SimCity Social: Over an hour in and no paywall in sight

EA’s SimCity Social went live on Facebook today and while it’s too early to see how many people are playing the game, we do have some inkling of how EA will grow the title rapidly over the coming months.

Aside from the obvious tactics of ad spend and frictionless viral sharing via “recommended” friend invite options, we observe that EA hasn’t set a hard progression wall that would force players to into spending real money on hard currency or premium items up front. At over an hour of gameplay so far, we have yet to hit any barrier that would require microtransactions to bypass and the game’s premium currency, Diamonds, can be earned organically through gameplay instead of just be purchased.

Microtransactions could create some problems for EA in capturing the hardcore SimCity fans its currently targeting. Unlike Sims Social players — which were very likely used to the freemium model by experience with other Playfish games — SimCity attracts the attention of a skeptical audience that sneers at pay walls or friend gates that prompt users to pay real money to bypass. Below is a Tweet from one such skeptic, Ben Kuchera of Penny Arcade Report, that echoes the sentiment we’ve seen expressed by many SimCity fans online today.

As we’ve said, we’re over an our into SimCity Social: Our city is at level nine and we haven’t encountered a situation or task — aside from the standard energy bar monetization present in all social citybuilders — that requires us to expend real money in order to progress. By giving us such a long free experience, EA is very likely counting on drawing in a high volume of players in early days to fuel growth before introducing more conversion points to players. Recall that with Sims Social, it took nearly three months before the game introduce hard pay walls that halted gameplay progression. In that time, the game became the second-highest trafficked social game after Zynga’s CityVille on the Facebook platform.

Keep an eye out for SimCity Social on our AppData traffic tracking service in the coming days as monthly and daily active user data becomes available. Our PageData service, meanwhile, tracks the game’s Timeline at 656,074 Likes (25,000 of which from today alone) and 205,911 People Talking About This.