Zynga Gets Adventurous with New Facebook Game Treasure Isle

Treasure IsleDespite surveying users about Social City and trademarking hotel game names, it would seem that Zynga has a few surprises up its sleeves. After the release of the simplifed card game Poker Blitz, we suspected something bigger was also in the works — that was its first new launch since December.

But what we got was not a city builder or hotel management title. No, Zynga went with a very different concept as it released its newest Facebook game, Treasure Isle, last night.

In a nutshell, Treasure Isle is almost a quasi-farming title. Taking a page out of the growing number of tropical farming titles, this app has combined some of the popular elements of FarmVille with an old, almost point-and-click adventure. To that end however, the core objective is not to grow a bustling island farm, but is reminiscent to an older Facebook title called Treasure Madness. What is that, you ask? Seek out and find buried treasure across chains of islands within Caribbean-like sea, then build a tropical inhabitance.

My IslandEssentially, each island is broken up into an invisible grid space, and players expend energy to search each grid one at a time. Doing so will have one of a handful of results. Sometimes the player will find treasure, sometimes gold, sometimes nothing, sometimes fruit, and sometimes items to share with friends.

Regardless, of what is discovered, each dig earns a small amount of experience, which obviously levels your character, which, in turn, allows users to visit larger islands and unlock more decorations for your personal one.

This is where the farming and virtual space elements come into play. In Treasure Isle, users do not grow crops or trees to make money; they do so to hunt longer. Players can actually grow a crops to place in their backpack to eat while they’re out adventuring, thus restoring lost energy. Additionally, they can grow various “gem” trees that can be harvested and used as keys to unlock parts of the game’s 15 islands. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you can manually plant more that two plots of crops, but perhaps this will change as users level up and expand their island.

Gem LockThe fastest way to earn gold is to complete treasure sets. On each island you visit, there are one or more sets of treasure that consist of five pieces. Once completed, they are logged (as a sort of achievement) and can be sold for hundreds to thousands of gold.

Curiously, however, it does not seem like you can revisit a completed island – one in which you have dug up every grid space.

This gets tricky. It is quite possible, that the player will not find every piece of treasure needed to complete a set within that island, even if they dig up every grid space. However, it seems that only that island will give that particular treasure (i.e. the second island, Sunny Shores, gives Tiki Idols). Now, socially, players can send each other treasure they find, which is a great thing, but currently, if you do not find all of the treasure pieces, then that appears to be the only option to complete a set.

Perhaps that’s sort of the point? The company has been planning to add more truly social features to games, chief executive Mark Pincus highlighted in an interview with us at the end of 2009. It has honed group-driven quests in role-playing games like Mafia Wars so in some sense Treasure Isle combines that with the farming mechanic that has done so well in FarmVille and other games.

TreasureAnway, the game still offers plenty for the player to do on their own. As new islands unlock, greater amounts of treasure can be found and larger numbers of tools are needed to discover them all. From shovels to dynamite, players must purchase and use these to explore every inch of an isle. As a simple example, you cannot search through trees and plants until you buy a machete. This requirement actually adds a small amount of length to Treasure Isle. Though they are not terrible expensive, one often finds that most of their money has already been spent on leisure island decorations, and has to wait until the energy slowly recharges to go out and earn more. No, no, we didn’t do this… it was our, umm… friend… yeah…. Oh well, you spend money faster than you earn it sometimes.

While buying and earning tools does add a little to the game, the biggest boost to longevity comes from the islands themselves. They get very big, very quickly as you progress through the adventure. That said, it can take a few days to dig up an entire island in the upper levels. Combine that with the gates that require gems to unlock, and you have yourself a pretty long game. However, since islands don’t seem to be visitable once finished, the game play seems currently finite. A curious choice for a social game, and it will be interesting to see how Zynga improves the longevity (not that it isn’t long already). We can imagine all sorts of expansions taking users to, say, New York City’s Little Italy, Cuba, Moscow, Bangkok and Las Vegas — or given the all-ages them, maybe more purely G-rated locations like midwestern farms, Antarctica, space, etc.

Mystery ChestOn a final note, it is worth mentioning that Zynga’s attempt to allow emailing to users was much more creative this time around. As opposed to forcing players to allow it (otherwise they couldn’t play), like in Poker Blitz, players can dig up a “locked chest” which you must email to a “locksmith” to have opened. Doing so will sign the player up for email updates, and they’ll get whatever is inside as a reward.

Overall, Treasure Isle is a very fun game. It is a bit odd that Zynga would make a game that seems finite, but by the time anyone completes all the islands, that issue will likely have been resolved. Moreover, the tropical change is a welcome change of pace, and the limiting of crops on an island really focuses more on the creative, decorative element of the game, rather than seeing hideous virtual mega-farms that have about 10,000 crops, with all the buildings and animals crammed in one corner. Once Zynga’s cross-promotion kicks in, you can expect this game to grow pretty well, pretty quickly.

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Leave a Reply

52 Responses to “Zynga Gets Adventurous with New Facebook Game Treasure Isle”

  1. Roy says:

    “But what we got was not a city builder or hotel management title. No, Zynga went with a very different concept as it released its newest Facebook game, Treasure Isle, last night.”

    Are you kidding? Ever heard of a little thing called Treasure Madness? This exact game which has been out for months? Are you a lazy writer or just another tool of Zynga?

  2. Eric Eldon says:

    Roy, read that phrase as “No, Zynga went with a very different concept [from city building and hotel management] as it released its newest Facebook game, Treasure Isle, last night.”

    Make sense?

  3. Amrita Chatwal says:

    Not a word about Treasure Madness – the game that Treasure Isle is clearly modeled upon (and that’s putting it politely).

    The gameplay is definitely not finite – as Treasure Madness has proved, but completing collections is going to be tough as specific treasures can only be found on specific islands.

    It’s a pity that this release coincides with Treasure Madness’ latest and highly unpopular Beta 2 update. I can see several of the less loyal fans switching to Treasure Isle.

  4. Jeremiah says:

    Zynga did it again! Another clone of a popular Facebook game.

  5. Leon Kitain says:

    Small typo here guys. You say “Perhaps that’s sort of the point? The company has been planning to add more truly social features to games, chief executive Mark Pincus highlighted in an interview with us at the end of 2010.” but, instead of saying 2010, I think, you meant the end of 2009.

  6. Eric Eldon says:

    Thanks, Leon. Updated.

  7. Ryan says:

    Sigh .. once again Zynga has copied off ANOTHER developer.. Seriously, has this company made ANY original games? I look at their game list and facepalm.. every single game they own was ether ripped off a popular game in the market already, or they bought the company that had the popular company.

    Social Game Company? Yes because clicking “Send Gift” to some spammed friends on your facebook account is “social” Good Job Zynga /sarcasm.

  8. DPH says:

    Christopher / Eric –
    I have an idea. I’m going to write the very same article you just wrote, except change all the words around and use a title that is vaguely similar to your own. I might even call my article “Zynga Gets Adventurous-ville”

    And I’m going to make more money on my article than you because I have a publishing team that is a total machine. Who cares if your article already made the point – it’s who can reach the wider audience, right? Not to mention I’ll put a little extra pizazz on it.

    You might be mad. You might even call it plagiarism. But screw it, that’s the way this business works. Sorry fellas. Go write an article about or something.


  9. Eric Eldon says:

    DPH, lots of spam blogs already do what you’re describing, except they don’t change any words. Google them for yourself if you want evidence. What’s your point?

  10. DPH says:

    Apologies, I’ll be more clear:

    Why is it that journalists in gaming give Zynga (and others) a pass when they blatantly plagiarize an earlier work?

    In your article, you make mention that Treasure Isle is basically a rip-off of Treasure Madness, then quickly move on as if that’s unimportant.

    If it was a book, I would have to think it’s not okay. I would have to think a review of a blatantly plagiarized book or album would NOT gloss over this fact. But if it’s a social game, the media is simply complicit. I think that is saddening and ultimately damaging to this growing segment of gaming.

    To get idealistic for a moment, I would like to think that if social game journalists were NOT okay with it, social game developers would increasingly have to be more innovative and original, thereby giving us better products, which leads to a healthier and more long-term viable industry, etc. etc.


  11. Cameron Ellis says:

    Guys, Zynga is worth THREE BILLION FUCKING DOLLARS. Last I checked, thats half of EA, and with waaay higher margins. You think they care whether they put out clones or not?

  12. SMH says:

    I agree with Cameron! The key word in my sentence is “Haters”. Donald Trump got rich on cloning others techniques and if I’m not mistaken…In the world we live in, most people succeed by looking at what others do and PERFECT IT! I applaud Zynga…Do Ya thug-thizzle Zynga (if your not so hip on slang this means the same thing; Keep up the good work).

    O and DPH, how did you learn to write words, read books and do mathematics? You took what your teacher taught you and perfected it right?

  13. DPH says:

    Cameron, I’m sure they don’t care. Enron was valued very highly as well. Like Zynga, they produced nothing and had specious revenue mechanics. Thanks for your contribution.

  14. Amrita Chatwal says:

    DPH, totally agree.

    Also,the reference to Treasure Madness was added to the article only after two of us pointed out that it had been omitted.

    This is blatant plagiarism, not insipid inspiration.

  15. Christopher Mack says:

    Plagiarism: This seems to be a word thrown around in this thread quite a bit. However, while many of you are up in arms about this, Treasure Isle is not, in fact an act of plagiarism. Not even close. Plagiarism is the act of explicitly replicating a copyrighted, creative body of work, such as a book, painting, movie, and so on. This applies to games as well, but as a new form of media, by comparison, games are subject to both copyright AND patent law, and are thus a bit more ambiguous. Copyright protects subjects of expression and patents protect ideas. Games are a child of both.

    As a basic example, the artwork in a game, can be copyrighted, the specific source code, as well as very specific features – i.e. Crazy Taxi has a copyright on “driving a taxi to a destination, represented by a 3D waypoint arrow,” or something along those lines – can be copyrighted (or patented in some cases). However, the underlying concept – such as a person using tools to collect treasure on islands – can NOT. That is because source code can be written in a myriad of ways to complete the same, desired result. If you do not believe this to be true, then you merely have to look into your local GameStop. How many God of War clones do you see? How about Modern Warfare? Are not Rock Band and Guitar Hero virtual identical?

    This isn’t limited to games either. How many movies and books have you seen/read that are about some hero overcoming an impossibly evil entity? Look at Avatar, – an Oscar-winning movie – is that concept not the standard Colonialism plot? It’s Pocahontas in space, essentially.

    The point is that each of these forms of media has taken a basic concept, which has been done before, and added on to it. The only reason, you get heated about it here, is because it is Zynga. Everyone always focuses on the big dog. Truth is, however, that the Treasure Isle concept is only the same as zSlide’s Treasure Madness in regards to the treasure hunting. Though I have not played the latter as long as some of you, I have yet to have my own personal island, and my rewards are merely more maps, not a virtual space of my own. This reward mechanism alone makes Treasure Isle more gratifying to play. Furthermore, watching a personal avatar move around a world and interact with it is both more immersive and more interesting than text pop-ups when I try digging a hole.

    Is the prospect of copying concepts a problem? Absolutely, yes! However, it is an issue of stagnation for the ENTIRE games industry, not just one social company. But before anyone gets idealistic, every single one of us has copied ideas and concepts from something before; be it a character archetype or something from mythology.

    In the end, Games can either be evolutionary or revolutionary, and those truly different and unique, revolutionary games, most of you, can probably count on one hand. Sorry guys, but Zynga has every legal right to create Treasure Isle so long as they didn’t directly take the artwork or source code from zSlide. They took an underlying concept and improved it. And no, I don’t work for Zynga in any way, and if you want to double check my facts, read Open Source Licensing by Lawrence Rosen. It covers everything from patents and copyrights to free use and public domain.

  16. DPH says:

    Thanks for your detailed reply Chris. I think a lot of your analogies are pretty wide misses though. For instance, the GOW-like games are essentially taking the mechanics of GOW and putting them in a different story. There is a clear difference to me in a company saying “hey let’s use those mechanics, but set it in a future world” then a company saying “hey let’s do this exact same game” a la Farmvile copying Farm Town.

    Regardless of the letter of the law, there is a question of ethics here that is simply being excused away. Reason why we focus on Zygna is because their business model is blatant cloning.

    I hear your point though in that you do not feel a need to discuss the ethical issue behind the game you are reviewing that is a blatant copy. Thanks for your reply

  17. Amrita Chatwal says:

    Christopher, the way I understand it, plagiarism is the act of adopting someone else’s idea and passing it off as your own. However, you’re right about the copyright bit and I concede the point. So, Treasure Isle is not plagiarized, but it does draw heavily on Treasure Madness for inspiration and that should have been mentioned in the article in the first place.

    I don’t know if you’re aware of this but using an avatar to do the digging for you is also not Zynga’s original concept. There was an application called Treasure Time on Facebook which first came up with the treasure-hunter avatar. It surfaced about 3 months ago, had a largely expanding fan base and then inexplicably disappeared a month or so back. Their fan page still exists on Facebook, but the application is nowhere to be found.

  18. Christopher Mack says:

    Ironically, Treasure Time was a game on my list of titles to review. Sadly, yes, it was gone by the time I got the chance to. And yes, you are also correct on the definition of plagiarism.

    As for Treasure Isle, I would consider it what we call an “evolutionary” game. It took the concept of Treasure Madness and made it a means to a more immersive end. Regarding that end, however, the decoration of a virtual space, well that isn’t technically original as you can date that concept back to The Sims and probably further.

    As for Treasure Madness, there are thousands of Facebook applications, – not to mention MySpace, iPhone, and so on – and truth be told, I do not know all of them. ;) That said, Treasure Madness is now on my review list.

  19. Axel says:

    Funny discussion. I created with a friend a first of its kind games site in France 11 years ago when i was a student. The site gained amazing traction in just a few weeks, becoming a top-50 site, but we had to attend classes and couldn’t work full time: investors were wary of the situation and didn’t put money, and we didn’t want to leave college at that point. Some guy saw it and raised roughly 5m€ on the idea, copied the games, and inundated the place with ads. They copied everything, even the typos in our texts, the rules … everything. After a few months, my site was dubbed “copycat” by the press. Lesson learned !
    I think making web based games, and especially for Facebook has nothing whatsoever to do with “art”, except “the art of war”.

    Treasure Madness may very well have the same sort of faith, especially since the designers of the game left the company to launch their own. The only good news for them is they probably made a lot of money on the game already.

    By the way, who remembers the first farm game to achieve 1m DAU on FB (in fact, i think it was much higher than 1m)… anyone ?

  20. Aysah says:

    i cant go to home when energy is finished
    it dont show home at my map?
    can ay1 help plz???

  21. zorro says:


    The correct legal term is

    For those who are interested it is an interesting reading. It is common sense that doing that is forbidden.

    Funny because usually passing off happens with Russia, China etc ;-)

  22. Zynga, iPad, Food and Music in This Week’s Top 20 Facebook Pages says:

    [...] Zynga’s Texas Hold’em Poker took first place again this week, adding almost 667,000 fans to its total of more than 16.1 million fans and the company’s Mafia Wars was number three this week, adding 268,000 fans to come out with 11.2 million. These two games are obviously very popular but both continue to promote limited-time-only-type of specials that add hundreds of thousands of fans. On Mafia Wars’ Page this week we saw Zynga promoting its new game, Treasure Isle. [...]

  23. Treasure Isle Tracker says:

    Treasure Isle really seems to be hitting all the right marks — a little farming, a little customization, hunting for loot… all the things that keep you coming back for just one more island, just one more dig.

    This, I think, is what will separate it from Farmville and make it stay popular longer than a game like Farmville, which is great but can become repetitive over time.

  24. Zynga’s Newest Game, Treasure Isle, Gains Three Million Players in Just Five Days says:

    [...] Could Zynga have found its next hit game? When we noted on March 31st that the social gaming giant’s traffic had plateaued, it wasn’t clear how the company would get out of its rut. Two days later, Zynga released Treasure Isle, an island-based social game in which players hunt for buried treasure based on a time mechanic. [...]

  25. In Search of Treasure Madness on Facebook says:

    [...] too long ago, we took a look at Zynga’s new hit game Treasure Isle. It turned out to be a pretty decent game, combining virtual, personal spaces and treasure hunting. [...]

  26. tracey says:

    ive been playing treasure isle for a few days now love it been fun got to level 23 got loads off new islands and guess what now i cant get on it its been two days now im gutted it loads to about 99% then sticks im gunna go mad if i cant get back on

  27. Kelly says:

    Zynga just cant help themselves. Ripping off other games and calling them their own.
    I refuse to play “Treasure Rip Off Isle” or any other game Zynga puts out.
    Maybe one day they may actually produce a game on their own. Maybe
    Maybe one day Christopher you could check out the fan base behind Treasure Madness or at least play the game BUT maybe then Zynga could stop lining your pockets with cash!

  28. Tracey Auterson says:

    I truly believe the only reason Zynga was able to gain any sort of fan base or user base is mainly due to some restructuring with in Zslide’s game Treasure Madness, but once people realize that it’s just not up to the standard that Treasure Madness sets for itself, and that changes will make the game better in the long run, they will be back, just as they were when Treasure Time came out, and everyone rushed over to play.

    I have tried Zynga’s game Treasure Isle, but found the graphics lacking any depth and the game character moves as if he is Lurch, drunk at a party, there is and won’t be any more digging for me on these islands as I have been spoiled by Zslides game Treasure Madness and expect a whole lot more then Zynga presents in their game. Even while waiting for my HP to refill on Treasure Madness I’d rather go do my housework or go to the dentist then play this game again…

  29. Dishes says:

    I have tried both treasure isle and treasure madness. In my opinion, treasure isle is fine for kids under 12, but there is little substance to it. Treasure madness is a far better game, with maps with more thought put into them.

  30. Inzo says:

    Did all 37 islands in less then 2 weeks. I’m stuck now on level 64. With a little help of my neighbors this will be 65 tomorrow. Nothing else to do right now but wait unit Zynga releases more islands and levels. Fun game however but very sad that it ends so soon.

  31. Dan says:

    I agree about another rip-off, it’s disgusting. They just seem to sit back and wait for someone to make a game that becomes popular and then make their own version. And their brand new rip off game at release is always worse than the original, but they still seem to be able to poach players to play them. I guess they can afford lots of advertising and possibly pay for favourable reviews as well. Whether it’s legal or not it’s certainly not ethical.

  32. Eric Eldon says:

    Dan, if you’re going to accuse us of being biased in Zynga’s favor, then have the courtesy say how, specifically. Our coverage of Treasure Isle versus Treasure Madness and other games has explored the similarities and differences in some detail. Your comment is superficial and trollish.

  33. purisima ester abuel says:

    hey sir…how come theres no islands to dig in my TREASURE ISLE? i hv reached level 70 and no more islands to dig..the monkey thing is still unlocked and so is the other one…waaaaah..help….

  34. allen wallace says:

    i have lost my whole game i need to nknow how to get it back

  35. inzo says:

    And now at level 75, can not play for more then 8 days now. Nothing else to do, very sad that zynga can not keep up.

  36. CINDER WALTERS says:


  37. lori says:

    I can’t find treasure Isle, it keeps going to blank page it won’t even let me accept invites from others please help,I really want to play this game thanks for your time.

  38. zach says:

    hi no one has not find the rain god can you tell us wer it is as everyone is moning about it

  39. sarah says:

    i love treasure isle!!!

  40. sarah says:

    i love it its soooooooo awsome o and um lori you have to have facebook to play treasure isle

  41. The Best Facebook Games of 2010 says:

    [...] FarmVille, part Treasure Isle, part city-builder, FrontierVille is designed to stem some of developer Zynga’s declining [...]

  42. Playdom Launches a Cartoon Vampire City-Builder Sim Game on Facebook: Fanglies says:

    [...] players to cook food of their own; more or less the same way that one can plant crops in Zynga’s Treasure Isle. Energy also becomes prudent to keep up, as there are a lot of actions to be [...]

  43. Playfish Launches Pirates Ahoy!, Combines Treasure Hunting, Decorating and More says:

    [...] it is easiest to claim Pirates Ahoy! as a treasure hunting game like Treasure Isle or Treasure Madness, the truth of the matter is that this is only one small part of the game. [...]

  44. Mary Parsons says:

    I get nothing but error messages. Hope I don’t have to spend more coins to replant wilted crops due to your errors! When will site be back up?

  45. sheila bradley says:

    game will not load states an error has occured please refresh its been 2 days since I last played

  46. A Look at Small Facebook Title, Gold Miner World says:

    [...] monthly active users. Some of those, it might be presumed, will be users of games like the popular Treasure Isle or Treasure Madness. However, Gold Miner World is very different from those two apps. Instead, [...]

  47. akshay says:

    Problem in davy jones locker : we save the item in the storage ,
    but when we want to use it on the island for decoration some error
    comes saying that “your game state is out of sync with the server
    please refresh the page to continue (code 28)” so in that case we
    are not able to use the items which are stored in davy jones locker

  48. Ubisoft Publishes CSI: Crime City on Facebook says:

    [...] murderous strippers to snooty actors, players use the same “digging” concepts of games such as Treasure Isle and Treasure Madness in order to solve the mystery. As interesting and well made as it is though, [...]

  49. Herman Hakes says:

    Your url you sent me came thru, thanks, but it looks to not be working, does anybody have a backup, or mirror source? Just something that works.

  50. TeamLava Continues Its Story Titles with Treasure Story says:

    [...] name of Treasure Story. Essentially a mobile version of the Facebook games Treasure Madness and Treasure Isle, the new game falls hot on the heels of the barely week and a half old Bakery [...]

  51. Esteban Ramirez says:

    The reason why I am emailing you is because I use the app for iPodtouch Its called treasure and I need you to call me at 917-375-8965 thank you

  52. Totally be a Spy on Facebook, While Still Shopping for New Clothes says:

    [...] gaming concepts intended appeal to the younger female audience. Using elements from games like Treasure Isle, virtual spaces, It Girl, automated fighting games, and a handful of other games, one might think [...]

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