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Zynga Launches First Game in Arabic with Farmville2
This past Thursday, Zynga announced the launch of Farmville2, which it has billed as its first "next-generation social game" that builds upon the first by offering "stunning visuals and beautiful animations" in 3D, as well as new social features.
For those who got addicted to the first Farmville, it may be a welcome new twist on a classic, offering more meaningful social interactions to consolidate its sense of community, and incorporating new real-world elements like water use, as well as touches like interactive animals, and customizable decorations and more complex characters.
For Zynga, which has been called "The Farmville Company," a return to the Flash-based game that accelerated its rise to global popularity makes sense, although some are wondering if it's a final effort to save a sinking company. After its launch in June 2009, Farmville grew from zero to 10 million users in six weeks, according to Zynga. At its peak, it saw 32 million daily active users, now Zynga counts 3.2 million dedicated daily users. Stock prices at time of writing were at $2.88, down over 70% from its IPO price of $10. In the past six months, the company has lost its chief creative officer, chief operating officer, and several vice presidents and managers.
But the new feature that could best reinvigorate Farmville2 might not be one of its bells and whistles. This time, Zynga is going after emerging markets, offering the game in 16 languages including Arabic (English, Danish, Arabic, Dutch, German, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and traditional Chinese).
For the MENA market, it could increase Facebook gaming, or critically reveal whether mobile gaming will continue to become more popular in the Arab World, as it has in the US. Independent game developments platforms like GameTako have cropped up precisely because Arabic gamers aren't well supported on Facebook, and it has been difficult for them to compete with Zynga, GameTako founder Abdullah Hamed has said.
The launch of Farmville may make it more difficult for indie gamers, and yet it will help by increasing the market size, says Muhannad Ebwini, CEO of Gate2Play, which partnered with Zynga to bring Zynga game cards to MENA.
"Since it’s the first Arabic localized game from Zynga, the number one social game developer in the world, it will encourage more localized social games and social game engagement in our region," he says. "It might not be easy for game developers, but at least these games will increase the market size for them."
After its success bringing Peak Games' Happy Farm to the Arabic market, Gate2Play also plans to partner with other large gaming companies to localize their games. It seems the market is hungry; even as an Arabic-only game, Happy Farm had more than a third of Farmville's numbers, Arabnet reported.
For local game developers, it may be a call to continue producing local games that will feed gamers' appetites should they tire of Farmville. Whether players go crazy for the new graphics will also reveal how important these features are to the regional market.
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