How January 2011’s Top 10 Facebook Games Are Doing in December 2011

Here’s a look at where AppData‘s top 10 games of January 2011 are now in December 2011, as the calendar year draws to a close.

A year is typically the better part of a social game’s life cycle for titles launched on Facebook after 2009. During those first 12 months, a game will grow rapidly in first three months, peak in overall traffic, then begin to shrink over the following six months. During this shrinking period, the percent of daily active users as a percent of monthly active users (or DAU/MAU) will often decline toward 10%. Generally, we find that if engagement rates fall below 10% DAU/MAU, a game has a very strong chance of being sunsetted, as its developers seek to cut their losses.

By December 2011, almost all of January’s top 10 games have lost much of the traffic they had at the start of 2011. However, this does not necessarily mean they’re candidates for sunset in 2012. Many of these games maintain high levels of engagement, and probably continue to earn decent revenue for their developers. At least one game, EA PopCap’s Bejeweled Blitz, retained most of its traffic while increasing engagement levels through 2011.

At the start of 2011, these were the top 10 Facebook games by MAU, according to AppData:

In January 2011, top entry CityVille had the advantage of being the newest game among the first 10, having launched the month before. Still, several top games which launched in 2008 — Pet Society, Texas HoldEm, and Mafia Wars — also maintained ranks in the top 10. (The others in the January’s top 10 launched in mid 2010, with the exception of FarmVille, which launched in mid 2009.)

By the end of the year, Facebook’s top 10 had changed dramatically, with just three games in the January 2011 list ranking in the top 10 for December 2011:

The three January 2011 holdovers — CityVille, FarmVille, and Texas HoldEm Poker — are from Zynga, reflecting the company’s continued dominance in the market, and its strategy of maintaining the lead by releasing numerous new games and cross-promoting across its titles. However, several competing developers managed to grow their own audiences to attain top 10 status since then.

Here is where January 2011’s top 10 games stand now, according to AppData:

CityVille – Zynga: 48.9 million MAU, 10.4 million DAU
December rank, by MAU: 1

Launched at the end of 2010, Zynga’s city management sim enjoyed stratospheric growth in January 2011, when it reached over 100 million MAU. In February and March, the game attained a peak of daily active users (or DAU) of about 21 million. Since then, however, CityVille has experienced a slow but steady decline in both MAU and DAU. While it retains the number one position in December, its MAU and DAU have fallen by over 50% from its peak. At the same time, CityVille’s DAU as a percent of MAU has remained strong, at about 20%, throughout the year.

FarmVille – Zynga: 31.7 million MAU, 7.3 million DAU
December rank, by MAU: 2

Popular since its launch in 2009, Zynga’s farming sim steadily lost MAU and DAU through 2011, beginning the year with nearly 60 million MAU and 16 million DAU. As with CityVille, it lost about half of those users by year’s end. DAU/MAU for FarmVille has fluctuated throughout 2011, falling and rising between about 20 to 30%. It now stands at nearly 24%, retaining strong engagement rates (if many less total users.)

Texas HoldEm Poker – Zynga: 28.9 million MAU and 6.3 million DAU
December rank, by MAU: 4

At the close of 2011, Zynga’s online poker game maintains its place in the top 10, and even grew during the first few months. (The game had about 35 million MAU and 7 million DAU in January, then grew to a peak of about 38 million MAU and 7.75 million DAU in February.) After some eight months of relatively stable user rates, the game began losing traffic. However, compared to Zynga’s CityVille and FarmVille, which both lost about half their maximum number of users over the year, the HoldEm Poker game has retained about 85% of the total players it had at the start of 2011. The game even managed to increase DAU/MAU engagement rates over the year, at first fluctuating between 16 to 20% through 2011, but from late October to now, fluctuating between 21 to 23%.