It turns out there's real money in virtual farming.
Mark Pincus, creator of the wildly popular online game FarmVille, joins the Forbes Billionaires List this year with a net worth of $1 billion. His social gaming company Zynga produces the interactive game, played via Facebook, that sees players fertilize and harvest digital crops and tend to virtual livestock.
Zynga is also behind MafiaWars — players order mob hits on their Facebook friends — and CityVille, which allows users to build and run a web-based city from the ground up. The latter attracts 20 million players a day.
The company's revenues come from charging real-world cash to gamers wanting to spiff up their virtual worlds; FarmVille “farmers” might buy a garden gnome or an extra chicken coop.
Zynga's success since its creation in 2007 is staggering. The private company has already raised $219 million in four rounds of funding from high-profile sources including billionaire PayPal founder and Facebook angel investor Peter Thiel, LinkedIn's Reid Hoffman and another newly minted Forbes billionaire, Yuri Milner. Now, Zynga is reportedly looking to raise another $500 million, which would value the company somewhere between $7 billion and $10 billion.
Before Zynga, Wharton grad Pincus did the requisite stint on Wall Street and worked in venture capital before earning an MBA from Harvard. He launched a handful of tech start-ups before Zynga, which he named after his beloved late bulldog.
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