At 48 Million Players, CityVille Could Pass FarmVille Within Days

With just two weeks left to go for 2010, CityVille has become this year’s biggest growth story. The game, itself only 18 days old, has 47.9 million monthly active users, putting it close to FarmVille’s current 56.3 million.

If its current growth rates continue, CityVille will pass FarmVille in three more days. Even if it slows, CityVille should pass the farming game this week.

A week ago, when CityVille had a mere 22 million MAU, we covered four reasons for its growth: cross-promotion, international users, high production values and Zynga’s expertise at working the Facebook platform. Another factor that appears to be helping it is the re-introduction of third-party notifications to the top menu bar earlier this month.

Even with those factors in effect, CityVille’s gains are astounding. No Facebook game has ever grown as quickly. FarmVille, which took about three months to hit the same point, is the only one to ever grow as large.

FarmVille’s top point was over 80 million MAU, which now seems reasonable for CityVille to reach or even surpass, given the growing number of international gamers on Facebook.

Its effects on Zynga’s numbers are still working out. The developer is at 241 million MAU, a gain of about 18 percent over where it stood a month ago. Its daily active user gain of 25 percent, putting it at 55.7 million DAU, is even sharper. But long-term both the hard numbers and percentages should change significantly.

One trend we can see developing is a drop in DAU for Zynga’s core sim titles, FarmVille and FrontierVille. Both appear to be growing, with small MAU gains in the period since CityVille launched. But FrontierVille has lost about eight percent of its DAU in the past month, with FarmVille losing two percent.

We can theorize that a significant number of CityVille players have been recycled from Facebook’s other sims, so Zynga’s gains will moderate over time. CityVille’s DAU as a percentage of MAU, currently at 30 percent, may also drop over time.

The bottom line, though, is that Zynga has a huge hit on its hands. CityVille hasn’t yet received the kind of press attention that FarmVille got at its peak; that may come later, or not at all. But developers should be paying attention, especially those that previously thought another FarmVille-scale hit would be impossible on Facebook.

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