If Halloweeen showed us anything, it was that the holidays are taking the social gaming world by storm. Far more than in 2009, developers both large and small are going all-out to theme their games, with the intent of increasing engagement and spending through the special day. While the number of games making use of Thanksgiving is smaller than Halloween, the holiday is still a significant stop-over on the way to Christmas.
As the Facebook game reaching the most monthly users (about 54 million), Zynga’s FarmVille also has more resources to pour into holidays than most. Thanksgiving virtual goods are everywhere in FarmVille, but one of particular interest is the “Thanksgiving Feast.”
The Feast starts as a basic, boring table. But at the table, users can gift each other various Thanksgiving day dishes. Should a player acquire enough dishes, they’ll be able to trade them in for limited edition Thanksgiving items. Zynga used the same mechanic for Halloween, although it feels less fleshed out here, as there’s no clear way to view what is purchasable before the dishes are earned.
While FrontierVille has its own Thanksgiving specials, Treasure Isle had the best Thanksgiving implementation among Zynga’s games, with an adapted trick-or-treating concept involving RSVPs to a Thanksgiving feast through Facebook wall posts. The player can then use the RSVPs to purchase decorative items, gems, and food for the holiday. The more RSVPs they receive, the fancier their in-game Thanksgiving “Banquet Table” looks (the item is given to the player for free upon logging in).
In addition to traditional Thanksgiving stuff, Zynga provides a bit of comic relief in an overweight turkey called J.D. Turkelton. He’s basically the center of a fun, social, quest where friends help work out the poor guy so he’s skinny enough not to be eaten.
Playdom took a different spin on the raffle concept it has used before for Social City. For those that had missed it, the raffle is a “spin” of a wheel for a small sum of virtual currency and win a virtual item. For Thanksgiving, players can gift these items once a day. Should they accept one Thanksgiving gift item a day, every day of the holiday week, they will receive a limited edition Thanksgiving Feast item for their city.
A handful of developers offered Black Friday deals last year, and Playdom’s top app, City of Wonder, is one of the few we’ve seen doing the same this year. While the specifics are not yet revealed, the advertisement notes that players can purchase bonus Gold (the game’s virtual currency) when using Facebook Credits. “Old favorites,” likely referring to past limited edition items, will also be available.
Coming to CrowdStar, it has followed the general trend by stocking up on themed virtual goods. But the company did outdo Playdom’s Black Friday sale in one significant way: it has recreated an entire real-world Old Navy store in It Girl, with all the same items the chain is currently carrying and, presumably, selling like hotcakes on Black Friday. It’s not difficult to imagine this sort of partnership extending next year to actual merchandising and sales of real-world goods in virtual games.
RockYou is hosting some special Thanksgiving additions as well with Zoo World. While the game has a tremendous number of virtual items available (a full listing can be found on the official Zoo World blog), the most interesting were those oriented around the classic Thanksgiving Day Parade. Using the help of friends, players can “blow up” a special Thanksgiving balloon for their own Zoo World parade.
What makes this more interesting, is that for each completed balloon, users get a corresponding limited-edition animal to go with it that can be upgraded to “Ultra Rare” creatures by spending virtual currency. Additionally, one of the components to “creating” these balloons/animals is Maize, which can either be purchased with virtual currency or earned, by chance, by feeding special Thanksgiving treats to one’s animals.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that gets vastly overshadowed in games by the hype of Halloween and the coming of Christmas. Even so, the developer response has been decidedly greater than it was a year prior. Furthermore, it will also be interesting to see who else does something for the top US shopping day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. But all of this is just an appetizer for Christmas, when we’ll be pointing out many more implementations, in a much wider range of games.