CityVille is the New York City of Facebook games

As a kid, I’ll always remember the first time I encountered New York City. Driving in the back seat of the family car up Interstate 95, I recall staring at the Manhattan skyscrapers in awe as they rose over the horizon into the skyline.

Yesterday afternoon, Zynga gave me a sneak peak of its upcoming game, CityVille. It wasn’t the exact same feeling as staring at Manhattan for the first time, but it sure comes close.

CityVille can best be described in the words of GM Sean Kelly as “Monopoly meets Main Street.” The object of the game is to build your city from the ground up, keep your residents happy, and be a good neighbor with fellow game players.


So far, this sounds like the premise of many city simulation games you may have played on Facebook (i.e., Social City) and beyond (i.e., Sim City).

Here’s where this game deviates from the pack:

  • The first thing you’ll notice about CityVille is how big a game it is. CityVille is huge, by far the largest social game I have ever seen at launch. The game is immense in width but also in depth. Not only can you build left to right, you can also build up (skyscrapers) and down. You can even build structures (i.e., a marina or harbor) on water. The sky’s the limit in CityVille (literally).
  • The coolest social innovation at launch in CityVille is franchises. Once you create your own shop in your own city, you can then franchise it out by building your shop in the cities of your friends and neighbors and vice-versa. When a friend adds your franchise in their city, both you and your friend earn money. The more franchises in the more cities you have, the larger your headquarters expands as a skyscraper in the sky. It’s a very powerful social element that I have not seen before and should be a huge hit with social gamers.
  • There is an entire meta-game within CityVille around transportation and commerce between cities. You can grow crops (ala FarmVille) in your city and then trade your goods and services with your neighbors. Though you can’t haggle (Zynga is controlling prices at launch to stem inflation), you can import goods from exotic locales such as London, Shanghai, and Rome by ship and trade goods and services among neighbors by trains. As a former economics student (who plays games far too much and uses his economics degree far too little), this micrro-economic simulation meta-game fascinates me.

  • The game is beautifully rendered with 3D graphics and has been designed from the ground up to be portable to other devices. The level of detail is remarkable. Zynga actually hired an architect on staff to design the buildings, so that the skyscrapers appear as works of art and brownstone row houses are designed so accurately, even the fire escapes are in the right place.
  • CityVille is global in nature. For the first time ever, a game on Facebook is being launched from day one in 5 languages: French, Spanish, German, Italian, and of course, English. Expect a lot more languages as CityVille is launched and spreads around the world.
  • Similar to FrontierVille, there are characters you interact with that give the game a dynamic and unique feel, including business owners, doctors, firemen, and police officers. Unlike FrontierVille, there are no snakes to clobber or attacking bears to wallop. I did request this feature with Sean Kelly, the game’s general manager, but he replied back with no comment (oh well).


When we asked Sean about future updates, he was coy. But, he did share his plans to add more vehicles and wonders, so you would be able to add a city landmark like Paris’ Eiffel Tower to your city.

While not revolutionary, CityVille is an evolutionary step up, combining the best of FarmVille and FrontierVille and beautiful graphics, social innovations, and global aspirations.


Much like New York City compared to a normal town, CityVille is bigger, bolder, and perhaps better than any social game that exists today. And it hasn’t even launched yet.

To be notified on the moment CityVille launches, be sure to set an alert to follow the game.

More CityVille Video

Zynga has posted more video of their upcoming Facebook game, CityVille, where the games team talks more about the game features, including the aforementioned in-game architect (I kid you not):