As originally posted March 15, 2010 on InsideSocialGames.com
There was a lot of hand-wringing by developers prior to Facebook phasing out application-based Notifications on March 1st, especially among smaller developers who relied heavily on notifications to remind users to come back to their game or application. Making matters worse, the new features designed to replace notifications had their own issues:
- Proxy email messaging wasn’t fixed until over a week after Notifications disappeared (see the bug) and some developers were caught off-guard that proxy emails have a restrictions on acceptable HTML and FBML tags
- The Games Dashboard and Counters were extremely ineffective in driving traffic (one developer shared that of 150,000 referenced visits, 1202 were from the dashboard)
Illustrating the immediate impact of the changes, one developer posted this graphic of their application’s engagement metrics, highlighting the relative impact of notifications versus the games dashboard in driving engagement:
Clearly, no one argues that end of notifications was going to have a huge impact on traffic, and several developers were phasing out their reliance on notifications way before the March 1st. Francis Pelland, developer of several relatively small Avastar applications summed up the debates on the developer boards: “I phased out notifications in my apps about 3 weeks ago and my DAU is significantly higher than before through creative thinking and alternative viral features. People should sit and think rather than complain. This sort of thing happens every time when Facebook makes a change and consider it to be the end of the world, make threats to quit, and say it will be the end of Facebook.”
So how are the largest developers faring in the post-Notifications world? Clearly it’s not the doomsday scenario that some feared as developers are mostly relying on email or fan page posts to replace application-to-user notifications, while user-to-user notifications are being facilitated through creative use of Wall Posts.
In the two weeks since notifications, Zynga’s titles are a mixed bag with PetVille and FishVille down 4-6%, Mafia Wars flat and YoVille, FarmVille and Café World up 3-7%. Zynga’s use of email is fairly sporadic and limited to a few titles:
- FarmVille and Café World have yet to send an email (based on my observations and discussions with other users). With such a large user base, the cost of email may be prohibitive compared to the effectiveness of fan page posts.
- YoVille has slowly increased its frequency from once a month at the end of 2009 to 3-4 per month and has primarily focused on new item releases.
- Since December, Mafia Wars has sent seven emails, primarily focused on new game features (holiday gift safe house in December, Bangkok expansion release in late January and the revamp of their store in February). Three of those emails have entitled the recipients to the Mafia Wars hard currency, reward points.
- Finally, PetVille sent it’s first email to users as part of the process to accept emails and unlock a pet for your PetVille pet.
Instead of relying heavily on email, Zynga has focused on innovating user-to-user communication via Wall Posts, re-focusing users from sending gifts to asking for gifts and collaborative tasks that require users to plead with friends to send items so they can complete the task.
The only games that haven’t had either consistent emails (YoVille) or the collaborative task mechanism (Mafia Wars, FarmVille, Café World), are the only two games that are down over the last two weeks (FishVille and PetVille).
See the breakdown of tactics used by Playfish, Playdom and CrowdStar (complete with grapical trending) in the full post on InsideSocialGames.com