McDonald's unveils virtual farm in FarmVille

Okay, so it seemed just a matter of time until the world's most famous fast food joint, McDonald's, teamed up with the world's biggest social game developer, San Francisco-based Zynga.

Okay, so it seemed just a matter of time until the world's most famous fast food joint, McDonald's, teamed up with the world's biggest social game developer, San Francisco-based Zynga.

McDonald's is going to have its own virtual farm in Zynga's wildly popular social game FarmVille, where users become characters that run around on a virtual farm and do, well, farming stuff. The game is played through social network platforms like Facebook.

For brands, the virtual worlds of social gaming represent an opportunity to win the hearts and minds of millions of players. A recent study by market research shop NPD Group concluded that 56 million Americans have played social games at least once.

Facebook alone has over 500 million users, all of them potential FarmVille farmers, so to speak.

Recently the Walt Disney Company paid big bucks ($763 million) for the Mountain View, CA-based social game company Playdom. In 2009, Electronic Arts paid $400 million for London-based Playfish.

Marketers and PR pros alike have pondered how these games might be exploited for branding and communications initiatives.

Promotions around the partnership include players visiting the McDonald's Farm and growing tomato and mustard seed crops, and players earning a virtual McCafe Consumable (a coffee drink real life), which gives them energy to move around on their virtual farms at twice the speed.

“Joining forces with FarmVille is an incredible opportunity for us to engage with millions of players in the most popular social games,” said McDonald's USA Media Director Anja Carroll.

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