What Happens to a Facebook Game Without Viral Channels

Facebook’s communication channels are central to social game distribution, retention, and engagement, but there’s rarely an opportunity to see what happens to a game when all of its communication channel access is cut off.

It has now been about a week since Facebook suspended all viral communication channels for most LOLapps games. Although changes will take a while to cycle into a monthly active user graph, an AppData graph of LOLapps’s Critter Island game’s daily active users shows why a communication channel suspension is almost as bad as an outright removal of an app:

The first dip is from Facebook’s weekend suspension of the entire app, while the second is from the more recent loss of viral channels.

The only app to escape was Ravenwood Fair, which worked fine until the middle of this week but has now has its channels blocked as well. From the gap between the suspensions of LOLapps’ other titles and that of Ravenwood, it seems possible that the two policy enforcements are at least somewhat unrelated.

On the other hand, if Ravenwood is subject to the same six-month moratorium as the rest of LOLapps’ titles, or even a large fraction of that time, it’s going to see almost all of its active users diminished. [Update: Ravenwood will be back on the 10th; see below.] The Critter Island graph shows how quickly players stream out of a title when its channels are suspended; it also shows that the game was already having trouble recovering its DAU after the first suspension.

During the course of this week, LOLapps launched RavenwoodFair.com, a version of the game on a separate website. But even on its own website, the game uses Facebook Connect, and is still subject to the moratorium.

Zynga, too, facing the challenge of being so dependent on Facebook, has been rumored to be planning its own stand-alone game portal for a while, but the company hasn’t launched anything yet. It’s possible that Ravenwood will undergo some changes, but as it is, a presence outside of Facebook won’t be enough to sustain the game.

Update: We asked LOLapps for more information about Ravenwood Fair’s suspension, and received the following response:

“We have worked closely with the Facebook team to ensure that our applications and games are in compliance with their policies and look forward to contiuing to partner with them to bring the safest possible experience to our users. Fans of Lolapps should look forward to a new focus on gaming and exciting developments. Ravenwood Fair and all of it’s viral channels will be restored November on 10th.”