Late yesterday, DNA Games posted announcements on the Pages of Casino City, Bar World and Slot City announcing each game’s impending closure set for July 8. The developer was acquired by Zynga last month to the purpose of developing new intellectual property.
Typically, we see social games on Facebook sunsetting only after a prolonged period of decline across monthly active users and monthly active users. These games usually hit their peak traffic within three to four months of launch and then spend as many as 12 months shrinking before the developer moves to sunset or change its growth strategy. According to research published in Inside Virtual Goods: The Future of Social Gaming 2011, engaged social gamers stick around for about two months before moving on. This tells us that decline slopes are impacted as much by new users not coming in as by old users lapsing.
In the case of DNA Games’ library, we see some inconsistencies with other sunset scenarios with its two newer games, Bar World and Slot City. The former launched in November 2010 and reached peak traffic only one month after launch and instead of steadily decline, it experienced a resurgence in traffic almost four months later. The latter, meanwhile, only just launched in early April, barely giving it three months in which to aim for peak numbers. Both games saw a marked decline in May just prior to the acquisition announcement.
Casino City, meanwhile, tells a slightly different story. This game is DNA Games’ oldest Facebook title, launched in April 2010, and by far its largest, accounting for over half the developer’s total MAU and DAU across all its games. Casino City differs from what we think of as a typical sunset pattern in that didn’t reach peak traffic until February of this year. While the beginning of this social game’s “slow burn” life cycle differs from other sunsetting games, however, the end of it looks similar — Casino City began a downward slope at the beginning of March that remained consistent even throughout the acquisition announcement period.
Had DNA Games continued along a sunsetting strategy we’ve seen with Playfish and PlayFirst, we could’ve expected it to migrate Casino City users to Slot City as development efforts shifted over to the new game. The acquisition by Zynga, however, puts the developer in a unique position. On the one hand, DNA could’ve maintained its thriving game while closing its declining games — similar to what ZipZapPlay appears to be doing with Baking Life and Happy Habitat after the developer was acquired by PopCap Games. On the other, DNA can close all its games at once and “start fresh” with new IP for Zynga that in no way relies on player loyalty from its previous games. In either case, Zynga’s overall MAU and DAU dwarfs DNA Games’ many times over, so traffic probably isn’t much of a concern for the developer at this time.
Whatever the motivation behind the closures, we’re interested to see what sunset patterns emerge among older games from established developers. As the Facebook games platform matures through its third year and social games finally reach natural “ends” somewhere between one year and two, it may be that developers begin to build games and content release schedules around a finite life cycle. What that life cycle might be probably depends on game genre and resources available for user acquisition.
DNA Games deferring to Zynga for comment on this story. Zynga would only say for the record that it continues to work with its existing studios on new IP. Zynga’s latest social game, Empires & Allies, launched June 1.