Happy Farm falls fallow as mobile games bloom
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.