It’s been a tough year in Farmville. Make-believe fields are sitting fallow and make-believe cows aren’t getting fed. I’m sure if there was a make-believe John Mellencamp, he’d be in Farmville right now organizing a benefit concert.
Let’s get this straight, up front. I’m not hating on Farmville or Mafia Wars or the other game you play on Facebook where you pretend you’re a vampire. I’m a gamer. I get it. I’ll even confess that I was hooked on Scrabulous (the Scrabble rip-off) back before Hasbro, the owners of the real Scrabble, shut it down.
These days, I’d pretty much forgotten about Farmville and Mafia Wars. Thankfully, Facebook made it easier to hide those annoying, bordering on maddening, requests from friends to join their games or, even worse, the announcements that one of your friends had just added some critter to his farm.
But in making my life a little more pleasant, the Facebook team ignored the goose that laid the golden egg. That goose, gamemaker Zynga, announced Wednesday afternoon that it posted a $22 million loss in its second quarter. And just like that Zynga, which made a fortune selling virtual (i.e. make believe) commodities for real (i.e. real!!) money, saw its stock pummeled, losing nearly 40 percent of its value as investors rushed for the exit. Zynga, maker of Farmville, Mafia Wars, Words with Friends and dozens of other titles, raised $1 billion last December when it went public. At its height, Zynga stock reached $15.91 a share. On Wednesday, it had sunk to $3.12 a share in after-hours trading.