FarmVille, the darling of Zynga, has been a mega hit on Facebook with millions of players each day. It also has a lot in common with the beloved Harvest Moon series, perhaps enough to say Farmville was inspired by it.
With the popularity of farming games on the rise, we spoke with Graham Markay, Vice President of Operations at Natsume, about the rise of FarmVille, if it affected the Harvest Moon series in anyway and what Harvest Moon can learn from Zynga’s game.
The farming genre exploded over the last year! FarmVille is (sometimes annoyingly) everywhere. What elements of the Facebook hit do you think are similar to Harvest Moon?
Graham Markay, Vice President of Operations at Natsume: Building a farm is a key part of both games. The player starts with just a little farm, and some basic crops to grow, maybe a little livestock to raise. Then by reinvesting the money that you earn, you can expand your farm, get better crops, and raise different types of animals. Both games definitely reward the player for the hard work they put into their farm.
What’s different about the two games?
Well, Farmville is really designed to deliver a bite-sized gaming experience. You play for five or ten minutes on your break, then go do something else. Harvest Moon: Hero of Leaf Valley, on the other hand, delivers the depth and longevity that you only get with a full retail game. You’ve got a whole town full of characters to meet, women you can woo and marry, jobs you can do to earn extra money and learn new skills, and a branching storyline that gives your actions real weight and purpose.
Have you noticed any spillover? Maybe FarmVille fans converting to Harvest Moon?
We can see a bit of a crossover between the Harvest Moon series and Farmville, we believe the main reason we don’t see more is due to the platforms and the cost associated with each.
Better question… how can you make Harvest Moon appeal to millions of FarmVille fans?
Well, that’s an interesting question. There’s a pretty big difference between the gaming experience people want on Facebook versus what they look for on a console or handheld. Facebook games are all about giving you a little bit of game each day. You hop on for ten, maybe twenty minutes (for some…longer), and then you have done everything you can for at least a few hours.
It would be pretty interesting to try marrying that sort of design with the RPG and relationship-building aspects that are such a big part of the Harvest Moon experience.
What do you think the Harvest Moon series can learn from FarmVille?
Making the games a social experience…that is something Farmville and all of Zynga games do very well. The Harvest Moon series could learn to make your gaming experience more connected to that of your friends. That’s something that’ll be more possible as the online capabilities of handhelds and consoles mature.
Isn’t Marvelous developing a Harvest Moon Facebook game?
There is already a Bokujo Monogatari game available for Mixi in Japan (one of Japan’s versions of Facebook). At this time there has been no announcement of a Harvest Moon game for Facebook.
I have to ask because my readers really want it… are you bringing Rune Factory 3 to North America?
I wish I had some exciting news for your readers…but at this time there has been no announcements regarding the Rune Factory series.