Chinese FarmVille Tops Chinese-Language Facebook Games, But Struggles to Grow as Well as Others

Despite a dearth of Chinese-language Facebook users — at under 15 million throughout the world, out of more than 675 million — Chinese language games have been gaining ground in our weekly and monthly leaderboards of top Facebook games by growth. Here are the top five by size as of May 2011:

Chinese FarmVille, Zynga

MAU: 4.1 million
DAU: 408,000

In core gameplay, the Chinese language FarmVille game is what it sounds like: a translated experience where users maintain a farm and harvest crops and animals. The game, however, runs as a separate app with a different visual style that uses extra-large farming plots and bright colors similar to other Chinese farming games on Facebook. All of the music and some art assets are identical between both games, notably avatar and animal items.

Happy Fish Bowl, Happy Elements

MAU: 3.1 million
DAU: 1.4 million

With the largest daily active user count of the top five, Happy Fish Bowl shares some common elements with CrowdStar’s Happy Aquarium, though Happy Fish Bowl came out two months before Happy Aquarium in mid to late 2009. Notably, both games feature a gambling element where users either play a slot machine or spin a wheel for a prize. The core gameplay in both titles is about caring for fish by decorating and cleaning a tank and also feed and collecting fish. Interestingly, Happy Fish Bowl is currently running a cross-promotion pop-up that directs users to Happy Element’s other top-trafficking Chinese language game, Boss Vegas.

Happy Farm, Elex

MAU: 2.5 million
DAU: 1.1 million

At almost two years old, Happy Farm hit Facebook within days of Happy Fish Bowl. It appears to be the model from which the Chinese language FarmVille drew its large-plot and bright color palette. Players primarily plant and harvest crops, but there are other gameplay mechanics around caring for animals. Like Happy Fish Bowl, players can “gamble” for items by spinning a wheel. The game appears to have an app for mobile devices; we were unable to determine what, if any, cross-platform play is available between the Facebook game and the mobile version. Assuming there is a high level of connectivity, it could explain the game’s extremely high DAU figure.

Little War, Five Minutes

MAU: 1.7 million
DAU: 680,000

By far the most original game of the top five Chinese language Facebook games, Little War combines city-building with statistics-based combat where players can fight other villagers or dinosaurs to protect their village. Regrettably, the more complex gameplay mechanics escape us as the language barrier gets pretty steep midway through the tutorial and there aren’t any English language Facebook games to which we can make a direct comparison. The game will turn a year old this August.

Chinese Boss Vegas, Happy Elements

MAU: 1.5 million
DAU: 480,000

Like Chinese FarmVille, the just-launched Chinese language of Boss Vegas is a direct translation of core gameplay. Unlike Chinese FarmVille, Boss Vegas doesn’t use any visual elements to differentiate itself from the English language version of the game. Players build up and run a casino that attracts patrons, combining a city-building element with a bit of business micromanagement. This game topped our list of emerging Facebook games just two days after launching.

Conclusions

A few of the games on our top five got off to a rough start, with Chinese FarmVille struggling to grow its audience after an initial spurt up following December 2010 launch. A notable success story is Little War, which grew very slowly over the last nine months to reach its present-day levels.

Without getting unblocked in China, Facebook is going to have a slower time gaining more Chinese-speaking users to bolster the market. Taiwan and Hong Kong appear saturated, with around half their populations using the site every month (this and other data available in our Inside Facebook Gold traffic tracking service). Meanwhile, many other Chinese speakers in Asia and around the world access the site in English.

Inside of China, Facebook will have along way to go to catch up with other Chinese social networks like RenRen — along with all the many other issues associated with that move. Still, we expect Chinese language social games on Facebook to gain more ground as the platform grows around the world. Beyond traffic, a key motivation for developers is that the virtual goods business model has that people are used to the free-to-play virtual goods business model, and have proven themselves quite willing to spend in games on Facebook as well.

For more details on the Chinese social game market, read up on our Chinese social games series. All data in this analysis was compiled using AppData, our traffic tracking service for social games and developers.