Fish World, a fish care taking Facebook app in a sea of other virtual aquarium titles, has always been one of our favorites when it comes to this underwater genre. Developer Tall Tree Games continues to press forward on the simulation theme with a similar, land-based app called Garden World.
Though virtual gardens have never seen the digital “gold rush” that farming and aquariums did, they have appeared in limited quantity from time to time — after all, many of the game mechanics are the same.
Players enter into world that is like Fish World (or many farming games, for that matter): You get a plot of land, and you can tend it to earn points with pruning shears instead of an aquarium sponge, or a weeding rake. This familiarity allows users to easily jump in and start decorating their virtual space with little to no learning curve. Using concepts from the farming genre of Facebook games, players buy a planter, plant a seed, water it, and after X amount of time, it blooms.
Once a plant has bloomed, two choices are presented. If they so desire, the user can merely sell the plant or flower for a small profit. However , what makes the game more interesting is that fully matured flowers will produce pollen. By dragging the pollen from one grown flower to another that is “Ready for Pollination,” you can actually cross-pollinate and discover plants that are otherwise unavailable for purchase in the game’s standard store.
This is easily the best part about Garden World, and on multiple levels. Each pollination requires 24 hours to occur. However, users are prompted with the option, for one Gardenbuck (Garden World’s buyable virtual currency) to have the result instantly. Since these flowers seem to be cheap to plant once discovered, yet sell for a hefty profit (our first discovery costs 15 coins as a seed and sells for 65), such a purchase does help get the user ahead in the game more quickly. Of course, if they don’t buy it, it is still a fantastic way to add depth through discovery to the game.
Like in Fish World, all actions earn experience – be it watering, weeding, or planting – and your level is displayed in a leaderboard of all your friends who play with you. With these two combined features, the game creates the standard social competition between users, but also grants them a reason to visit and aide (i.e. weeding) each other’s virtual menageries.
The primary monetization method for Garden World is through the virtual currency Gardenbucks. A number of high quality and nicer looking items can only be bought or earned through offers using this method; the earnable in-game coins cannot be used. It just seems that too many items have to be bought with the virtual currency that requires real money or offers. If the player opts for the in-game coins their garden, at the very least, looks sub-par. This was a chief complaint of users in Fish World, and something we pointed out regarding the sale of holiday virtual goods.
Granted, most of the items that cost Gardenbucks are functional and grant an edge (i.e. fertilizer), but the decorative – the expressive – items that cost virtual currency feel so much better than the in-game coin ones, and that leaves the user at a loss. When a player sees an object they can earn, a goal is established, and thus they keep playing to reach the goal. If the best objects have to be bought, then that goal never forms, thus there is less of a point in playing, thus users leave. The idea is to suck them into the game world enough so that they want to buy currency; while the developer might be making some money through making Gardenbucks near mandatory, it seems it could make even more if it enticed, instead.
The other chief complaint is minor — and common to social games — but no less obnoxious. Tall Tree Games is well aware of the social graph and the fact that players are more likely to start playing a game if they see their friends playing it. To that end, the player is constantly barraged with events in game that they are asked “Would You Like to Share?” Yes, sometimes they would, but having it pop up every two minutes because a squirrel wanders into the garden gets very tiresome.
Still, overall, Garden World is a nice application when it comes to virtual spaces. It’s simple, easy to learn, and fun to create a quaint little garden for oneself, and based on our most recent application data, there are over a million monthly active users that would agree.