Zynga has hit a new milestone on Facebook, and meanwhile, it has just launched a couple ways to increase its presence on the web: A stand-alone site for its hit game FarmVille and a new browser toolbar for Mafia Wars.
The San Francisco company now has more than 200 million total monthly active users on the site, according to AppData. This measure is slightly deceptive, as we don’t have a way to tell how many of users play more than one Zynga game — some large minority of these users are being counted more than once, especially as Zynga cross-promotes its games.
However, Zynga also currently has around 65 million daily active users, from our understanding. 61.3 million of those are on Facebook, according to AppData, so presumably the others are on its MySpace and iPhone applications.
If Facebook is clearly where Zynga is seeing the most usage, why would it launch a site and a toolbar for its games?
The toolbar (get it here) is fairly obvious — it lets you keep track of stats in the text-based role playing game, like health, energy and stamina. There’s also a drop-down menu that lets you “do jobs,” go to the Godfather, and navigate to the home page with a single click. There’s also a “Limited Edition” item you get when you download the bar. If you’re one of the 26.9 million monthly active users or 6.89 million daily active people playing Mafia Wars on Facebook, this toolbar may be a nice addition to your playing experience — and also another way for Zynga to maintain your regular engagement with the game.
So what about FarmVille.com? While the idea may seem to be a way for Zynga to move away from its dependence on Facebook as its platform, it’s not currently headed in that direction. Instead, the game uses Facebook Connect to allow the same social communication as on Facebook: Basically, it is the exact same game, complete with the same virtual farms and neighbors that players already have on Facebook. So what’s the point of having a separate site? One is performance. The dot-com site loads a lot faster, and doesn’t have to deal with the occasional bugs on Facebook’s site. Another reason is that the Zynga has more space to work with on its own site. Instead of the Facebook interface — the top navigation toolbar, the right-hand column ads, etc. on Facebook — Zynga can use all that space for its own purposes. More “elbow room” for Zynga’s growing empire, you might say. In FarmVille.com, it has links to its FarmVille blog on the left-hand side, a link to its fan page, a feed of all of your friends activities in the game, its own navigation bar at the top, and even its own background design.
So should we expect Zynga to move all of its games off of Facebook? We don’t think it’s going to be a huge priority for Zynga at this point: It didn’t launch it’s latest game, FishVille, on a separate site, for example. But if the company sees more engagement on FarmVille.com than on the Facebook app, then we’ll likely see more. For a more thorough exploration of this topic, see Charles Hudson’s post, here.