Remember back in the day when all of your older relatives and the kids you knew from school but never speak to any more would send you invites to play Farmville? Remember how seeing a new notification on your Facebook toolbar that just turned out to be yet another invitation to play f’$%ng Farmville would fill you with impotent rage?

Well think about how different your reaction might have been if your “friends” hadn’t been backhandedly asking you to help them raise their not-actually-existent virtual ducks and cabbages, but were in fact asking you to help them put real, actual food in their mouths.

One Japanese startup, Telefarm, is hoping that the future is online games that reward players for good performance with actual products delivered to their door. And they’ve been running a farming simulator prototype for a little over a year now to test that model’s feasibility.

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Enkaku Bokujo, or “Remote Farm”, is an online farming simulator that lets players rent out a plot of land in the virtual world that actually corresponds to a plot in the real world. After a free trial rental, players must pay 500 yen (about US$4.50) per square meter, per month, of farming land, from within a total of about 2.2 hectares operated by farmers participating in the exchange. In other words, there are some people essentially re-enacting your onscreen button presses out in actual farms.

Once a player has rented some land, they then pay an additional 500 yen per packet of seeds available on an online store and get to work, tapping to plant and water the seeds. Players are then given a choice: Have the crops they’ve grown in-game sent to them, or sell them to others on the Telefarm’s real-life vegetable market.




We suppose we should be clear that there doesn’t appear to be any kind of real fail state to the game. No sane farmer is going to water their crops with 10 gallons of pesticide-infused H2O on a rainy day just because some tablet-wielding jerkbag halfway across the country said so, and Telefarm isn’t crazy enough to withhold the crops of paying customers just because they didn’t tend their virtual farms well. But it seems that, you know, to make the game more game-y, there are random events like bug infestations and savvy players can earn extra coins that go towards real-life freebies for handling these situations well.

Despite the browser-based game itself and Telefarm’s website looking like a wrong click could send you to the circa-1998, original Hamster Dance, we think the crowdfunded Enkaku Bokujo idea is pretty swell and hope, as CEO Shinobu Endo does, that the service will usher in more prosperity and stability into the lives of Japanese farmers everywhere.

Source: Mainichi Shinbun/Yahoo! Japan