Facebook’s Top 5 Player vs. Player Strategy Games by Traffic, With Gameplay Analysis

“Strategy & Combat” is a new sub-category leaderboard on AppData, tracking the most popular Facebook games from multiple genres which emphasize physical fighting. Here, we analyze the top five games in the player-versus-player strategy sub-genre, which enjoys overall strong engagement rates and now attracts an audience of over 30 million monthly active users.

For the purposes of this analysis, “strategy” is defined as combat and resource-management games with military themes and conceits, played out on a map-like field, while “player-versus-player” refers to direct combat between two or more players. By that definition, here are the top five by monthly active users (or MAU) and daily active users (or DAU) and DAU as percent of MAU (or DAU/MAU) as of November 23:

Top PvP Strategy Games by Traffic

NameMAUDAUDAU/MAU%
1.Empires & Allies18,800,0003,900,00020%
2.Backyard Monsters2,800,000720,00025%
3.Army Attack1,400,000260,00019%
4.Dragons of Atlantis1,200,000310,00026%
5.Battle Pirates740,000180,00024%


UPDATE, 12/1: Due to a mis-categorization, Social Empires was previously left off this list.

In general, a game with a strong DAU/MAU correlates to strong user retention and regular monetization. Based on this trend, it’s not unreasonable to assume that the top Facebook strategy games enjoy more robust monetization compared to other game genres on the platform.

Does PvP Increase Engagement in Strategy Games?

As noted above, the top Facebook strategy games with PvP likely enjoy higher monetization rates than other genres based on their strong engagement rates. But does the PvP feature in itself influence engagement? While it’s difficult to isolate that element (especially since Backyard Monsters, Dragons of Atlantis, and Battle Pirates launched with PvP), it’s possible to make some tentative assessments:

In mid-September, when Zynga introduced “Battle Blitz” PvP to Empires & Allies, the game’s DAU as a percent of MAU was at 15% and trending downward. Within a week of introducing the new PvP mode, however, the DAU/MAU climbed, reaching 16% by 9/25, and by the first week of October, reaching 19%.

Army Attack did not launch with a PvP mode, but added that feature in mid-September, when the game’s DAU as a percent of MAU was at a low and flat 12%. After adding PvP, however, DAU/MAU began trending upward, and by mid-October, had reached 14%.

In early June, Backyard Monsters was under 20% and trending downward. That month, however, Kixeye added “Champion Monsters” for use in PvP combat, and changed the artwork to emphasize violent, graphic combat that would appeal to the core market (see below.) Total MAU dropped considerably in the months after this update (perhaps because many players disliked the new art style), but at the same time, daily engagement by percentage increased. By mid-July, DAU/MAU had grown to over 25%.

In each of these examples, the rise in engagement levels does not definitively prove PvP increases user activity. (And in the particular case of Army Attack, PvP was added after a period of little or no content updates.) However, it is fair to say the addition of PvP tends to correlate with rising user engagement, which, in turn, could signal an increase in monetization.

Facebook Strategy Games from Casual to Core

Facebook’s most popular strategy games range from casual to core in terms of tone and gameplay experience. For the purposes of this analysis, assume that a casual title uses cartoon-inspired art direction and simplified gameplay intended for broad audience appeal. A core title, by contrast, is often characterized by realistic, visceral graphics and complex gameplay intended for a specific young male demographic that also enjoys console and PC games. “Mid-core,” as the name suggests, are games which aim to strike a balance between these two audience poles, in the hopes of appealing to both.