TORONTO - Canadians appear to really dig FarmVille - an online farming simulation that boasts more than 73.8 million daily users worldwide just six months after it was launched.
Canada is the sixth biggest country in terms of the number of visitors to FarmVille, the most popular social game among Facebook's 350 million users. The United States is number 1, followed by Turkey, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and Italy.
The game has also spawned FarmVille videos on YouTube, including a rap video.
Players can manage a virtual farm by planting, growing and harvesting virtual crops, trees and livestock.
"Initially it's very addictive," said Toronto television producer Robert Prowse, 59, who says he spends about half an hour a day on the game.
"It was my sister-in-law in Calgary who got me playing because everybody's looking for neighbours. In order to get points and expand your farm and things like that you have to find other players."
Players can buy everything they need for their virtual farm including seeds, trees, animals, buildings and more land using FarmVille currency called coins. Players earn the coins by selling crops or by accumulating cash at a rate of $1 per experience level.
For those not content to earn their coins and cash in the virtual world, real-world credit cards can be used to purchase them from the game's developer, Zynga.
"It's like monopoly - who can get the biggest farm, the most equipment," said Prowse.
Just like a real farm, if the crop isn't harvested in time, it will wilt and have to be plowed again so the player won't be able to reap the profits.
"At times it's almost psychotic because you think, I have to get home and milk the cows or they'll explode," said Prowse.
David Kingsland, 56, of Mississauga, Ont., runs a company that builds websites. He plays FarmVille 90 minutes a day but is cutting back.
"I've gone from planting my crops every four hours during weekends to planting them every four days," said Kingsland.
Because things grow when he's not playing, he picks up at a better place in the game than when he left off, so he gets a great sense of achievement, he said.
He likes that people play with other players, not against them and while other players can fertilize his crops, they can't cut them down or damage them.
The game is most popular among 18 to 35 year olds and is about 60-40 per cent split between female and male players, said Montreal-born Bill Mooney, a Zynga vice-president and the general manager of FarmVille.
Its growth rate has been triple of other Zynga games. Mooney attributes FarmVille's success to it being quick and easy to play, it's accessibility, and that it's a way for people to socialize with people they know rather than strangers.
Mooney, who previously worked in the computer and video game industry, thinks virtual games like FarmVille, Cafe World or FishVille will one day eclipse traditional video games in popularity.
"A friend of mine, his 80-year-old parents play FarmVille. And I guarantee there aren't many 80 year olds out there playing Halo 3," said Mooney.
The game isn't without critics.
A Facebook group called Not Playing FarmVille has more than 1.9 million members, and some say the game is a waste of time.
"Mindless, boring, stupid and annoying," writes one member of the group while another pens: "better to cook or read a book, no time for gaming." Another types "I am a FarmVille addict. I have taken the first step," while yet another says: "FarmVille's not a bad game, but who has all that time?"
There have been reliability issues with the game including one day when he couldn't access it, said Kingsland. He also has run out of things to strive for.
"I've passed all the levels that make any diffference, so I've now got a tonne of money and a tonne of points and it's like well, what do we do now?"
The game is also cited in a class-action lawsuit against Zynga and Facebook filed in California in November.
"A third way to obtain virtual currency is by participating in one of the many advertisements or 'special offers' that are made available to users of each game," the lawsuit reads. "It is these offers... that have caused widespread deception of players of Zynga games."
The suit alleges a "fraudulent scheme... to lure unsuspecting consumers into signing up for services and goods that they do not want or need."
The suit uses FarmVille as an example and points to an online IQ test offer.
"To take the test the consumer must provide their cellphone number and they are told that the results of the test will be sent to them via text message," the suit states.
"However, what the user does not know is that by providing their cellphone number they have unwittingly subscribed to a useless SMS service and will be billed on a monthly basis through their cellphone bill."
The suit seeks compensation for all users of Zynga games who have made such payments in connection with their use of Zynga games.
Mooney wouldn't discuss the litigation but said the company has taken a "substantial financial hit" to address user concerns about third-party charges.
"First we turned everything off, went through and cleaned out offers that we had concerns about that provided a bad user experience and we're working basically to improve the quality of those offers," said Mooney.
Now the only way to get coins and cash for the game is by playing FarmVille or buying directly from Zynga, he said.
FarmVille is a money maker for Zynga but Mooney wouldn't disclose figures. But he said the majority of Zynga's revenue is from the sale of virtual goods.
Experts predict that virtual goods - such as buying a large ranch house on FarmVille - will generate billions of dollars over the next few years for social gaming companies.
But Prowse isn't among those forking out real money to decorate his farm. He admits he's getting a bit bored with the game.
"My exit strategy eventually is just to sell off all the animals and everything and put a sign up saying my farm at the edge of Toronto has now become a subdivision, I'm retired to Mexico", said Prowse.