FarmVille 2 brings the usual sequel upgrades, but it may not be enough to save Zynga

If you thought you were done helping friends bring in their Facebook crops, you were dead wrong.

Zynga’s FarmVille may not be at the same peak of crazy popularity it was just two years ago, but the game still sits amongst the popular titles that bring in around 252 million active users per month for the game maker. Now the company is ready to addict all those lapsed FarmVille players with a proper sequel. FarmVille 2 was announced on Tuesday. Will it be the hit its predecessor was and will it reverse Zynga’s declining fortunes?

Zynga needs a boost. Just months after the reigning monarch of social games became a publicly traded company and it was announced that its games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars generate 12 percent of Facebook’s total revenue, Zynga is bleeding players. Doug Creutz, an analyst with Cowen, claimed earlier this month that daily activity on Zynga’s social games fell more than 20 percent over the course of April and May, what he called “a pretty severe rate of decline.” The problem is that players just aren’t as interested in playing games on Facebook as they are on their phones. “Facebook is just not a big gaming platform compared to mobile,” said Creutz.

Zynga is losing key members of its staff as well. Laurent Desegur, formerly Zynga’s CTO, left the company in May for Games Closure.

Enter FarmVille 2. Zynga is banking on that most-traditional sequel upgrade to distinguish the game: New technology. It will be the company’s first polygonal game, adding a third-dimension to how the game is viewed. “All the buildings, crops, and animals are shown in 3D,” new CTO Cadir Lee told the BBC, “You can see them from multiple directions, they can rotate, you can see them more richly—so it provides a certain pop in the game itself. The game also has more social elements and a lot more crafting: the crops that you harvest are what you use in the game to make things which you then use to make other things, like on a natural farm.”

More significant to both players and Zynga’s shareholders though is that none of the items purchased or earned in FarmVille will carry over to FarmVille 2, meaning a whole lot more micro-transactions. At least, that is, if people are willing to play the game.

Zynga is on incredibly thin ice. If modern game players have proven anything, it’s that new technology is not a guaranteed draw. Just because FarmVille 2 has new graphics and is more complicated, doesn’t mean people will play the game. The company needs to brace for the fact that FarmVille’s moment is over.

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