CastleVille Traffic: The Story So Far

With Zynga’s IPO expected as soon as next week, the developer is likely hoping for a strong start for CastleVille, its newest game for Facebook, to appeal to potential investors.

Zynga announced earlier this week that CastleVille had broken 5 million daily active users in six days, making it Zynga’s fastest-growing Facebook game ever. The game is one of five Facebook titles released in the last two quarters and will appear on Zynga’s balance sheet under results for Q4 2011. The other Facebook games released in Q2 through the beginning of Q4 include Empires & Allies (June), Words With Friends for Facebook (July), Adventure World (September), and Mafia Wars 2 (October).

With one new Facebook game launching almost every month, what does Zynga’s traffic look like overall? In a recent amendment made to its form S-1 filing, Zynga said daily active users have declined in Q3. We’ve also seen less than a 10% increase across Zynga’s monthly and daily active users on Facebook in the past 30 days. This suggests that, while CastleVille is growing at a rapid rate, there is not a large increase in the total number of Facebook users playing Zynga games as a result of the game’s growth compared to recent periods before the game’s launch.

The bulk of CastleVille’s users could also possibly be coming from other Zynga games on the platform, depending on Zynga’s cross promotion strategy. Zynga’s top five games in size — CityVille, FarmVille, Texas HoldEm Poker, Empires & Allies and Mafia Wars 2 — are in a period of flat or declining DAU in recent months. FrontierVille — the closest to CastleVille in genre and gameplay style — no longer appears in Zynga’s top five because MAU and DAU for the game dropped sharply after its users apparently failed to adopt the expanded version, Pioneer Trail, which was released in August. In short, for the past few months, users were losing interest in the older games, which may have prompted them to try new Zynga games launched during this period, looking for a new “favorite.”

This leads to a potentially challenging situation for Zynga, as each of the give games released in the last three quarters are in different game genres, which means that there is no easy substitute of one game for another. On the positive side, this means new game releases aren’t directly cannibalizing older games; but as a negative, the new games might struggle to retain existing Zynga users. A CityVille player, for example, may have at first adopted Empires & Allies because of the similar citybuilding mechanic — and then abandoned the game because the core combat element was not as appealing. Similarly, a FrontierVille player dissatisfied with the Pioneer Trail expansion may have initially left the game for Adventure World, only to abandon it when the core exploration gameplay failed to provide the desired gameplay.

To keep these new game releases going strong, Zynga would need new players to come into the games — and stay — a task that is generally challenging for all developers without spending significantly on new customer acquisition. Already, three of the five games released in the last three quarters have peaked in DAU within the first month or so for each game. Words With Friends is a notable exception as the game is cross-platform enabled for iOS and Android with Facebook Connect, which affects its DAU.

The question for CastleVille, then, is not how fast it’s growing now — in the short term — but whether it can keep up growth rates past its first 30 days. CityVille and FrontierVille both maintained their rapid early growth rates for around three months before going into decline, which is more consistent with life cycles of other social games on the Facebook platform. If CastleVille can mimic this pattern, not only could it potentially eventually unseat CityVille as the largest Facebook game, but we could also anticipate that the game might enjoy a longer life on Facebook than games that peaked in traffic too early.

To that point, we can see that CastleVille at least stands a chance at holding on to many of Zynga’s existing users that left FrontierVille, as the core gameplay elements are very similar. Some of the citybuilding may also retain ex-CityVille players, and Zynga has hinted that there could be a possible multiplayer combat element added in the future, which could appeal to Empires & Allies players.

The key to CastleVille’s long term growth, however, is gaining new users. On Facebook, developers can only do so much to increase that through spending on user acquisition — the rest depends on the social discovery components Facebook offers to bring viral growth to social games. Off the platform, Zynga could also add to its already substantial cross-promotion platform using mobile games. With a reported 11.1 million DAU on mobile in October, there is a potential chunk of Zynga’s audience that hasn’t yet been exposed to CastleVille. Attracting users from other social networks or from an independently-owned games portal is also another way Zynga could bring more users into the game in the long run.

Beyond traffic, we can only speculate as to what CastleVille will do for Zynga’s revenues. It could be that while a game-every-month release schedule appears to flatten traffic growth on Facebook, that it actually improves revenues overall as Zynga continues to improve at monetizing its audience. Zynga reports that average bookings per user rose from $0.051 to $0.058 even as DAU fell in Q3. If we use that bookings per day rate from last quarter, that suggests that CastleVille may be earning $342,200 per day right now on its 5.9 million daily active users. Because it’s a new game released in different market conditions from Q3, however, CastleVille’s bookings per day may be fairly different from the average across Zynga’s portfolio of games.

CastleVille launched November 15. Zynga’s IPO is expected as early as next week after the Thanksgiving holiday.

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10 Responses to “CastleVille Traffic: The Story So Far”

  1. William says:

    I think the big story is how many people can play the game. Major glitches have prevented numerous people from play. Loading of the game stop at 95% and numerous people have been locked of the games for days and for some even a week. There has been little communication for the developers or Customer Service. I have a hard time believing that it takes this long to fix. In the meantime more people have been locked out of the game then have been back into the game and play. More reported glitches have been discovered as the game play has progressed. Reports of people losing all of their buildings and being back at the beginning in building their Kingdom. So even though they have numerous players many are very upset

  2. Anonymous says:

    Looking forward to Zynga’s bankruptville.

  3. AJ Glasser says:

    The bugs you describe are pretty common among just-launched social games; it doesn’t matter who the developer is. Most people simply do not know how well their games will hold up under a massive influx of users until they have it — and then they can start to iterate.

  4. Inside Social Games · Zynga Finally Unveils Indiana Jones Adventure World says:

    [...] most popular games have all seen flat or declining MAU in recent months and the developer currently has 215 million MAU and 49 million MAU. However, while those numbers [...]

  5. Dharamveer says:

    Keep Dreaming of Zynga getting Bankruptville

    They are the pioneers of Social Gaming and have generated gamers from 75 year old grannies. They deserve respect.

    Its not easy to make a hit game. And for anybody thinking 10 Million is a less no.
    Please count the no. of zeroes in it. Just because you don’t beat your previous creations doesnt mean you’re not making money.

    Its a cycle of learning and Zynga is doing very good

  6. Inside Facebook · The Top 25 Facebook Games of December 2011 says:

    [...] 10 in terms of DAU. The biggest gainer was newcomer CastleVille at No.2, Zynga’s latest and so far fastest-growing game ever on Facebook while older game Top Eleven makes its debut at [...]

  7. Inside Social Games · The Top 25 Facebook Games of December 2011 says:

    [...] 10 in terms of DAU. The biggest gainer was newcomer CastleVille at No.2, Zynga’s latest and so far fastest-growing game ever on Facebook while  older game Top Eleven makes its debut at [...]

  8. lidia says:

    I am locked out of the castleville game – getting the ‘lost magical connection’ message over and over again after finishing the quest 5 of 6 for the Banish the Gloom Lord goal!!! It is so very frustrating!!!

  9. Jacob Jones says:

    Lida: Late reply, but you can read the guide at to fix that issue.

  10. FarmVille 2 growth encouraging, but it’s not out of the woods yet says:

    [...] that almost a year ago, Zynga had another hit with CastleVille — a game that shot up the traffic charts so fast in its first 10 days that Zynga was rushing [...]

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