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From Harvest Moon to Farmville: The Evolution of Farming Games

Rate this Article As the farming game genre continues to grow, let's take a look at the major contributors to its evolution. Farm Games Free - From Harvest Moon to Farmville: The Evolution of Farming Games

After first emerging in the mid-1990s, the farming game genre has become one of the most popular in gaming. The evolution of farming games is fascinating, as not all of them follow a single game mechanic like other genres such as FPS, arcade shooters, and RTS games. Farming games encompass various styles, but they all share the common goal of farming. However, the way agriculture is done can vary greatly. For example, farming simulations and RPG games are two distinct types classified under the farming games genre.

The two most notable farming games are Harvest Moon (aka Bokujo Monogatari), a console-based RPG game with a simple yet intricate storyline focused on building, managing, and growing a farm, and FarmVille. (Notably, Eric Barone and his Stardew Valley came later despite FarmVille's phenomenal popularity.)

Harvest Moon

FarmVille was developed by Zynga, a web-based game company run by Mark Pincus. It was created after Zynga's successful game Mafia Wars and was released on the growing Facebook platform. FarmVille quickly gained a massive following, amassing 72.9 million active users within six months. Eventually, the game reached approximately 32 million daily users and around 83 million monthly active users. Zynga faced issues related to copied concepts and game mechanics from previous games by other developers. Still, the company infused its ideas into the game mechanics. It benefited from the advantage of releasing the games within the Facebook platform, a significant edge in the gaming scene.


Despite these challenges, FarmVille introduced several critical concepts to multiplayer, cooperative, and competitive farming games. The game mechanics focused on plowing land, planting, time-based harvesting, and selling crops and produce. Players progressed, unlocking new crops, livestock, trees, and other items that enhanced their farming business. One notable aspect was the option for players to design their farms according to their preferences, whether for optimal production or artistic creativity, creating elaborate and attractive farmlands. The game's social aspect was also notable, allowing players to form FarmVille friends and support groups, cooperate, and compete with other groups. Compared to Harvest Moon, FarmVille took the multiplayer aspect to another level by providing additional interaction with other online players. Interacting with fellow farmers provided opportunities for learning, sharing knowledge, and enjoying social activities with friends, relatives, and acquaintances on Facebook.

Farming Simulator

One notable feature of FarmVille was its micro-transaction system, which had positive and negative aspects. The game was free-to-play, but in-game purchases could only access certain items and options crucial for progress. Some players engaged in trading and other money-related activities, which sometimes led to issues. However, FarmVille significantly influenced the online gaming world and differed substantially from the classic RPG experience offered by Harvest Moon. Unfortunately, FarmVille on the Facebook platform was shut down in 2020, along with other Facebook-based games. FarmVille can be played as an independent browser game and on mobile gaming platforms.

Following the success of FarmVille, many other farm-based games were released, but most of them followed the footsteps of the console-based Harvest Moon. After the immense popularity of FarmVille, developers began utilizing the internet as a platform for farm-based games. The progression and evolution of the genre then branched out in various directions. One example is farming simulation games, which focus on realistic details of running and growing a farm, involving operations with farm equipment and vehicles like tractors, seeders, and other automated methods for producing crops, dairy, and livestock. The Farming Simulator game series is an excellent example.

Stardew Valley

An alternate or more original direction is what Eric Barone took with Stardew Valley. Stardew was somewhat based on Harvest Moon and borrowed a lot of concepts from it. Stardew Valley is like an open-world RPG where you build a farm, try to save a dilapidating country town, and help it grow. It's like FarmVille in that it's multiplayer, and you can interact with other online players. It's like an MMORPG set in a farming environment with the look and feel of a relaxed, cartoon-like world. The formula that Barone used to create Stardew was so successful, making it a phenomenal online game that is still popular today. Introduced via Steam in 2012, Barone continued to tweak the game until its final release in 2016.

Harvest Moon had a bunch of iterations. Some were even sequels from the original and were released by subsidiary companies. Others were created by competitors who followed the same theme in one way or another. However, the genre's evolution can be seen through these four significant titles: Harvest Moon, FarmVille, Farming Simulator, and Stardew Valley. Other developers have released several awesome games since then, but they appear to continue the genre these four games started.

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