Zynga.com — two months old and 2.8 million MAU

Zynga’s off-Facebook games platform is still in its early days, but the growth is there and the games are running. Here’s how Zynga.com has evolved since entering open beta in March.

Traffic

Like most social games, the only place for traffic to go in the first six to eight weeks is up. Growth kicked in one week after the beta launch, starting from around 1.7 million MAU and 130,000 DAU likely left over from an internal beta test. In seven days, MAU grew 11 percent to 1.9 million while DAU went up 38 percent to 180,000. By the end of the month, Zynga.com was at 2.2 million MAU and 230,000. Now, at the beginning of April, it’s up to 2.8 million MAU and 420,000 DAU.

Here’s what’s interesting: Zynga’s DAU as a percentage of MAU (which is a measure of retention) also consistently rose during the first two months.

Normally, when a social game launches, we see MAU and DAU rise while the retention rate falls. During Zynga’s Q1 2012 earnings call, COO John Schappert explained that Zynga deliberately hasn’t driven users to Zynga.com via advertising or cross-promotion. This makes the platform’s growth seem even more significant, as it’s all organic, presumably from brand recognition or invites sent to Facebook friends.

Zynga tells us that advertising for Zynga.com will be turned on later in the quarter.

Game Features – Sidebar

The sidebar module appears on the right side of the screen everywhere on Zynga.com except when a game is in fullscreen mode. At the top of the module, players can click on their name to access their profile, list of recently played games (each of which display the number of pending game requests), their RewardVille point balance or the settings menu. They can also logout or toggle chat availability on or off. Also at the top of the module are two buttons that produce a chat window or a list of friends (called zFriends).

The rest of the module changes depending on where the user is on Zynga.com. On the homepage or profile page, users see a list of zFriends sorted into those currently online and those that have played Zynga games recently. This part of the module can be toggled to show a list of suggested zFriends — some of which are not on friends with the user on Facebook. In games, the user might see a horizontal list of users that have recently helped them in-game (with links to those users’ profiles) or a live feed of activity from other players of that game. The live feed can be sorted by everyone playing that game at the time or only zFriends that have played the game.

The sidebar is also a place where we’ve seen Zynga serve ads via Google AdSense, but this has only occurred when viewing the sidebar in a game that doesn’t make use of the live feed.

Games Features – Live Feed

Zynga’s live feed (sometimes called “social stream” or “zFeed”) is a feature that currently appears in the sidebar when playing CastleVille, CityVille and Hidden Chronicles. It posts in-game requests made by both zFriends and strangers, allowing players to click on any story to send and receive rewards. The live feed is important to the platform because the main value of playing a game on Zynga.com versus Facebook is that players progress faster if their game requests are answered synchronously instead of asynchronously. It’s also a means of meeting new friends that are more likely to help you in games so that users don’t have to spam their Facebook friends list, hoping some of them play the same games.