If you’ve been following the Farmville phenomenon, you know that it’s growth has been pretty much as consistent as Facebook, and that’s why it’s somewhat out of character for the game to lose 4 million players in a month. Well, that’s what happened during the month of April, and social gaming pundits around the web are trying to determine what caused the loss. The most likely candidate is the removal of spammy notifications.
Farmville, now at 78 million monthly active users, is not the only application to lose traffic. According to Inside Social Games, 18 out the 25 top games lost traffic in April, and the theory is it was the notifications that killed the traffic. This just underscores how powerful Facebook is becoming, and it’s decisions about what constitutes a good user experience has an effect on millions of users, and also millions of dollars for social application companies.
Is there a possibility that other factors caused the drops? Perhaps, but likely nothing would cause such a steep decline after steady growth. Certainly there are a number of players who play the game for a short while and leave it, and eventually the number of new players playing once a month will run dry, and the game’s MAU count will better reflect the number of people that actually ‘play’ the game. This is one of the pitfalls of the current system. When a game is rocketing up the charts, everyone that tries the game counts as an MAU, and companies advertise the heck out of the game to promote its popularity. Once a game is more mature, you’re likely looking at the actual number of monthly players. Looking at our information about Farmville’s Daily Active Users, we can see that the DAU has been fluctuating betweeen 27 million and 30 million DAU, but is trending towards the bottom end of the range. That would indicate that day by day, less players are returning.
What does this loss mean for the social games industry? It’s hard to say at this point, and Zynga dismisses it as short term. Their other game, Treasure Isle is rocketing up the charts, so they do have some basis to not worry. We’ll see how things pan out, so stay tuned!