waiting for you as they appeared.

The problems, however, with the execution were equally significant:

  1. Lack of seasons.  For many shows, Apple provided the current season, but not previous seasons.  Thus, if you wanted to watch “Lost”, you couldn’t “catch up” with Seasons 1 & 2.
  2. Timeliness.  Next day would have been OK, and in the beginning that was the plan.  In reality, some shows would show up days or weeks later.  Ideally, the download would literally begin at the official showtime EST in the US.
  3. Pricing.  They used DVD pricing, which frankly is just ridiculous.  The idea that you’d reasonably pay $30-$50 for a season of TV that can be had through traditional distribution channels for free makes sense in the historical model of buying specific shows/seasons in low volume, but isn’t a mass market play for general television consumption.  If in a given season (Winter 2009) I’m watching 6-8 shows, there is no way you are going to get $200+ out of me for the privilege unless you 100% substitute for my cable bill.

The pricing issue in particular led me to a hypothetical model that could potentially benefit both Apple & the networks by disintermediating the traditional cable/sattelite duopoly.  Basically, every network could attempt to become “HBO”.  HBO pioneered the idea of a premium channel – an extra monthly charge you’d pay for unlimited access to content.  Thanks to the VCR, that also included the ability to “time shift” that content for your own use.

On iTunes, NBC could be as valuable as HBO.   Imagine an iTunes Pass where, for a monthly fee, you could subscribe to The Office.  You would automatically get new episodes as they come out, as well as download old episodes (like a podcast).  These would all be watchable on AppleTV, as well as your iPhone.  That’s something worth paying for.

Now imagine that for a monthly subscription fee, you could actually do that with any NBC show.  The Office.  My Name is Earl.  ER.  30 Rock.   Whatever you want.  You would become an “NBC subscriber”.  NBC would have a premium revenue stream, and would then focus on providing high quality content to lure in new subscribers, and to keep existing subscribers.  They would also have their own “distribution channel” within iTunes – they could now launch new shows and pilots for a fraction of the cost & risk by delivering them to people automatically, and making the marginal cost of subscribing to a new show effectively zero for the user.  Sunk cost.

Subscribing to a network could be an upsell from an individual hit show.  Subscribe to The Office for $5/month.  Or subscribe to all of NBC for $10/month.  Network families could offer the same bundle of channels to individuals that they currently offer to the cable & sattelite companies.  Get the entire family of NBC channels for $15/month.

There is likely some price in that ballpark where NBC would be agnostic between someone watching them on cable vs. subscribing on iTunes.

Per-show pricing doesn’t get you scale.  But owning a customer relationship as a network is incredibly valuable.  These subscriptions could also be platform agnostic long term – no reason you can’t have versions that support Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, etc.

People already are beginning to question their premium movie-channel cable subscriptions in favor of Netflix/Blockbuster service.  Network subscriptions could substitute for the primary cable bill.

Right now, I watch shows on Fox, NBC, ABC, HBO, SCIFI & FX.   There is a price where I’d gladly shift over to a digital subscription to get the benefits of the content combined with the benefits of professional, digital files that I could watch anywhere, anytime (time shifting & location shifting).

The thing that I love about this model is that, from a games theory perspective, there is significant value to the first “defector” – the network that moves to this pricing model first.  For example, if HBO offered this service through iTunes, I’d subscribe immediately.  Obviously, the cable & sattelite companies would fight this tooth & nail – but I’m not sure they have a leg to stand on in preventing this.  After all, Comcast can’t prevent NBC from offering channels to DirecTV, etc.

Obama Inauguration in Legos

I have to say, I am completely uninterested in the inauguration “event” that is going on right now.   Then again, I’m not really into the Academy Awards either.  My guess it has something to do with the amazing amount of real work to be done, and the amazing amount of time, effort and money being thrown instead into a party in Washington D.C.

In any case, of all the inauguration coverage, so far I’ve found this piece the most interesting:

That’s right, the entire inauguration, including hand-built mini-figures of over 1000 people, including the entire Obama family.  Note, these are not the typical mini-figs – they are actually 4-inch people made of lego blocks.  Amazing.

Now that’s historic.  Thank you, LA Times.

The Fifth Cylon as a Traffic Driver

I know I posted on this topic last week, but I thought I’d add an update after the big Battlestar Galactica debut this past Friday.  Interesting to see how frak parties everywhere translated into traffic.

So far, despite the debut on Friday, it looks like my traffic may have peaked yesterday, on Saturday.  5380 hits to the blog that day, with my most popular BSG posts taking the top 5 slots for article popularity.

Why?  Check out the top 10 referring searches from Google, Yahoo, etc:

top-queries

Notice a pattern?  I’ve discovered that my blog post is the number one result in Google for the search “fifth cylon”.  At least, it is today.