The Early Social Game Winners and Losers After Facebook’s Platform Changes

When Facebook implemented a flurry of platform changes that curtailed some viral marketing tactics in early December, developers scrambled to revive tactics. There was the thought that this might level the playing field a bit, taking some wind out of the sails of the most aggressive viral marketers.

To get some initial feel for the impact of these platform changes — and to provide a benchmark for the industry — we looked at Daily Active Users (DAU), Monthly Active Users (MAU) and the resulting Sticky Factors (DAU/MAU) for top developers on December 7, 2009 (this was around the time the platform changes were starting to go into effect) and January 5, 2010. We assume that the impact of the holidays was across-the-board dips around Christmas and New Year’s Day for these titles. It also comes with the caveat that developer level numbers are not necessarily unique users as a user may play multiple games made by the same developer.

DeveloperMAU 12/7MAU 1/5% DiffDAU 12/7DAU 12/5% DiffSticky 12/7Sticky 1/5% Diff
Zynga219.5 mil231.3 mil5.4%64.1 mil62.4 mil-2.6%29%27%-7.6%
Playfish59.5 mil55.8 mil-6.2%11.7 mil9.5 mil-19%20%17%-13%
CrowdStar38.3 mil48.3 mil26.2%10.8 mil11.0 mil2.2%28%23%-19%
Playdom22.7 mil20.8 mil-8.3%3.2 mil3.3 mil1.6%14%16%10.7%
6 waves38.7 mil33.9 mil-13%7.8 mil6.7 mil-15%20%20%-2.4%
Slashkey18.4 mil16.3 mil-12%5.1 mil3.7 mil-28%28%23%-18%
PopCap10.4 mil10.1 mil-2.6%3.1 mil2.9 mil-7.8%30%29%-5.3%
TOTAL407.5 mil416.4 mil2.2%105.8 mil99.4 mil-6.0%26%24%-8.0%

This initial cut makes it appear that some of the biggest developers (Zynga, CrowdStar and Playdom) have done reasonably well, but each of these developers actually launched a significant new game during the period. Because new games typically haven’t reached a steady state (which inflates the sticky factor) and because we’re more interested in the impact on games existing prior to the platform changes, let’s look at the numbers without Zynga’s PetVille, Playfish’s Poker Rivals, CrowdStar’s Happy Island and Playdom’s Tiki Farm:

DeveloperMAU 12/7MAU 1/5% DiffDAU 12/7DAU 12/5% DiffSticky 12/7Sticky 1/5% Diff
Zynga218.5 mil212.4 mil-2.8%64.1 mil58.4 mil-8.9%29%27%-6.3%
Playfish59.1 mil54.3 mil-8.1%11.6 mil9.4 mil-19%20%17%-12%
CrowdStar38.3 mil42.0 mil9.6%10.8 mil9.2 mil-14%28%22%-22%
Playdom22.7 mil18.7 mil-17%3.2 mil2.7 mil-18%14%14%-0.7%
6 waves38.7 mil33.9 mil-12%7.8 mil6.7 mil-14%20%20%-2.4%
Slashkey18.4 mil16.3 mil-12%5.1 mil3.7 mil-28%28%23%-18%
PopCap10.4 mil10.1 mil-2.6%3.1 mil2.9 mil-7.8%30%29%-5.3%
TOTAL406.2 mil387.7 mil-4.6%105.7 mil92.8 mil-12%26%24%-8.0%

The total line is not for all developers on the Facebook platform, just the seven aggregated above, so there is some bias in the aggregated numbers because Zynga makes up over half of the total MAU and DAU numbers. But given this caveat, the total line suggests that so far, these developers are seeing on average a 4.6% decline in MAU and a 12.2% decline DAU which has reduced the sticky factor by 8%. I believe MAU numbers will continue to decline a bit more before they stabilize a bit.

The Winners…so far

Without the new games, CrowdStar appears to be the only developer that increased their MAU, but even this is somewhat skewed by the fact that Happy Pets had launched in mid-November and was still seeing some increase in the beginning of December. CrowdStar’s Happy Aquarium maintained a relatively flat MAU, but saw a steady decline in DAU (down 20% from 8.17 million to 6.64 million), driving CrowdStar’s overall sticky factor to the worst drop amongst the group. Another trend here is that each successive title launched seems to be reaching a plateau that is lower than the previous launch, mirroring something we pointed out for Zynga’s games recently. Happy Island is still only a month old, but it’s looking like the potential of sim games may be reaching a new ceiling.