How Words With Friends for Facebook is Growing Through Ads

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By AJ Glasser Comment

Zynga’s Words With Friends for Facebook has grown steadily since the developer launched the cross-platform experience over the summer. In the last few months, however, the game has really ramped up growth thanks to an ad-based viral mechanic and cross-promotion alongside Zynga’s “traditional” Facebook games.

According to our AppData traffic tracking service, Words With Friends currently enjoys 13.5 million monthly active users and 5.6 million daily active users. Note that this figure also accounts for mobile users that link their apps with Facebook Connect.

The viral mechanic is based on the ads that the original iOS game leveraged in its free version. A player would make a move, and the game would generate a pop-up video or banner, but players could upgrade to the paid version of the game in order to avoid any ads. Zynga’s Facebook take on this model has been to show players ads after the moves, and prompt them to invite a minimum of two friends in order to play the game ad-free for a certain amount of time (currently one week). Players can also pay 36 premium currency units (which comes out to a little less than $5) to make the game permanently ad-free. The ad box can be exited about five seconds after opening.

Words With Friends also seems to be getting a boost from Zynga’s cross-promotion bar, which previously only featured Zynga’s core franchises — FarmVille, CityVille, etc. This cross promotion bar could be driving traffic to other Zynga games on Facebook, as we observe an uptick in Adventure World that seems to coincide with Words With Friends’ rise on the platform. Words With Friends may also be getting a boost from Facebook’s HTML5-based mobile platform, launched this fall, as it was one of the few titles available in the first week — but as the game is still only playable on smartphones as a downloadable app, there may not be much traffic coming from this direction.

Zynga acquired Words With Friends developer Newtoy last November in order form a new studio called “Zynga With Friends.” Regulatory filings made ahead of Zynga’s initial public offering reveal that Zynga spent $53.3 million in cash and stock for the buy. The studio has since produced Hanging With Friends, which currently does not have a cross-platform play option for Facebook users.