Disney Playdom will sunset its long-running social game, Social City, this December just three months shy of the game’s second birthday on the Facebook platform.
As the approximate life cycle of a social game on Facebook seems to be roughly 12 to 18 months, the move comes as no surprise. It’s even less of a surprise, considering Disney Playdom’s recent success with Gardens of Time and its efforts to release new social games based on Disney properties in 2012. Effective resource management dictates that developers need to spend more on the games that are making money, and shut down ones that aren’t in order to allocate resources to new games.
It is rare, however, to see one of Facebook’s big five social game developers taking an older game offline even if it is more than 18 months old. Many of those games (particularly Zynga’s) still enjoy large audiences that, in theory, monetize at a higher rate than those who are playing a new game in its first three months of life. Image also keeps older games online, as many developers are defined by the success of their original games.
In the case of Social City (review here), it was one of several hit games Playdom offered in its pre-Disney acquisition days. Sorority Life and Mobsters were also “big name” games that attracted millions of users back in the early days of the Facebook and MySpace games platforms. Social City, however, got a larger amount of media attention than other pre-Disney Playdom games because it launched just before the Disney acquisition and went on to win a Game Developer Choice Award at GDC Online in October 2010. Due to its success, the game survived the initial upheaval after the acquisition (which saw the sunsetting of Playdom’s Big City Life, Treetopia, and Fanglies in October 2010) and even made it onto Android where some of Playdom’s competitors were experimenting with cross-platform social game experiences.
Social City’s Facebook traffic was in decline even then, however, down over 50% in monthly active users and over 80% in daily active users from its peak point of traffic at 12 .6million MAU and 3.1 million DAU seen in spring of 2010. In the last six months, MAU and DAU have continued to fall, eventually putting its DAU as a percentage of MAU — a metric that helps us see what kind of retention a social game enjoys — below 10%, which is where most developers usually shut down or abandon a game. It’s a similar story to Playdom’s Market Street, which launched in 2010 and was sunsetted in August 2011.