Tag Archives: Pet Society

Early Winners and Losers from Facebook Platform Changes

When Facebook implemented a flurry of platform changes that curtailed some viral marketing tactics in early December, developers scrambled to revive tactics and there was the thought that this might level the playing field a bit, taking some wind out of the sails of the most aggressive viral marketers.

To get some initial feel for the impact of these platform changes (and provide a benchmark for the industry), we looked at Daily Active Users (DAU), Monthly Active Users (MAU) and the resulting Sticky Factors (DAU/MAU) for top developers on December 7, 2009 (just prior to platform changes going into effect) and January 5, 2010. This assumes that the impact of the holidays (across the board dips around Christmas and New Year’s Day) was similar across all of these titles and also comes with the caveat that developer level numbers are not necessarily unique users (a user may play multiple games by that developer).

Developer MAU 12/7 MAU 1/5 % Diff DAU 12/7 DAU 12/5 % Diff Sticky 12/7 Sticky 1/5 % Diff
Zynga 219.5 mil 231.3 mil 5.4% 64.1 mil 62.4 mil -2.6% 29% 27% -7.6%
Playfish 59.5 mil 55.8 mil -6.2% 11.7 mil 9.5 mil -19% 20% 17% -13%
CrowdStar 38.3 mil 48.3 mil 26.2% 10.8 mil 11.0 mil 2.2% 28% 23% -19%
Playdom 22.7 mil 20.8 mil -8.3% 3.2 mil 3.3 mil 1.6% 14% 16% 10.7%
6 waves 38.7 mil 33.9 mil -13% 7.8 mil 6.7 mil -15% 20% 20% -2.4%
Slashkey 18.4 mil 16.3 mil -12% 5.1 mil 3.7 mil -28% 28% 23% -18%
PopCap 10.4 mil 10.1 mil -2.6% 3.1 mil 2.9 mil -7.8% 30% 29% -5.3%
TOTAL 407.5 mil 416.4 mil 2.2% 105.8 mil 99.4 mil -6.0% 26% 24% -8.0%

This initial cut makes it appear that some of the biggest developers (Zynga, CrowdStar and Playdom) have done reasonably well, but each of these developers actually launched a significant new game during the period. Because new games typically haven’t reached a steady state (which inflates the sticky factor) and because we’re more interested in the impact on games existing prior to the platform changes, let’s look at the numbers without Zynga’s PetVille, Playfish’s Poker Rivals, CrowdStar’s Happy Island and Playdom’s Tiki Farm:

Developer MAU 12/7 MAU 1/5 % Diff DAU 12/7 DAU 12/5 % Diff Sticky 12/7 Sticky 1/5 % Diff
Zynga 218.5 mil 212.4 mil -2.8% 64.1 mil 58.4 mil -8.9% 29% 27% -6.3%
Playfish 59.1 mil 54.3 mil -8.1% 11.6 mil 9.4 mil -19% 20% 17% -12%
CrowdStar 38.3 mil 42.0 mil 9.6% 10.8 mil 9.2 mil -14% 28% 22% -22%
Playdom 22.7 mil 18.7 mil -17% 3.2 mil 2.7 mil -18% 14% 14% -0.7%
6 waves 38.7 mil 33.9 mil -12% 7.8 mil 6.7 mil -14% 20% 20% -2.4%
Slashkey 18.4 mil 16.3 mil -12% 5.1 mil 3.7 mil -28% 28% 23% -18%
PopCap 10.4 mil 10.1 mil -2.6% 3.1 mil 2.9 mil -7.8% 30% 29% -5.3%
TOTAL 406.2 mil 387.7 mil -4.6% 105.7 mil 92.8 mil -12% 26% 24% -8.0%

The total line is not for all developers on the Facebook platform, just the seven aggregated above, so there is some bias in the aggregated numbers because Zynga makes up over half of the total MAU and DAU numbers. But given this caveat, the total line suggests that so far, these developers are seeing on average a 4.6% decline in MAU and a 12.2% decline DAU which has reduced the sticky factor by 8%. I believe MAU numbers will continue to decline a bit more before they stabilize a bit.

See the full breakdown of the winners and losers including commentary on each developer at InsideSocialGames.com

Developers Revamp Viral Marketing Tactics to Comply with Changes to Facebook Policies

As originally posted on InsideSocialGames.com

While we recently attributed some of the across-the-board declines in daily active user numbers for Facebook games to seasonality, it’s becoming clearer that recent policy changes by Facebook may be contributing to these declines as well, forcing developers to completely revamp their viral activities. Here are three viral practices that have been reined in and examples of how developers are attempting to cope with the changes.

Pre-Game Gifting Interstitial Screens are Gone

The policy:”You must not prompt users to send invitations, requests, generate notifications, or use other Facebook communication channels immediately after a user allows access or returns to your application.”

How developers are coping: This was viral-marketing 101 for nearly every Facebook game: every time you went to the application, you first had to go through a “gifting” screen before you could actually play the game. Only Playfish refrained from this practice in the past. Now that it’s been taken out of the arsenal, developers like Zynga and CrowdStar are trying different ways of getting users to get back in the gifting habit. Most games have opted to add an icon on top of the game play area, specifically prompting users to send gifts, like in CrowdStar’s Happy Aquarium and Zynga’s Roller Coaster Kingdom:

Zynga’s PetVille has incorporated the gift icon into the basic navigation on the screen, with little balloons that highlight an action they want users to take:

Zynga’s Mafia Wars is more aggressively integrating prompts and banners into the page:

And still, some games still have the gift interstitial, but they are generally smaller games, like Hive7’s Youtopia, which Facebook might not have gotten to yet:

Pop-Ups to Prompt Users to Share Achievements…Revamped

The policy: “You must not display a Feed form unless a user has explicitly indicated an intention to share that content, by clicking a button or checking a box that clearly explains their content will be shared.”

How developers are coping: Instead of the standard Facebook news feed form windows popping up, each game is experimenting with different in-game prompts that users need to activate to show their intent to publish to their wall. PetVille prompts users by having a new icon show up in the bottom right, with a balloon prompting users to share:

Playfish’s Pet Society has a somewhat confusing choice between a sharing icon and a green check mark icon (used to close the in-game pop-up and NOT share), whereas Farm Town by SlashKey prompts with a simple binary choice of either sharing (green check icon) or not (red X icon):

CrowdStar’s Happy Pets uses the check-box approach – although the prompt is by default pre-checked to share so the user must un-check it before clicking on the green check mark icon:

Gating Content Based on Number of Friends…Not Enforced?

The policy: “You must not provide users with rewards or gate content from users based on their number of friends who use your application.”

How developers are coping: This common developer practice often prompted users to request perfect strangers to “Add Me” so that they could unlock levels or items in the game without having to pay for them, thus running amok of Facebook’s intent to keep your social graph strictly to your direct friends (we recently offered up an alternative). In response to the policy being enforced, Treasure Madness by zSlide no longer requires you to have a number of friends to dig under certain heavy rocks. Instead, they now make users pay for “contractors” at 150 in-game gold pieces per contractor. So a rock that would have required 10 friends to lift, now requires 1500 gold pieces:

Yet it’s still a question as to how intense Facebook plans to enforce this policy. For example, Zynga’s Roller Coaster Kingdom still appears to be gating items based on the number of friends, gating the options for booking guests, upgrading park attractions and for expanding the amusement park area:

We fully expect these policy changes to have an impact on growth and retention rates as developers adjust their viral marketing tactics to comply. But with the seasonal impact of people getting away from their computers to celebrate the holidays, plus developers quickly reacting and optimizing new tactics, it may take several weeks to fully understand just how severe the impact of these changes will be on growth and retention rates.

Quick Hits: PetVille’s Massive Growth, Playfish Still Down Since EA Acquistion

A day after CrowdStar threw down the gauntlet that it was going to be more profitable than Zynga, Zynga pulled out a massive Facebook advertising campaign (see example ad at right) that saw PetVille’s numbers go through the roof, helping it crush rival CrowdStar’s Happy Pets. PetVille climbed from 934,945 daily active users (DAU) to over 3.1 million in a single day, taking over the #14 spot among Facebook applications and quickly surpassing CrowdStar’s Happy Pets (currently #18 with just under 2.6 million DAU). Also not so trivial: After less than a week, PetVille is now only 300,000 behind YoVille — Zynga’s initial sim game– which launched 19 months ago.

Zynga Believes There is Life in Synchronous Games After All?

After my article in InsideSocialGames yesterday suggested that Zynga was focusing its attention on asynchronous games and less time on synchronous games like Scramble and Zynga Poker, today’s FarmVille toolbar actually cross promotes largely synchronous game PathWords (for the first time that I can ever remember) and formerly deposed sim game Roller Coaster Kingdom:

The EA Purchase of Playfish Still Not Showing Growth

We’re a month out since Electronic Arts made a big splash in purchasing Playfish and we noted that traffic was actually down across the top Playfish games shortly after launch. The cross-promotions to EA properties like the Sims3 iPhone application and to the Pogo.com portal have been removed, but traffic through December 7th on the top Playfish games remained 10% or more below their average DAU during the month prior to the acquisition:

Restaurant City Pet Society Country Story
Avg DAU 30 days prior 5,048,849 5,099,902 1,645,520
Dec 7 DAU 4,542,862 4,551,948 1,463,206
% Difference -10.0% -10.7% -11.1%

Interestingly, the Pet Society numbers have been revitalized in the last two days (growing from 4.5 million to it’s pre-acquisition levels with just under 5.1 million DAU), which might be seen as a defensive initiative in reaction to rival Zynga’s massive launch of incredibly similar PetVille. Part of the improvement in DAU may be due to a new daily coin lottery, where users have a chance to win more if they have logged in five straight days, but wondering how long it will take EA to support Playfish with ads to protect itself from inroads by Zynga.

Meanwhile, EA’s Spore Islands never really took off — it never grew over 20,000 DAU, and could never retain users. It’s Sticky Factor is a dismal 5%.

Bejeweled Blitz Flat, Others Target Gem Swapping Masses

While PopCap’s Bejeweled Blitz has been solidly at 3 million DAU for over a month now, other gem-swapping games are beginning to find an audience. GameDuell has been targeting Bejeweled players in ads for its Jungle Jewels game (so far only amassing 216,000 DAU and cracking the top 100 with a pretty limited social game experience) while France’s ZSlide has been advertising Treasure Madness (with a slew of gem-swapping mini-games) and gained a little traction (currently in the top 50 with 700,000 DAU). I expect more subtle nuances to the gem-swapping games to continue to percolate in the months ahead, much like they did in the casual games space.