These days, even city dwellers can harvest crops, breed animals in a cow pasture and decorate a lighthouse all in a day’s work—from their cubicles. It’s all thanks to Zynga— the San Francisco-based social network game developer whose resume includes FarmVille, CityVille, FrontierVille, Words With Friends and Mafia Wars, among others. You may know them as the root of all those status updates from your Facebook friends who boast their bovine purchases at every turn, or perhaps you’re a digital denizen yourself?

Whatever the fascination of thriving in a virtual world, it amounts to success. Available on multiple platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, the iPad, smart phones and Yahoo, Zynga’s games reel in more than 230 million monthly active users. That’s a lot of faux fruit! But lately Zynga and its following aren’t the only ones cashing in on the crop of games.

Make way for the era of social gaming as a hot marketing platform.

We saw it a little earlier this year when Zynga and Lady Gaga teamed up to produce GagaVille—where visitors to the neighboring FarmVille landscape could get a first listen to the artist’s new album. It was an interesting concept at the time, but recent news about a retail branded store going inside a Facebook game really turned our heads.

From August 31 to September 6, CityVille users could erect a Best Buy store in their mini metropolises to gain access to various tech products, like a TV or DSLR camera. When they did, they’d get perks, from experience points to unleashed Geek Squad vehicles. Additionally, if gamers visited the Best Buy Facebook page, they could snap up a decorative item for their city. The result: Best Buy saw 440,000 new Facebook likers on August 31, a nearly 12 percent growth rate in one day. Okay, we’re intrigued.

Soon after, Capital One Now took on CityVille, FarmVille and Pioneer Trail. In CityVille, a Capital One bank appeared; in the latter two, its commercial-famous goat. Interacting with either, players again enjoy perks and are also led to the financial services giant’s Facebook page. So Capital One gets exposure to 131.5 million monthly users. For Zynga, it’s another chance to make its games even more realistic. For other marketers, it’s an opportunity. (This isn’t the first time, actually, that Capital One teamed with Zynga, and Best Buy isn’t stopping now—look for the brand’s next Cityville promotion starting November 5.)

What’s next? Our guess is a 20 MB-sized land of farmers donning Gap overalls, picking up Taco Bell at the digital drive-thru and returning back to their IKEA-decorated farmhouses. (Save us a seat!)