2011’s Most Popular Facebook Games by Genre: Arcade, Casino, Hidden Object, Strategy

2011 saw a growing diversity in social games with new genre and gameplay types emerging on Facebook, such as hidden object games, racing games, and strategy combat titles with real time multiplayer modes. Based on data collected from AppData, our data tracking service, here are the most popular genres for successful Facebook games this year.

Note: For the purposes of this report, “successful” is defined by games with over 100,000 monthly active users and current retention rates (daily active users as a percent of monthly active users) of 20% or higher. Because many Facebook games (especially those from top publishers) enjoy artificially high usage rates in their first three months, this list only includes games that were launched and reviewed by Inside Social Games between January and September 2011.

1) Arcade — 14.2 million MAU
Three games with the fast casual action of the arcade genre gained strong traffic in 2011: Wooga’s Diamond Dash (11,600,000 MAU), PlayQ’s HotShot (1.4 Million MAU), and GameHouse’s Collapse! Blast (1.2 million MAU). Notably, all three have similar gameplay of matching (or destroying) three like objects for points.

2) Word — 13.8 million MAU
Since launching in July, Words With Friends, Zynga’s Scrabble-like board game, has enjoyed consistently strong growth and engagement rates. It’s the only 2011 game in this genre to reach extremely large user numbers.

Words With Friends’ success is probably due both to its heavy resemblance to Scrabble and its cross-platform feature, which allows Facebook users to play with others both on desktop and mobile. Because Scrabble-type games typically focus on asynchronous play with simple graphics, they’re well-suited to the Facebook platform. Indeed, Electronic Arts’ official Scrabble game for Facebook attracts heavy engagement (if less users, with just 1 million MAU), as does Lexulous, an independently-produced Facebook game once called “Scrabulous” before Scrabble rights owners demanded a name change.

3) Casino — 13.24 million MAU
Led by Playtika’s Slotomania (5.5 million MAU), DoubleDown Interactive’s DoubleDown Casino (4.5 million MAU), and Buffalo Studios’ Bingo Blitz (2.8 million MAU), the gambling-themed casino genre games of 2011 attracted high traffic and heavy engagement. Notably, each of these games currently has very high DAU/MAU rates of over 30%. While the top spot in this genre remains Zynga’s Texas HoldEm Poker, Slotomania and DoubleDown now hold the second and third positions, supplanting other slot machine and card games with a gambling aspect.

4) Hidden Object — 10 million MAU
Disney Playdom’s time travel-themed Gardens of Time (8.3 million MAU) leads this genre, in which players must find valuable game objects cleverly hidden within a graphically dense image. Also gaining heavy traffic is Mystery Manor (1.7 million MAU), developed by Game Insight and published by 6waves Lolapps. Both were launched during March/April, reached a peak of users in September (17 million MAU and 3.75 million MAU, respectively), and have shed users since then, while still maintaining strong DAU/MAU rates. Gardens of Time and Mystery Manor both arrived on iPad this month, but it appears as thoughonly Gardens of Time features Facebook Connect — which could lead to an increase in traffic for the parent game as mobile logins are counted toward its MAU and DAU. Despite the early success of these two games, it’s notable that these were the only 2011 entries in the genre tracked by Inside Social Games throughout this year.

5) City-Building — 4.3 million MAU
A genre in which players get to customize, develop, and manage the economy, infrastructure, and social aspects of their own unique city, 2011 saw the successful launch of Wooga’s Magic Land (2.7 million MAU) followed by Disney Playdom’s Gnome Town 1.6 million MAU). It’s interesting that both games merge city building with a fantasy theme, as do two games launched after September — Zynga’s CastleVille and 6waves Lolapps’ Ravenskye City. This represents a new trend in city-building games, as compared to market leader Zynga’s CityVille (launched in 2010), which has a realistic, modern day city theme.

6) Role-Playing Games — 2.5 million MAU
In a role-playing game (RPG), players customize and enhance their own unique game character, and use it to progress through a series of game challenges and objectives, in a variety of environments and themes. Led by Digital Chocolate’s undead-themed Zombie Lane, the RPG genre added a number of new entries in 2011. The Vampire Diaries: Get Sucked In — based on the TV show of the same name — has 300,000 MAU, while the dungeon crawler-type Hello Adventure has about 100,000 MAU. This year saw the launch of over three dozen RPG games, most of which have lower traffic or engagement rates than these three. For instance, Zygna’s Mafia Wars 2 still has 6.1 million MAU, but less than 10% DAU/MAU, and EA Playfish’s The Sims Social, has 27.2 million MAU but less than 20% DAU/MAU (and trending downward), as does Coco Girl, a fashion-themed RPG (3 million MAU) launched in October. Zynga’s CastleVille, which launched late in 2011, has both strong city building elements (see above) and RPG features.

7) Strategy & Combat — 1.86 million MAU
Three entries in the military and battle-themed genre of strategy & combat maintain high engagement rates: Kixeye’s Battle Pirates (720,000 MAU) and War Commander (530,000 MAU), with Kabam’s Edgeworld between both with 610,000 MAU. Zynga’s Empires & Allies still maintains a large base of players (15.6 million MAU), as does Social Point’s Social Empires (4.9 million MAU), but have seen engagement rates fall below 20% DAU/MAU in December. Their overall size should also be considered as an indicator of the genre’s popularity, however, and we anticipate seeing more entries in strategy & combat throughout the end of the year and into 2012.

8) Game Show — 1.06 million MAU
Led by Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader (650,000 MAU) and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire (410,000 MAU), game show-themed trivia games have over a million players on Facebook. Both are licensed from popular TV game show franchises. New entries in 2011 like Jeopardy! have gained smaller, but very engaged audiences. Three other 2011 game show games — Deal or No Deal, $100,000 Pyramid, and 1 vs 100 — have not done as well, however, which leads us to question just how easily a game show’s TV audience is translated to Facebook.

Going into 2012, we expect to see more entries in the casino, arcade, and strategy-combat categories as new developers experiment with the genres. Hidden object games may also see some growth in the new year as Zynga attempts to replicate the success of Garndes of Time with its own entry, Hidden Chronicles. In contrast, the city-building and RPG genres seem to be saturated, though it’s possible that a hybrid of the two genres — say, Zynga’s CastleVille — may still have room to grow.