How January 2011’s Top 10 Facebook Games Are Doing in December 2011

Here’s a look at where AppData‘s top 10 games of January 2011 are now in December 2011, as the calendar year draws to a close.

A year is typically the better part of a social game’s life cycle for titles launched on Facebook after 2009. During those first 12 months, a game will grow rapidly in first three months, peak in overall traffic, then begin to shrink over the following six months. During this shrinking period, the percent of daily active users as a percent of monthly active users (or DAU/MAU) will often decline toward 10%. Generally, we find that if engagement rates fall below 10% DAU/MAU, a game has a very strong chance of being sunsetted, as its developers seek to cut their losses.

By December 2011, almost all of January’s top 10 games have lost much of the traffic they had at the start of 2011. However, this does not necessarily mean they’re candidates for sunset in 2012. Many of these games maintain high levels of engagement, and probably continue to earn decent revenue for their developers. At least one game, EA PopCap’s Bejeweled Blitz, retained most of its traffic while increasing engagement levels through 2011.

At the start of 2011, these were the top 10 Facebook games by MAU, according to AppData:

In January 2011, top entry CityVille had the advantage of being the newest game among the first 10, having launched the month before. Still, several top games which launched in 2008 — Pet Society, Texas HoldEm, and Mafia Wars — also maintained ranks in the top 10. (The others in the January’s top 10 launched in mid 2010, with the exception of FarmVille, which launched in mid 2009.)

By the end of the year, Facebook’s top 10 had changed dramatically, with just three games in the January 2011 list ranking in the top 10 for December 2011:

The three January 2011 holdovers — CityVille, FarmVille, and Texas HoldEm Poker — are from Zynga, reflecting the company’s continued dominance in the market, and its strategy of maintaining the lead by releasing numerous new games and cross-promoting across its titles. However, several competing developers managed to grow their own audiences to attain top 10 status since then.

Here is where January 2011’s top 10 games stand now, according to AppData:

CityVille – Zynga: 48.9 million MAU, 10.4 million DAU
December rank, by MAU: 1

Launched at the end of 2010, Zynga’s city management sim enjoyed stratospheric growth in January 2011, when it reached over 100 million MAU. In February and March, the game attained a peak of daily active users (or DAU) of about 21 million. Since then, however, CityVille has experienced a slow but steady decline in both MAU and DAU. While it retains the number one position in December, its MAU and DAU have fallen by over 50% from its peak. At the same time, CityVille’s DAU as a percent of MAU has remained strong, at about 20%, throughout the year.

FarmVille – Zynga: 31.7 million MAU, 7.3 million DAU
December rank, by MAU: 2

Popular since its launch in 2009, Zynga’s farming sim steadily lost MAU and DAU through 2011, beginning the year with nearly 60 million MAU and 16 million DAU. As with CityVille, it lost about half of those users by year’s end. DAU/MAU for FarmVille has fluctuated throughout 2011, falling and rising between about 20 to 30%. It now stands at nearly 24%, retaining strong engagement rates (if many less total users.)

Texas HoldEm Poker – Zynga: 28.9 million MAU and 6.3 million DAU
December rank, by MAU: 4

At the close of 2011, Zynga’s online poker game maintains its place in the top 10, and even grew during the first few months. (The game had about 35 million MAU and 7 million DAU in January, then grew to a peak of about 38 million MAU and 7.75 million DAU in February.) After some eight months of relatively stable user rates, the game began losing traffic. However, compared to Zynga’s CityVille and FarmVille, which both lost about half their maximum number of users over the year, the HoldEm Poker game has retained about 85% of the total players it had at the start of 2011. The game even managed to increase DAU/MAU engagement rates over the year, at first fluctuating between 16 to 20% through 2011, but from late October to now, fluctuating between 21 to 23%.

FrontierVille – Zynga: 1.2 million MAU, 230 thousand DAU
December rank, by MAU: 83

The 2011 performance of Zynga’s adventure/RPG game is somewhat complicated, due to the launch of Pioneer Trail, a standalone expansion to the game released in August. At the start of 2011, FrontierVille had about 30 million MAU and 6 million DAU. By the time Pioneer Trail launched, the original game had dropped to about 12 million MAU and 3 million DAU. At first, Zynga encouraged FrontierVille players to install the new Pioneer Trail app, then eventually made redirection automatic, so that users attempting to search or access FrontierVille would instead be taken directly to Pioneer Trail. FrontierVille now has just 1.2 million MAU and 240,000 DAU, with a 18% in DAU/MAU. By contrast, Pioneer Trail maintains 5.3 million MAU and 1.7 million DAU, for an impressive DAU/MAU rate of about 30% and claimed a place on the top 25 Facebook games for December. So while FrontierVille has fallen far from its high usage rates at the beginning of 2011, its successor has inherited a relatively large and very committed base of players.

Mafia Wars – Zynga: 2.7 million MAU, 590,000 DAU
December rank, by MAU: 37

Zynga’s crime-theme role-playing game also had an interesting performance in 2011. Mafia Wars enjoyed a peak of about 20 million MAU and 3.5 million DAU at the beginning of the 2011, but steadily lost traffic through the year, down by 85% from its January totals. At the same time, the game enjoyed a modest increase of DAU/MAU in 2011, going from about 15% in January to between 20 and 25% from October to November. This increase in engagement occurred despite Zynga’s heavily promoted launch of Mafia Wars 2 in October. While the sequel still enjoys higher traffic (now 7.4 million MAU and 670,000 DAU), its DAU/MAU has fluctuated between 7.5% and 8.5% over the last couple months. Given Mafia Wars 2’s steady decline of players compared to Mafia Wars’ relative stability, it’s quite possible the original game will eclipse its sequel in 2012.

Café World – Zynga: 6.6 million MAU, 1.5 million DAU
December rank, by MAU: 17

Zynga’s restaurant sim has lost over 60% of the audience it had at the beginning of the year. However, as with Zynga’s Mafia Wars, Café World’s loss of total players was coupled to a gain in engagement. The game climbed from a DAU/MAU rate of about 18% in January, to between 22 and 30% in the last three months of 2011. This high engagement suggests the 2009 game has managed to maintain a large group of dedicated players.

Treasure Isle – Zynga: 2.1 million MAU, 410,000 DAU
December rank, by MAU: 55

Dropping from a peak of 15 million MAU and 3 million DAU in January, Zynga’s treasure hunting game lost some 83% of its audience in 2011. Despite this loss, Treasure Isle’s DAU/MAU ratio has remained relatively consistent and healthy through the year, fluctuating between between 20 and 25% for most of 2011.

Millionaire City – Digital Chocolate: 2.4 million MAU, 410,000 DAU
December rank, by MAU: 44

Digital Chocolate’s city sim lost some 80% of its traffic through 2011, and saw a decline of DAU/MAU from 22% in January, to between 16 and 18% from October to December.

Pet Society – EA-Playfish: 6.2 million MAU, 1 million DAU
December rank, by MAU: 19

EA Playfish’s pet care sim lost over 50% of the players it had in January (when it enjoyed 12 million MAU and 2.25 DAU). Engagement rates have remained relatively low through the year, fluctuating between 12 and 16% for most of 2011.

Bejeweled Blitz, EA/Popcap: 8.7 million MAU, 2.9 million DAU
December rank, by MAU: 14

Of all the games in the top 10 for January 2011, EA PopCap’s casual arcade game has seen the strongest performance this year, maintaining 70% of the players it had 12 months ago. It also enjoyed extremely high engagement rates throughout the year, fluctuating between 26 and 36% DAU/MAU through 2011.

It’s interesting to note that most of these games still maintain healthy DAU/MAU rates above 20%, even one to three years after their launch. Only three, FrontierVille, Millionaire City, and Pet Society, currently have a DAU/MAU rate closer to 15%. However, this rate, while not optimal, is still suggestive of relatively strong engagement rates. It’s therefore likely that most of January 2011’s top 10 will continue to generate revenue for their developers well into 2012.