The Sims Social: 50 Days In and Gunning for CityVille’s Top Spot

After nearly two months of rapid growth, EA Playfish’s The Sims Social is at a critical moment in its traffic cycle where growth has slowed. Depending on how the game performs in the next few weeks, The Sims Social could go into a period of decline or finally unseat Zynga’s CityVille as the largest application on Facebook.

Current Traffic

As of figures tracked by our AppData traffic monitoring service today, The Sims Social enjoys 65.6 million monthly active users and 9.8 million daily active users. In the last seven days, the game has lost a little over half a million in DAU — which brings it down a total of 1.4 million from its all-time high in that category. Meanwhile, MAU has continued to grow, though at a much more modest 3% gain for the past week compared to the 9% growth experienced the week prior.

Cultivating Critical Mass at Launch

The Sims Social soft-launched in mid-August to a fairly large audience that was already aware of the game through extensive press coverage. Additionally, the game’s Page actively recruited fans by incentivizing its overall number of Likes with content reveals. By the game’s official August 19 launch date, The Sims Social already had 4.8 million monthly active users and 2 million daily active users. The first 30 days saw steady growth in MAU and overall growth in DAU punctuated by two sharp spikes in early September.

We cannot know for sure how much of The Sims Social’s early growth was due to advertising or user acquisition activities facilitated by Nanigans. We do know that while Nanigans is currently involved with the game, in early August EA Playfish denied that its partnership with the service provider included The Sims Social. We also know that EA updated its PC Sims series such that when users loaded up the game, an ad for The Sims Social appeared in the Game Launcher window.

It’s also interesting to note that EA revealed The Sims Social to press both through closed beta access and a party-like event that included attendance from Facebook’s Ethan Beard, Director of the Facebook Developer Network. In its core video game press campaigns, these EA party reveal events are common — but it’s almost unheard of for social game launches. As a result of that event, high profile video game press outlets covered the game, further extending The Sims Social’s reach beyond what other social games had been able to grasp with game launch announcements (although Zynga appears to have tapped the same outlets for Mafia Wars 2 pre-release announcements).

Sustaining Growth With Frictionless Virality

Progression in The Sims Social occurs on several fronts: Sim level, house value, and individual skill rank for various activities. The core gameplay loop involves players satisfying their Sim’s basic needs — hygiene, energy, bladder, hunger, fun, socialization — before setting them to performing various activities like cooking or painting or complete tasks like tending the garden or cleaning house. The better satisfied a Sim is, the more soft currency (here called Simoleons) the Sim can earn for performing activities. Money can be used to purchase new activity items and house remodeling or decoration items, which are restricted by the Sim’s level and their skill rank for relevant activities. Certain items can only be bought with Sim Cash, the game’s hard currency, which also can be used to bypass level and skill rank restrictions.

The first 10 levels of The Sims Social experience go by very quickly. The player doesn’t begin to encounter any real resistance to progression that might motivate them to buy Sim Cash until around level 12 when the game invites them to expand their house by adding a room. This activity is friend-gated such that the user needs three people to click Accept on a help invitation before the room is completed. For players reluctant to harass non-player friends, The Sims Social makes it easy to recruit help from the neighbor bar at the bottom of the screen by showing the Sims of the player’s friends on Facebook that are already active in the game alongside the friends that are already in-game neighbors.