Disney Playdom Sunsetting Social City After 21 Months and 12 Million MAU

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.

MindJolt Makes Good on Mobile Aspirations With SGN, Looks to Create Critical Mass of Users

MindJolt, the casual-social gaming company run by former MySpace chief executive Chris DeWolfe, announces a new string of games today along with the news that the company has successfully transitioned its business model from advertising to virtual goods.

The announcement comes roughly five months after MindJolt acquired social mobile game company Social Gaming Network (SGN) and free online game network Hallpass Media. At that time, MindJolt was very clearly activating on DeWolfe’s strategy to expand off of Facebook onto mobile and open web platforms. The acquisitions also helped MindJolt bring much of its game development in-house, effectively educating the company on how monetize games through virtual goods sales as opposed to advertising.

The result, DeWolfe tells us today, is a successful pivot into a new business model with virtual goods now making up one-third of MindJolt’s revenues. Though he declines to give specific numbers, he confirms that annual revenues are in the tens-of-millions and expected to exceed the $20 million figure reported in November 2010. Since April of this year, the company has released or re-launched a handful of games on iOS, including Warp Dash, Master Shot, Dress-up – Fashion, and Mini Cafe.

In the next few months, we can expect to see seven new games out of MindJolt, the first of which DeWolfe says is coming to iOS in as few as a couple of weeks. The upcoming titles include Fluff Friends – Races, Bird’s the Word, and another game inspired by DressUp, which was a web game bought by MindJolt as part of the Hallpass Media acquisition.

The big challenge now will be tackling cross-platform releases, a task many social and mobile game developers struggle with. Currently, MindJolt is building native apps for each platform — web, Facebook, iOS and, eventually, Android — with only very light integration between games of the same franchise via Facebook Connect. The games essentially look and play the same on each platform, however, and DeWolfe says that this is helpful when it comes to promoting games cross-platform.

Another component of the cross-platform challenge is creating a critical mass of users that support the MindJolt brand. As of right now, the company says it has a pool of over 30 million mobile installs, over 70 million social platform installs on social platforms, and over 25 million unique monthly active users on the web. Moving eyeballs between these platforms is crucial in supporting new game launches — as other cross-platform developers like OMGPOP have experienced when shifting audiences between Facebook and iOS.

“We’re getting a trememndous amount of traffic and downloads from web,” DeWolfe says. “It doesn’t usually work to advertise something on the web and then have people go through the friction of the iTunes store, downloading, and then picking up their device and actually using it.” The near-identical appearance of the apps, he says, reduces the friction.

Going forward, MindJolt is also releasing its first in-house developed Facebook game today, titled Bubble Atlantis. Though still integrating the teams at SGN and Hallpass Media, DeWolfe tells us that the company is still “opportunistically” looking for game developer talent acquisitions or second-party partnerships. After successfully beefing up its mobile business, the bar is now higher for what MindJolt can do on social network game platforms and on open web.

Social Gaming Roundup: Shadow Government Funding, Playfish EIR, Mafia Wars MySpace Closure, and More

New Company Shadow Government Aims to Model the Real World for Social Gaming — In what promises to bring together real-world data and gaming features, the startup is hoping to help predict actual events. It has $1 million in backing from angel investors, and a partnership with The Millenium Institute, which sells government-modeling software. “Now, for the first time, anyone with an iPhone or Android can ‘play’ at what it’s like to simulate running a real country,” chief executive Margaret Wallace said in a press release. “Let’s see if, using the model provided by The Millennium Institute, this Shadow Government can do a better job of managing actual events and world crises compared to our real-world counterparts.”

Playfish CoFounder Now EIR at Index Ventures — Sami Lababibi wasn’t the best known of Playfish’s four cofounders, but he was its technical leader, overseeing the company’s rapid growth on Facebook, and the first phases of its integration into acquirer EA. Having left last month, he’s now an entrepreneur-in-residence at Playfish backer Index Ventures.

Capcom Opens Subsidiary in Japan to Develop New Mobile Content — The established developer intends for the new organization to create original intellectual property game, and focus on developing its mobile social gaming market outside of the US, witha a special focus on Japan and Asia. More details from the company here.

Zynga Closing Mafia Wars on MySpace — Other developers have shut down some games on the struggling social network, as we’ve been covering. Now Zynga, which so far has only closed one game, is ending formative hit Mafia Wars (the Facebook version is meanwhile still going pretty strong despite a gradual long-term decline).

Hi5 Recategorized as Gaming Site by comScore — It is now the sixth largest such property in the world, with 21.7 million unique visitors — a far smaller user base than when it was a social network, but still something to work with as it continues its positioning as a social gaming platform.

FooPets Maker Raises Second Round — Rivet Games, formerly known as FooMojo has added a $5 million second round to its initial funding of nearly $10 million, as it plans more social and mobile games. The money is from existing investors Softbank, Baseline Ventures and Floodgate.

Following MySpace Traffic Falls, Some Top Developers Shut Down Games

Since late 2008, we’ve been tracking the top 25 games, or at least game-like apps, each month for the MySpace platform (at least as well as we could, given that MySpace only shares total install numbers). MySpace has never shown the amount of growth that Facebook has, but still offered a good audience for some games. Nevertheless, overall traffic declines on the site, as well as massive layoffs at the company, and plans for a sale have collectively cooled developer interest. And recently, a number of them have shut down titles on MySpace, mainly to focus resources on Facebook, from what we’ve seen.

Thus far, developers Playdom, RockYou, and Zynga have all shut down applications (although there may be more, let us know in the comments). Of the three, Zynga has shut down the least, while RockYou has pulled all of its top titles out completely. As it stands, most of the largest remaining apps consist of lighter games that are generally the simpler style of game from yesteryear, such as text-based role-playing games, and basic sharing/gifting types of apps that allow friends to interact with one another in fun, game-like ways.

Here’s a quick breakdown of top titles that have gone in recent months.

OverdrivePlaydom

Playdom was the second most dominant developer with seven titles within the most recent Top 25 by installs list. Now, however, it is even with BitRhymes, with five apps on the list, having shut down two of its role-playing games, Overdrive and Bloodlines. Both were text-based RPGs.

As it stands, Playdom is still keeping its top Mobsters game, Sorority Life, and WSOP Poker up and running. In addition to these, the merely game-like apps Bumper Stickers and Own Your Friends are still in service as well.

Overdrive — Though the game still appears in the app gallery on MySpace, it was noted to us that the game was, in fact, discontinued. As such, the exact shut down date is unknown, but the racing RPG’s user numbers, as of our last reporting on the 1st of March, tallied 2,709,540 and came in at #17 on our list.

Bloodlines – The vampire RPG, Bloodlines, has also shut down, and likely around the same time as Overdrive. It’s last noted numbers (also from the 1st), were 2,000,332 total users. It was #19 on our Top 25 list.

RockYou PetsRockYou

RockYou was the first major developer to drop out of MySpace. As it stands, every one of the top RockYou titles have been removed completely (meaning they no longer even appear in the app gallery). Likely the removal was due to both the decline of the platform and significant layoffs back in October. In total, the four top titles from the developer are now gone.

Truth Box – A game-like application that allowed for more fun social interaction between friends, its last recorded numbers, from December, were at 7,845,445 total users and was #7 in the top 25 MySpace games. We noted its disappearance in January

RockYou Pets — Formerly #10 on our lists, the virtual pet game of RockYou Pets also disappeared at the same time as Truth Box. Its user count, from December, was 6,063,043.

SuperHug! – Another game-like social interaction app, this time at #14, was SuperHug!. Along with the prior two, this app was gone come January, with the prior month’s user numbers equaling 4,454,609.

Speed Racing – A month later, racing RPG, Speed Racing bit the dust. Before its departure it was #19 and hosted 2,595,852 total users. The numbers were reported in January.

Street RacingZynga

Surprisingly enough, Zynga has not shut down as many MySpace titles as one might expect, considering past Facebook game shut downs. Thus far, it has only noticeably shut down its racing RPG, Street Racing. Like the Playdom apps, it still appears in the app gallery, despite being discontinued several months ago.

Zynga still hosts seven games within the top 25 MySpace games list including Mafia Wars, YoVille, Zynga Poker, Vampires, Fashion Wars, Special Forces, and Friend Factory.

Street Racing – Shut down at the end of November, the racing role-player actually still saw visitors for some time. Before we stopped tracking it, the game was still #11 on the list (despite having been shut down), with a total user count of 4,634,151 as of January. Note that the game also was shut down on Facebook.

Top 25 MySpace Games for March 2011

Top 25 MySpace Games for March 2011

After the loss of top executives and the laying off of nearly half its workforce, News Corp.-owned MySpace is looking for a new home. Though official talks have not yet taken place — these are stated to be scheduled for the second week of March — News Corp. has already noted at least 20 parties interested in the social network. As far as how this will affect the various social games on the platform is anyone’s guess, but in the interim, they titles of the top 25 have at least stabilized since last month.

The developer platform, meanwhile, has not seen much changes — MySpace reports total users so declines would not show up here.

Two months ago, we noted the removal of many RockYou titles, with last month hosting the removal of its last remaining app, Speed Racing. On that same note, Zynga’s Street Racing was also noted as having been shut down (service had closed late last year, even though the game could still be found in the MySpace app gallery). That in mind, the top 25 for March contains, for the first time in a few months, all the same apps it did before.

Here are the highlights for the Top 25 MySpace Games for March, 2011:

  • Playdom sees a gain of 22,044  new installs for Mobsters this month. Staying at #1, it is, as one would expect, followed by Mafia Wars with a gain of 3,354. Each titles’ total users tallies in at around 15.1 million and 13.4 million users respectively.
  • Tag Me, from BitRhymes, grows slightly with approximately 11,000 new installations. The game earns about 8.5 million users in total.
  • Slide keeps its presence known on MySpace with SuperPoke Pets at #8. While the company’s Facebook presence has faltered over the years, this title still earns over 7.1 million total users on MySpace.
  • Oxylabs grows further with What is your Street Reputation, pulling in 19,711 new installations this month.
  • WSOP Poker, from Playdom comes in at #14 with a small gain of just over 4,000 installs. Its total user base tallies in just shy of 3.5 million.
  • Playfish sneaks in its title Pet Society into the top 25 at #23. The long running game is significantly smaller than its Facebook counterpart, hosting around 1.5 million total users.
  • Ending the list at #25 is Zynga with the older app, Friend Factory. The title’s user count totals 1,457,789.

Social Gaming Roundup: Zynga, MySpace, Funding, & More

MentezZynga Prepaid Cards Coming to Latin America — Social games developer Zynga is partnering with Mentez this week, says VentureBeat.  Through the Brazilian social game publisher, Zynga will make its prepaid cards available at over a million locations across Latin America.

MySpace Sale Process Begins — According to Reuters, News Corp has begun exploring the sale or spin-off of MySpace. Thus far, early interest in the site has come from about 20 parties, with more expected as the weeks go on. News Corp is slated to begin talks in the second week of March.

Making FunNews Corp Launchs Social Game Publishing Service — In other News Corp news, the company has announced the introduction of “Making Fun” — a gaming startup it quietly bought last November, that is now serving as a “full-service publisher” that will work with social game developers to fund, market, and distribute their titles.

Zio Studios Raises $1.3 Million — Latin American animation and social gaming company, ZIO Studios has announced the closing of its first funding round. The funding totals $1.3 million from fund manager Promotora’s venture capital division.

Ravenwood FairRavenwood Fair Continues to Grow — VentureBeat has highlighted some interesting numbers from LOLapps’ Ravenwood Fair. With nearly 10.5 million monthly active users, the company is also highlighting that around 3.3 million have purchased virtual goods with 90 cents paid, on average, per transaction.  Moreover, 14% purchase something daily.

[image via VentureBeat]

PiggyBackMedia Chaperone Raises $1 Million — According to EngageDigital, Media Chaperone has raised $1 million in funding this week. The funding is to  go towards further development of their Facebook app Piggyback, which allows parents to monitor their childrens’ online activity and spending within partner games.

Top 25 MySpace Games for February 2011

Top 25 MySpace Games for February 2011

It’s been a rough going for MySpace lately. In past months, the platform has suffered the loss of top executives and more recently, laid off 47% of their workforce or roughly 500 employees, and parent company News Corp. has been assessing possibilities that include both sales and mergers.

However, the numbers for top MySpace games continue on their stable trend… in a manner of speaking. Last month, many of the RockYou titles on the social network were no longer found, and this time, the last remaining title from the company, Speed Racing, is now apparently gone. Additionally, Zynga’s role-playing counterpart, Street Racing, while still appearing in the app gallery appears to have also been shut down. These developers appear to be scaling back their investments in the platform.

With the removal of the two noted games, two new applications have made their way into the top 25 in the forms of Special Forces and Friend Factory; both from Zynga.

Here are the highlights for the Top 25 MySpace Games for February, 2011:

  • Thought the future of the platform if uncertain, the stability of Playdom’s Mobsters and Zynga’s Mafia Wars remains. The total users for each title, this months, comes to just over 15 million and 13.4 million respectively.
  • The collection of more toy-like apps also continues to do well on MySpace. The titles of Bumper Stickers, Own Your Friends, and BitRhymes’ Tag Me all see moderate growth with their totals coming to approximately 13 million, 10.3 million, and 8.5 million.
  • The BitRhymes virtual drinking game Cheers!! remains at #9, gaining just over 5,000 new users.
  • Zynga RPG Vampires stands alone this month at #10 with 5.3 million total users. Typically, the game is followed by the now shut down Street Racing.
  • With the loss of Street Racing, Sorority Life moves up to #12. The women-targeted RPG totals out at over 3.7 million users this month.
  • Playfish title Pet Society grows slightly this month at #23 having gained 7,601 new users for a total of 1,492,269.
  • Zynga adds one returning title and one newcomer to the top 25 with Special Forces and Friend Factory. The apps earn a total of 1,482,442 and 1,457,821 users respectively.

Social Gaming Roundup: The Green Hornet, Peak Games, Patent Trolls, & More

The Green HornetThe Green Hornet Comes to Mafia Wars — Sony Pictures Entertainment’s upcoming film, The Green Hornet, has made its way to Mafia Wars. Between now and January 14th, players can earn seven Green Hornet items in game, with an eight, “The Black Beauty” rewarded to those that collect all seven.

[image via Mafia Wars Blog]

Walker Digital Sues Zynga & Activision-Blizzard over Patent “Infringement” — According to TechCrunch, Walker Digital is filing a lawsuit for patent infringement against both Zynga and Activision-Blizzard for the patent “Database Driven Online Distributed Tournament System.” Walker Digital says that the patent “concerns a product and method of distributed electronic tournaments for a plurality of players that exchanges information with a central controller to influence game play while a player plays in the tournament, and stores player information to influence game play in a subsequent tournament.”

The games in question include the Zynga Wars series of RPGs, Call of Duty, and World of Warcraft.

Peak GamesPeak Games Raises $1.5 Million — Turkey’s largest social gaming company, Peak Games is announcing new funding this week. The company has raised $1.5 million in a seed round led by Hummingbird Ventures. Additionally, Pamir Gelenbe of Hummingbird and angel investor Evren Ucok have joined the startup’s board of directors.

Ngmoco Shutting Down Miraphonic Apps — Social and mobile developer Ngmoco has announced that it is planning to shut down the four games it acquired along with developer Miraphonic, as Engage Digital reports. The games are set to go offline on January 16th, and consist of Epic Chef Wars, Epic Crime Wars, Epic Pet Wars, and Titan Wars.

FlockFlock Joins Zynga — Flock, creator of the Flock social web browser, has announced that the six-year-old company is joining Zynga. Specific details regarding the acquisition have not been disclosed.

Zynga Hires More MySpace Executives — In other Zynga-related news, a piece from TechCrunch has noted the hiring of former MySpace SVP of user experience and design, Katie Geminder, and MySpace GM of social, Christina Wodtke. Both are slated to start with Zynga in the next week or so, and follow on the heels of the Zynga-hired Dani Dudeck and Owen Van Natta; a former MySpace VP and CEO respectively.

Top 25 MySpace Games for January 2011

Top 25 MySpace Games for January 2011

Three RockYou titles have suddenly disappeared from the MySpace app gallery, including the previous #7, #10, and #14 apps: Truth Box, RockYou Pets, and SuperHug!. The RockYou website also no longer promotes its MySpace games. Back in October, the company laid off part of its workforce; the MySpace disappearance could be another possible cut-back.

With RockYou gone, three applications reappear on the top 25: Fashion Wars (Zynga), What My Friends Think About Me (Grong!), and Pet Society (Playfish). This is the biggest change over last month, although several apps grew significantly:

  • Crime continues to pay with Playdom’s Mobsters gaining close to 38,000 new installations, with Zynga’s Mafia Wars trailing at #2 with a gain of 8,518.
  • BitRhymes holds steady on MySpace with its selection of five applications, including Tag Me at #5. The app boasts over 8.4 million users in total. BitRhymes’ lowest app comes in at #17 with Whats my Impression on friends, with around 2.9 million users.
  • SuperPoke Pets, from Slide, moves up to #8 with the loss of RockYou’s Truth Box. The game gains over 9,000 new installations for a total user count of approximately 7.1 million.
  • The middle ranks of the top 25 still find themselves filled with role-playing titles from Zynga and Playdom. At #10 and #11 are Vampires (5.3 million users) and Street Racing (4.6 million users), and at #13 comes Sorority Life (3.7 million users).
  • Coming in at #19 is the last standing RockYou game, Speed Racing. Earning 2,632 new installations this month, it totals out at just under 2.6 million users.
  • Fashion Wars reappears at #23 with a total of 1.9 million users with What My Friends Think About Me, from Grong!, trailing with 1.7 million.
  • Wrapping up the list is the long running Playfish title, Pet Society, who currently plays host to approximately 1.5 million users.

New Hires in Social Gaming: Digital Chocolate, Booyah, Kabam, & More

Despite the holidays slowing most businesses to a crawl, many leading social games developers have been hiring quite a bit in past weeks. Until this week, according to data from LinkedIn. Of the top social companies, only six showed any new activity, with most of it coming from both Playdom and Zynga. Interestingly enough, it was Booyah that noted the biggest hire on its profile this week. The former AdMob Director of Product Management, Chung-Man Tam joins the team as Vice President of Products.

As always, if your company is hiring new people or making a notable promotion, please let us know. Email editor (at) insidesocialgames (dot) com, and we’ll get it into this or next week’s post.

And for those searching for new jobs, be sure to check out our Inside Network Job Board.

Here’s this week’s full list:

Booyah

  • Chung-Man Tam — As noted already, Chung-Man Tam joins Booyah as their new Vice President of Products. Prior to this, Tam was Director of Product Management for AdMob.

Digital Chocolate

  • Tommi Suvinen — An internal changes at Digital Chocolate as Suvinen shifts from technical manager to client programming director.
  • Farah Memon — Memon marks another change at Digital Chocolate, moving from marketing associate to marketing specialist.

Kabam

  • Lauren Freeman — Previously a creative content manager for LOLapps, Freeman joins Kabam as their newest art producer.
  • Hendrick Sukardi — Sukardi has changed his role at Kabam from a business development manager (Asia) to an executive producer.
  • Ben Berens — A former producer at Changyou.com (US) Inc., Berens now fills the same role at Kabam.
  • Jenn Fenton — Kabam gains a new animator in the form of Fento, a former animator from Pipeline Studios Inc.

Playdom

  • Rashidul Hasan — Hansan joins Playdom as their newest game developer. Prior to this, he was a software engineer for AfriGIS.
  • Rachel Nordquist — Joining Playdom as a product manager of growth is Nordquist, a former senior marketing manager for InstantAction Inc.
  • Michael Kosaka — Previously a game director for social games at PlayFirst, Kosaka joins Playdom as a senior game designer.
  • John Flynn — Playdom gains a new art director with Flynn. His previous role was as an art and creative director at Meteor Games.
  • James Robbins — An internal shift at Playdom as Robbins changes roles from senior Flash developer to development lead.

PopCap

  • Christina Carter — Carter joins the PopCap team as their new localization and adaptation producer. Prior to this, she was a program manager for Microsoft.
  • Meriem Djazouli — Now a PR manager for PopCap, Djazouli was previously an account executive for Hopscotch Europe In One.

Zynga

  • Chris Cleary — Cleary joins Zynga as QA security. Prior to this he was a MMORPG QA software analyst at Sparkplay Media.
  • Vince Livings — Zynga makes a small internal change with Livings who changes roles from concept and 2D artist for FrontierVille to artist.
  • Janet Harvey — A former game designer for Sony Online Entertainment, Harvey joins Zynga as a senior writer.
  • Matthew Lucero — Previously a tech stop administrator (Astreya contractor) for Google, Lucero is now a site reliability engineer for Zynga.
  • Jon Lui — Now a senior accountant at Zynga, Lui was previously a supervising senior accountant for Ernst & Young.
  • Mike Colonnese — Colonnese is now a senior artist for Zynga. Prior to this, he was an art director at Electronic Arts.
  • Gabe Leung — Formerly engineering staffing at Google, Leung is now a university relations recruiter for Zynga.
  • Kris Moreno — Moreno joins the Zynga team as a senior user researcher. Before this, she was a user research engineer at Microsoft.
  • Sanjana Shetty — Zynga gains a new communication specialist with Shetty. Her prior experience comes from 20:20 MEDIA, where she was a senior account executive.
  • Jose Sierra — Joining Zynga as a customer support agent is Sierra, a former workflow specialist CSR at France Telecom / GOA.
  • Adrian Walker — Previously a producer for Seamless Entertainment Inc, Walker now fills the same role at Zynga.
  • Joseph Kim — Kim joins Zynga as a producer. Prior to this, he was a service producer for StudioEX USA.
  • Rick Robertson — A former senior technical recruiter (contract) for MySpace, Robertson now becomes a technical recruiter for Zynga.
  • Venu Anuganti — Now a data architect for Zynga, Anuganti previously filled the same role for Marin Software.
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