Happy Farm falls fal­low as mo­bile games bloom

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS COMPANIES - By SHI JING in Shang­hai shi­jing@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Gone is the time when peo­ple would wake up at midnight to reap what they had sown on the on­line game Happy Farm, which was played pre­dom­i­nantly by Chi­nese users more than four years ago. Ren­ren.com, one of the lead­ing so­cial net­work­ing ser­vice providers in China, closed its game server for Happy Farm on Tues­day be­cause of “strate­gic re­struc­tur­ing and fund­ing prob­lems” in­volv­ing its game de­vel­oper, the Chi­nese com­pany 5 Min­utes.

Ren­ren has been work­ing as an open plat­form for Happy Farm for four-and-a-half years. Com­pen­sa­tion in­clud­ing coupons for Ren­ren prod­ucts will be pro­vided to long­time play­ers of Happy Farm.

The clo­sure of the game came at a time when lack­lus­ter tra­di­tional web page games are giv­ing way to fast-grow­ing mo­bile games in China.

Ac­cord­ing to the China Gam­ing In­dus­try Re­port re­leased at the China Game Busi­ness Con­fer­ence in late July, mo­bile games grew rapidly in the first half of this year, with sales amount­ing to 2.53 bil­lion yuan ($412 mil­lion), up 100.8 per­cent year-on-year.

While the ac­tual sales of web­site games were still tak­ing up most of the Chi­nese game mar­ket, with sales rev­enue reach­ing 5.34 bil­lion yuan in the first six months of this year, the growth rate dropped to 39.8 per­cent from the 46.7 per­cent dur­ing the first half of last year.

More­over, the num­ber of web page play­ers grew by 4.2 per­cent in the first half of this year, while the growth rate was 6.4 per­cent in the first six months of last year.

The re­port con­cluded the web page games mar­ket has reached ma­tu­rity af­ter years of rapid de­vel­op­ment with a de­clin­ing growth rate and in­ten­si­fied com­pe­ti­tion.

Ji Xue­feng, pres­i­dent of Shang­hai Gi­ant Net­work Tech­nol­ogy Co Ltd, agreed mo­bile games en­joy a higher user-ad­he­sive­ness, mean­ing that mo­bile game play­ers will stick to one game for a longer time more read­ily, but web page games are not doomed.

“Mo­bile games may lack user in­ter­ac­tion, the ad­van­tage that web page games en­joy. Mo­bile games and web page games are not re­ally in to­tally op­po­site po­si­tions. They should work as a com­ple­men­tary part to each other,” said Ji.

De­vel­oped by 5 Min­utes, Happy Farm com­pleted its test­ing in July 2008 and was of­fi­cially re­leased in au­tumn that year. In­flu­enced by the Ja­panese role-play game Har­vest Moon, Happy Farm al­lowed play­ers to grow crops, sell pro­duce and steal from neigh­bors.

Ac­cord­ing to statis­tics pro­vided by 5 Min­utes, Happy Farm reached its peak at the end of 2009, at which time there were 23 mil­lion daily ac­tive users.

“I started to play this game dur­ing my un­der­grad­u­ate years up to the end of my post­grad­u­ate stud­ies. It is a very im­por­tant mem­ory of my stu­dent days. Now it is closed, it’s like wav­ing farewell to the good old days. The good thing is my room­mates won’t ac­cuse me any­more of be­ing ob­sessed with this game,” said Zhuo Qi, a Happy Farm player from Changchun in North China’s Jilin prov­ince.

The com­pany 5 Min­utes was founded in 2006 by three col­lege stu­dents. It re­ceived a one- time multi-mil­lion yuan pay­ment from Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd for full rights to the game on its QQZone plat­form shortly af­ter they re­leased Happy Farm.

In De­cem­ber 2009, the com­pany re­ceived $3.5 mil­lion in ven­ture cap­i­tal fund­ing from the ven­ture cap­i­tal firm Draper Fisher Jurvet­son. In July 2010, it re­ceived fund­ing from Cy­berA­gent, a lead­ing de­vel­oper from Ja­pan for so­cial games and ca­sual games, to­gether with Ja­pan Asia In­vest­ment Co Ltd, of an amount be­tween $500,000 and $1 mil­lion.

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