4"Variety" For Less
What They Offer You: Tons of games, and constantly updating content in each!
What The Real Point Is: Stolen and copied content looks new, and costs nothing.
The lack of actual gameplay content means a lot of downtime, and Zynga doesn't want you spending that downtime reading Cracked when you could be playing more Zynga games. There are easy links to Cafe World, Fishville, Mafia Wars, and many other free Zynga games on every Farmville screen.
Bars at the top of the Farmville and Mafia Wars games.
Making so many games sounds like a lot of work, but almost every game was bought, stolen, or copied - they licensed Texas Hold'Em for their poker game, purchased existing games like YoVille, and imitated previous farm, cafe, and aquarium games. Farmville itself is ironically derived from a Chinese game, with Zynga defending themselves from legal action by claiming it was Opposite Day.
Upon which the Chinese, not to be outdone, gamely participated.
So, stealing is a great way to keep costs down! Another is to keep giving people the same things in different packages. "New" items are introduced almost weekly - new only in appearance. It's a pretty rare case when a new item actually takes new programming. But to the player, it's seven new barns! Holy shit! Look at all those completely different barns!
If you're a gamer, you're probably familiar with the phrase "palette swap".
3I Can Stop Whenever I Want But Not Now, My Crops Are Due In 30 Minutes
What They Offer You: You can come back in two hours, eight hours, four days! You're the boss!
What The Real Point Is: Oh, but you are coming back.
It's hard to get addicted if you can just stop by whenever you want. To that end, Farmville crops wither if left up too long (although you can "unwither" them with the power of real cash money) and other games have their own time limits.
If they had this technology in the Farmville world, wouldn't they want to spend it on curing Alzheimer's and reversing old age instead of on saving raspberries?
But if the game explicitly set a rigid time limit, you'd be aware of it and resent it (like people gripe a lot about having to do dailies in WoW every 24 hours, and a bunch of people are always upset about what time Cracked's Craption Contest starts), so Zynga generously lets you set your own time limits. Sort of. By choosing what crops to plant, you choose when you have to come back - anywhere from two hours to four days for most crops. Zynga is putting up their hands and saying, "You're the farmer. Come back whenever you want." Which is bullshit. You might have 50 different choices, but none of them involves coming back whenever you feel like it.
Guess which one of these isn't available.
And studies have shown that people who think they chose to do something (even if they didn't) are more motivated than people who were forced to do that same thing.
If the game directly told you, "You must come back in two hours to continue playing," two hours might pass and you'd blow it off because you don't owe a stupid game anything. If you yourself decide to plant two-hour raspberry crops, you might willingly rush home early from dinner with friends to tend to "your" responsibility.
A Farmville-related early exit is one of the leading causes of not getting a second date.
Make no mistake, they're quite insistent on making you come back, but they'll let you think you're making yourself do it.