Zynga Launches Its Biggest Hit in Japan as “FarmVillage”

It has a new name, new graphics and different gameplay. But FarmVillage is still at its core FarmVille, a game that Zynga hopes will fill Japan with virtual cornstalks and cows.

Zynga is launching FarmVillage tonight in Japan on Mixi, the Japanese social network that’s partially owned by Zynga investor Softbank. Unlike the Facebook or iDevice version of the game, FarmVillage is built for feature phones, which are what most of Mixi’s userbase has.

The result looks a bit different from what you may be used to. Aside from a more compact layout for the smaller screen, and lack of a player avatar, there’s also a distinctly Asian feel to the art:

With no touch screen controls, the game relies on directional buttons to choose the plot of land and which action to perform.

Softbank’s $147 million investment in Zynga came this June, and Zynga’s buyout of Japanese developer Unoh followed in August. Like Zynga’s other moves this year, its first Japanese release was fairly slow in coming since the company initially expressed serious interest in Japan.

But Zynga’s best growth prospects probably lie overseas, so we’re likely to see more launches of this sort fairly soon. Mixi offers access to only 20 million users, which is smaller than four of Zynga’s games on Facebook, but its members are known to monetize extremely well.