FarmVille, the Zynga game that turned horticulture into a social media phenomenon, is getting its own animated TV show. The news comes a day after Finland-based Rovio said it’s producing a show based on its popular game, Angry Birds. Together, the shows will test whether addictive video games with thin plots can translate into enjoyable programming for children.
The FarmVille show hasn’t yet been purchased by a TV network. It’s being produced by a team that includes Brett Ratner, best known for directing the Rush Hour trilogy, and the Canadian production company Six Eleven Media. In the video game version of FarmVille, which rose to popularity through Facebook, the challenge is to harvest crops and raise livestock on occasionally enchanted farmland. Users can also visit their friends’ digital homesteads. That’s about it.
Angry Birds likely won’t find its way to traditional television. Rovio, instead, plans to release the series of animated shorts through the same distribution channels, like iPads and Android tablets, that have worked well for Angry Birds, the game. “The content itself is the channel,” Rovio CEO Mikael Hed said. “We have become the channel.”
The premise of Angry Birds is that devious pigs have stolen the eggs of several curiously birds, who slingshot themselves at the pigs to recover the eggs. The plot has been fleshed out a bit in spin-offs, like Angry Birds Star Wars, and videos produced by Rovio to promote its games, like this one:
Rovio bought Kombo, another Finish company, in 2011 to boost its animation prowess, and it clearly intends to make animation a core part of its business. Hed has said he wants to create animated characters that are one day as iconic as Road Runner and the Pink Panter. An Angry Birds movie is planned for 2016.
Zynga, which is more purely a gaming company, seems to have a less ambitious vision for its FarmVille show. It may be interested in the publicity or licensing revenue associated with the deal, but judging by previous attempts, Zynga’s agrarian animation isn’t likely to achieve the status of high art: