Facebook grew from 44 million to 50 million in Asia last month, according to our Global Monitor report, gaining six million new users over August — and mostly in three countries. The Philippines grew by 1.38 million people to 5.78 million monthly active users. Taiwan grew by nearly as many people, seeing a massive surge of 1.37 million to reach 3.32 million. Indonesia, already the largest Facebook country in Asia, grew by 1.19 million to reach 9.71 million monthly actives.
We’ve also seen a surge in Facebook gaming applications that are available in widely-spoken languages in the region, especially Chinese. As in the rest of the world, virtual farming and aquarium-decorating games have quickly become popular. In fact, developers active in the region have told us that many users are playing Facebook because of the games, and many don’t even realize that the games are not hosted and owned by Facebook.
Simulation games like these have been popular in China and other parts of Asia for years, so perhaps the most surprising part is that users are moving on to Facebook to play.
Asia-built aquarium games include Happy Fishbowl, with 12.8 million monthly actives and My Fishbowl, with around 5 million — no wonder Zynga, the largest Facebook game developer, is planning a “FishVille.” Regionally-produced farm games includes “Happy Farm” with more than 3 million monthly actives. Other popular simulation style game apps include Animal Paradise and Sunshine Ranch.
Across other parts of Asia, Facebook saw relatively less growth, although in some countries that appears due to the site saturating the population. The second-largest Facebook country in the region is Australia, with 6.93 million monthly actives: It only grew by 258,000 in September, but that means 32.2% of the country is now on the site. Ahead of the island continent, Hong Kong and Singapore saw similar growth numbers and slightly higher penetration rates.
Facebook, which makes the raw data we analyze publicly available, groups Russia, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent in with the rest of the region. So, looking at the 20 largest countries in all of Asia, we see a number of other show up.
Not every government in this region allows Facebook — China, Iran and North Korea have blocked it, for example, so many countries either don’t show up or show falling numbers. Others, like some in Central Asia, don’t have large internet populations.
And some countries, we expect to see serious growth, at least based on regional and worldwide Facebook growth patterns, as well as anecdotal reports. Most obviously, India grew 222,000 to reach 4.27 million — 0.73% of the country’s 1.14 billion people. Indian users of Zynga’s farming game, FarmVille, for example, staged a successful protest in recent weeks to get the company to create an Indian flag to decorate virtual farms with. Other reports suggest Facebook is sucking up users from Google’s Orkut. Another country we expect to see grow is Malaysia, which gained 309,000 to reach 2.91 million last month. That’s 10.5% of the country’s 27.7 million users.
And one final note on Malaysia — and Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines, the current home to Friendster. It seems that Facebook’s somewhat inadvertent gaming strategy could be what’s disrupting Friendster, a company that has only now decided to focus more heavily on games. Perhaps a Hi5-like refocus to gaming could give it a new boost?