Interview: Sabrina Carmona on why Farm Heroes Saga continues to thrive almost ten years after release

Interview: Sabrina Carmona on why Farm Heroes Saga continues to thrive almost ten years after release

Farm Heroes Saga turns 10 years old in 2024, and that's an incredible feat in an industry where many games don't get past their first or second anniversary. Although often unfairly in the shadow of its ludicrously successful stablemate, Candy Crush, Farm is an obscenely popular game and has been since it first launched.

During my recent trip to King's London office, I sat down with the infectiously passionate Sabrina Carmona, VP of Farm Heroes Saga, to discuss the game's ongoing success. We also touched on King's 20th anniversary and whether or not players can expect anything to celebrate the 10th anniversary next year.

Can you introduce yourself and your role on Farm Heroes Saga for our readers, please?

Absolutely. My name is Sabrina Carmona. I'm the VP of Farm Heroes Saga. I've been at King for seven years, and I originally come from Brazil.

Do you see other King games as competitors?

First and foremost, I really care about catering to the Farm players. It's our mission to ensure that the game we build caters for our audience. But I think that, at the end of the day, if Farm players play other games, that's great. We want them to do that. We want them to have the agency to decide where to invest their time. So I see it more like – I love that there's this collaboration between all the games as well as the players. The more the merrier, I guess.

So next year is the tenth anniversary. Can you tell us what's coming up to celebrate that?

I have a lot of ideas, the team has a lot of ideas about what's coming up, but the reality is that it's all for the players. We have people that actually have been playing the game for ten years, and it's so incredible, and what we do is for them. So, we have some special things cooking. I don't want to spoil anything. All I can say is it's going to be for them. We're going to celebrate our players throughout the game. We want them to see this as a milestone for them as much as it is for us.

Are you doing anything in-game to celebrate 20 years of King? Or, since that's a company thing, will you just continue as normal?

I think 20 years is a nice milestone to celebrate, but, again, I have to go back to it's all about the players. And I think the best way for us to celebrate 20 years is to continue to make our games better. I really believe in that, by the way.

The best we can do is see how we have evolved and how much we learned with the players and with ourselves. And continue to provide that engagement, to provide those features and those things they love. There isn't a better celebration than that.

What do you think has been the biggest change to Farm Heroes Saga over the last ten years?

I think a ten-year-old game, especially in mobile, is rare, you don't have many games around that stay for that long. But, what I can say is that we think about innovation from the perspective of making things that are already good better. If they're 1% better, they're already better, right?

The more players we have, the more time goes by and the more information we have. And I was talking earlier about making well-informed decisions. We have to make decisions on what we're going to build and release and when and how we're going to provide things for our players. And I think that the more information you have, the better decisions you're going to make.

So there's not really a change. It's more of an evolution of the purpose and what we want players to feel. What we want them to do. What we want them to accomplish. How we want them to do that. The essence of the game is the same. We have never lost that progression feeling. We haven't really changed the way because that isn't what we wanted to do at all. We all wanted to keep our players coming back by making what they already love even better.

You mention the importance of player feedback. How much of that is data-driven versus actually speaking to players?

I have learned a lot from working at King. You need both of them. I'm going to go a step further and say it's not a balance. It's not 50% of my decisions are going to be based on data, 50% on player feedback like it's equal. It's not.

I see it more as a harmony of things. Sometimes, you're going to rely on data. Sometimes you're going to rely more on player feedback. Sometimes you're going to rely on your gut feeling, your expertise and your talent.

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I think the way I see it is we have a diversity of information that will help us make that call. Help us improve what we have. To help us create experiences. Decide the seasons that we want to do. So, I see them as information sources that allow the team or myself to make those decisions.

It must be difficult because players might not necessarily know they'll enjoy something.

It's important we listen to our players. It's very important. But it is a diverse audience as well. So, what might cater for one person might not cater for others. That's why when we think about what to put out in the game, we think about the whole experience.

And there are features. It's not just one thing. There are several motivations you can play. There are several objectives. If you're like me for instance, I need to collect everything all the time. I just have to do that. That's how my brain works. So I will always try for that, but maybe you have different motivations.

Our job is to ensure we can cater for all that and you can have fun at the end of the day. So it's important to listen to them, it's important to look at the data, and it's important to listen to the experts. We make the games. We know what's going to work sometimes and what won't. But that goes back to that harmony. It's important we understand the 'why'.

It all connects to the purpose as well; what do we want them to feel? And yes, maybe they don't know, but maybe they do.

I wouldn't expect you to know this off the top of your head, but do you know how many players have reached the end of the currently available levels?

Like you said, from the top of my mind, I wouldn't be able to tell you. But also the number changes as well, right? Sometimes they eat through the content, and they're really good, and sometimes, they don't. But we do have players at the end of the content as well.

I think there are some interesting things that we do in Farm, at least, to have them replay. I don't want them to be idle. If they want to play Farm, they could play Farm. So they can replay any level, collect stars, etc. But we also have our events that have levels that are separated from the saga. So maybe they reached the end of the content, they can go inside one of our events, and they will still have more content to go through over there. So there's always something to do in Farm.

We touched on it earlier, but 10 years is a long time in mobile gaming. What do you think has helped keep Farm relevant in that time?

 I think it's because we really really care about giving players the best experience. It's a good game. And it has some unique features. If you look at the board, the pieces you move, they are actually alive and they speak to you. They have sounds. They move, and they have expressions.

It's something so unique to Farm that players keep coming back. They really relate. And I think that's why I touched on the nurture motivation because I do think we have a unique point about that. You come in and you actually feel like the hero because you are interacting with a live object - what we call Cropsies.

The other side of it is we talk about innovation. And I'm going to sound like a broken record, but the challenge of making something that is good better requires an enormous amount of innovation and creativity. It's not that we have to reinvent the wheel. It's just understanding points of friction. Is there more purpose? Is there more meaning? Can we elevate this experience to make it a little bit fresher? It's been an interesting journey, to say the least.

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Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen Gregson-Wood
Stephen brings both a love of games and a very formal-sounding journalism qualification to the Pocket Gamer team.