Facebook app ecosystem shifts as King overtakes Zynga

As reported by sister site Inside Social Games, King (maker of Candy Crush Saga) has passed Zynga, long the top dog in the Facebook application market, in terms of monthly active users.

This move is the biggest symbol of the shift in Facebook’s gaming and app ecosystem. Since gaming became popular on Facebook in its early days, Zynga was the biggest app developer on the site, and by a wide margin. However, as time went on, more competitors stepped up and delivered quality games.

Zynga had derived much of its traffic from Facebook, while delivering revenue for Facebook with hit titles such as FarmVille, FarmVille 2 and Texas HoldEm Poker. However, the two companies have had a messy divorce, as Facebook tried to cultivate an ecosystem with multiple gaming developers and Zynga sought traffic outside of the social network.

King has rocketed to the top with Candy Crush Saga, the most-used application on Facebook, in terms of monthly active users (MAU). While Zynga still has popular titles, such as Words With Friends and FarmVille 2, King now has five of the top 10 Facebook games in terms of MAU  — more than any other developer.

Zynga’s fall from the top has been swift. On this date in 2011, Zynga had the top four games on Facebook (CityVille, Empires & Allies, FarmVille, Texas HoldEm Poker), and 6 of the top 10. In 2012, the top four games once again came from Zynga (Texas HoldEm Poker, Bubble Safari, CityVille, FarmVille), as well as No. 7 and No. 9 on the top 10 list. However, by New Year’s Day 2013, Zynga’s hold on the top spots was weakening. Candy Crush Saga had climbed to No. 3, with Wooga’s Diamond Dash at No. 4, in terms of MAU.

By March, Candy Crush Saga claimed the Facebook gaming throne — the first time in years that the top Facebook game didn’t come from Zynga. The next month, Zynga held 4 of the top 10 Facebook titles. At the start of the month, that number diminished to 3.

As of today, Zynga has 2 titles in the top 10 MAU rankings for games:

Rank Name Change (Today) Change (Week)
1.  Candy Crush Saga (King) = =
2.  Criminal Case (Pretty Simple) = =
3.  Pet Rescue Saga (King) = ▲1
4.  Farm Heroes Saga (King) = ▲1
5.  FarmVille 2 (Zynga) = ▼2
6.  Dragon City (Social Point) = =
7.  Diamond Dash (Wooga) = =
8.  Texas HoldEm Poker (Zynga) = =
9.  Papa Pear Saga (King) = ▼1
10.  Bubble Witch Saga (King) = ▼1

Facebook, around the time that Zynga examined ways to get users without going through the social network, became more friendly with other developers, such as Wooga, Playdom and Plarium.

Now Facebook’s most popular games aren’t always coming from one or two big developers. The second-biggest game, Criminal Case, is by Pretty Simple, a French developer founded in 2010. Dragon City, the sixth-most popular Facebook game, comes from Spanish developer Social Point.

Since the start of 2012, AppData charts show that King has had steadily grown, as Zynga has fallen.

By supporting a wider gaming ecosystem, it definitely paid off for all parties. At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco earlier this year, Facebook Director of Games Partnerships Sean Ryan said that the gaming market is roughly $15 billion — and Facebook has about $3 billion of that pie. Facebook paid out $2 billion to developers in 2012, and that number will likely be higher when reported for 2013. More than 100 developers were paid out at least $1 million last year.

Readers: What do you feel is in store for Zynga’s future?

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