This week, Zynga rolled out the new FarmVille English Countryside expansion for its Facebook farming game. This major add-on is designed to give players what Farmville General Manger Todd Arnold is calling a ‘fresh start’ to the game.
"It's a great way for friends to re-sync their social game experience together,” Arnold says.
Virtual farmers will get chance to reboot with the option to run a second farm in the English Countryside. The whole England theme is a thread that runs through everything in the game, including new geographically appropriate crops and the chance to run your own pub, using the harvest to craft various types of brews.
Probably one of the biggest differences in the game is the addition of some more traditional ‘game’ features, which have fared well in other Zynga games, such as FrontierVille and CityVille. FarmVille has gone from a complete sandbox experience with little direction to one with a cash of characters, a storyline and a series of missions to help drive the game forward.
While this new expansion might be a sign that FarmVille is growing up (and working hard to keep its dedicated players from straying off the farm and into dozens of other eligible Facebook games), it’s also a sign that social gaming is starting to take itself a little more seriously as a legitimate form of gaming.
What was once designed to be a gamification of socializing via Facebook is starting to become a more serious business for companies like Zynga and a more serious pastime for people -- many of them women who would never consider themselves ‘gamers' -- who just want something that’s both social and a low maintenance way to kick back and relax.
Now we’ll just have to kick back and see if all this talk about a fresh start for players will also be a fresh start for FarmVille, slowing the steady downward decline the game has shown, according to AppData, over many months.