Schiesel, who admits to having "played Mafia Wars off and on for at least a year" and actually "paid $20 for 170 virtual horseshoes [in FrontierVille]", has this to say on the popularity of the game:
In its infectious appeal FrontierVille borrows liberally from the sound and visual iconography of games from Diablo to slot machines. Every time you clear weeds or harvest crops or animals, little stars and loot pop out à la Diablo, and your rewards are tied to how quickly you click to pick them up. The bloops and beeps are straight off a casino floor. FrontierVille is very intelligent in how it gets the player into a rhythm of clicking and receiving little rewards, always with the possibility of hitting the jackpot with a rare item or piece of a collectible set (like the oak-tree collection, or some such).Though he concedes that Zynga's games feel more like "lucrative business models" that manipulate its users into ponying up real cash, Schiesel also believes that "perhaps Zynga games like FrontierVille are not manipulative at all in the sense that they are so transparent about how they operate." And in the end, people do have fun playing them, and that's the whole point of a good game.
This isn't the first time that the Grey Old Lady has written up FrontierVille. On June 9th, the New York Times Bits blog, located in the Business and Technology sections, reported on the game's impending launch.