Zynga’s annual shareholder meeting focuses on real-money gaming

Zynga script logoZynga today held its annual stockholders meeting in San Francisco, which heavily focused on the game company’s real-money gaming efforts, an anonymous shareholder told PandoDaily.

Zynga’s shareholder meeting comes one day after the company just laid off 18 percent of its staff (520 employees) and shut down three of its offices — Los Angeles, Dallas, and New York — including Omgpop‘s office. (more…)

CoasterVille dethrones FarmVille 2 as top Facebook game by MAU, falls off with DAU

infeatureZynga’s FarmVille 2 has been dominating the charts since it launched in October, but it looks like February 2013 is going to be the month known for the game losing its top spot among Facebook apps, both by daily and monthly active users.

During this time frame, FarmVille 2 managed to be the No. 1 spot by DAU (until this month, when it was surpassed by Candy Crush Saga) and was still holding the No. 1 spot by MAU at the time of Zynga’s earnings report last week. Looking at our traffic-tracking service AppData reveals this is no longer the case, as CoasterVille is now the No. 1 app by MAU on Facebook. While we can no longer get an exact user number under Facebook’s revised ranking system, both CoasterVille and FarmVille 2 still have far more than 10 million MAU.

Interestingly, the game’s performance by DAU doesn’t mirror the MAU increase. While CoasterVille still sits in the 1 million DAU tier, it’s apparently dropped 11 spots over the past week. As a result, it now ranks lower than longstanding apps like Social Point’s Dragon City, Wooga’s Diamond Dash and King.com’s Bubble Witch Saga. FarmVille 2, meanwhile, is continuing to perform strongly in terms of DAU, but it has yet to retake the No. 1 spot from King.com’s Candy Crush Saga.

coastervillechart

King.com’s cross-platform mobile launches lead to company’s best traffic ever, more “Saga” games going mobile

King.com today revealed its recent cross-platform mobile launches have dramatically increased its already impressive traffic gains. Over the past few months, the company’s number of daily active users has nearly doubled.

The news should come as no surprise to anyone who’s followed our recent traffic reports. The developer had four titles sitting on our list of the top 25 Facebook games of January by daily active users (the best gauge of a title’s core audience on the social network). At the time, Candy Crush Saga was tied for the No. 1 position alongside FarmVille 2, both of which had 8.1 million DAU. Candy Crush Saga’s trafic has only continued to increase since then; before AppData’s traffic-tracking switched over to meet Facebook’s revised, broader, reporting that went into effect today, the game had 9.7 million DAU. By comparison, FarmVille 2 has also grown, but only up to 8.8 million DAU.

The recent traffic surge really seemed to take off when Candy Crush Saga received its wide iOS launch in November 2012 (though certain European countries got access to the mobile version a few weeks earlier) and hit Android soon after. Since the beginning of November, the game’s nearly doubled its audience size and isn’t showing any sign of slowing down. Since it arrived on iOS, the game’s also been listed the top five grossing iPhone and iPad apps.

Of course, Candy Crush Saga isn’t the only successful mobile title King.com launched in 2012: There was also Bubble Witch Saga, which launched on iOS in July and came to Android in November. As we’ve noted in the past, that game’s mobile version was released once the game had already started to lose traffic, but we also noted the user drop-off had largely leveled out following that launch. King.com’s Tommy Palm also told us at GDC Online about how Bubble Witch Saga players monetize three times better on iOS than they do on Facebook. King.com says that the number players across its network has climbed from 10 million DAU to over 19 million since Bubble Witch Saga launched on iOS.

Co-founder and CEO Riccardo Zacconi said in a statement that his company has plans to launch more “Saga” games on mobile devices over the next year.

While nothing official’s been announced yet, it stands to reason that the next of these games to come to mobile platforms will be either Pyramid Solitaire Saga or the recently-launched Pet Rescue Saga, since both of those games are also on the Top 25 list. Pet Rescue Saga is the most likely candidate, simply because its traffic is continuing to grow — before Facebook’s reporting switch, it was at 3.2 million DAU.  Pyramid Solitaire Saga, meanwhile, has been holding steady around 1.5 million DAU since August, climbing as high as 1.7 million in November.

FarmVille 2 growth encouraging, but it’s not out of the woods yet

Zynga touted FarmVille 2′s growth as one of the single most encouraging visions of growth on Facebook for the past quarter, but it’s not clear that the sequel has the staying power of previous Zynga blockbusters.

On the bright side, FarmVille 2 is growing like a weed with over 61 million monthly active users and 9.1 million daily active users gained in the past 30 days. It’s currently the largest app on Facebook by MAU and the third-largest by DAU after Instagram and Microsoft Live. On its Q3 earnings call today, Mark Pincus revealed that the game managed to convert 500,000 of its players into paying customers, and — for one glorious day — the game saw nearly $1 million in FarmVille 2 purchases (before subtracting Facebook’s 30 percent cut).

On the dark side, strong performance in the first 30 days can’t forecast longterm success. With a massive cross promotion network like Zynga’s, it’s easy to direct a flood of players to a new game — and many of them might actually stick around for an entire month. But a bad game can’t hold onto its users, and if there’s no new game to go to after the 30-day grace period expires, most players will leave a game permanently and without ever spending a cent. Even with all the changes to the Facebook platform in the last two years, most developers will still tell you that the numbers that really matter to them are the retention rates posted after the first 30 days are done — because those are usually where the loyal users with the highest lifetime value show up.

Recall 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 to shout it from the rooftops in press releases. Despite its popularity, that game’s growth phases lasted just over a month before winding back down the charts to its current position at No. 13 on our top Facebook games by DAU. This was the same pattern we saw with Facebook flop Mafia Wars 2, which isn’t even on our charts anymore as the game appears to be one of Zynga’s 13 sunsetted games. And again, we see it with The Ville — which met our predictions by shooting up the charts for just 30 days before dropping like a rock because the game wasn’t retaining users.

Zynga at least is aware that it’s dangerous to put all their eggs in a month-old game’s basket. On the call, CEO Mark Pincus and CFO Dave Wehner even stated that Zynga hadn’t kept up the pace in releasing new games to shore up the crucial drop-off after their games’ 30-day growth period. They also stated an intent to focus resources on games with more engagement potential, like the midcore title coming from A Bit Lucky sometime in 2013.

“I think we had a major breakthrough with FarmVille 2,” Pincus said at one point in the Q&A. But later, when an investor brought up the almost-$1 million day, he cautioned, “While that was an exciting milestone for the game to hit so early after launch, that’s not the average daily number that we’re seeing. It’s just showing that we’re growing that game to great numbers pretty early in its lifecycle.”

Here’s hoping the cycle lasts a lot longer than 30 days.

Parallel Kingdoms generating up to $0.50 a day per DAU, mostly on Android

Mobile developer PerBlue’s flagship location-based social game Parallel Kingdom is generating over $200,000 a month on mobile devices, even though it isn’t in the top 100 grossing games categories on either iOS or Android.

This figure comes to us from CEO Justin Beck’s GDC Online talk “Bootstrapping 101: How College Kids Built a Thriving Game Company in Under Three Years,” where he was detailed his company’s history since it was founded three years ago. The developer now grosses over $3 million a year. A good portion of this talk dealt with how the company’s early founders decided to stay in Madison, WI, due to the low cost of living and the pool of recruitable talent that comes out of the University of Wisconsin. Beck also explained how the company decided to raise its initial funding to launch Parallel Kingdom from family and friends, raising $72,000 in exchange for a small percentage of the company.  (more…)

Zynga doesn’t need to be “saved”

Zynga had a rough day today, reporting a fair earnings but enduring tough questions from investors and brutal after hours trading. Between Facebook’s shifting platform and adjusted expectations for its game roster, many critics are looking at the company as something to be both scorned and wary of.

But is the company actually that bad off?

It was mentioned during the earnings call that Zynga released six games this quarter and is currently working on a real money gambling title, due out sometime during the first half of 2013. Not much is known about this project right now, but it was stated that the game will target international audiences first. This isn’t surprising since no one is exactly sure when online gambling will be legalized in the United States (though the common consensus is sometime before 2014) and the issue will likely be complicated by each state enacting its own laws around the issue.  Meanwhile, our story about Zynga looking to snap up midcore developers was all but confirmed when it was stated the company was planning to bring in more male players.

Some people think these moves will “save” the company, but it doesn’t actually need saving.

Zynga revealed it made $332 million in revenue and $302 million in bookings for the quarter. While that’s down by roughly 5 percent from Q1, when the company reported its highest ever bookings,  both Zynga’s bookings and revenue are up 10 percent year-over-year. Advertising, meanwhile, was up 45 percent from last quarter to $40.9 million, a 170 percent increase year-over-year. It was also revealed that the company has over $1 billion in cash on hand.

Traffic wise, the company is also doing well. Monthly active users are up 4 percent from Q1 and by 34 percent  year-on-year to 306 million. Daily active users, meanwhile are up 23 percent year on year and by 16 percent from last quarter to 72 million.

Taking all of this into consideration, Zynga’s being judged too harsly. Traffic continues to increase, revenue and bookings are still large (even from older games like FarmVille) and the future plans will  undoubtedly increase the developer’s audience.

Zynga’s doing fine, investors just don’t seem to realize this right now.

Arkadium study shows ‘social butterflies’ and core gamers spend more on social games

Social and mobile developer Arkadium has released a new study focused on monetization in social games that sheds some light on which types of users are more likely to spend money on Facebook games.

According to Arkadium’s findings, the two groups most likely to pay are those who play with six or more friends, defined by the company as “social butterflies” and “core gamers,” players who play unspecified “core” strategy and role-playing games outside of Facebook.

Approximately 63 percent of the survey’s participants were identified as Social Butterflies. Although 30 percent of social butterflies reported only spending money only once per game, 33 percent indicated they had spent more than $20 on a single in-game purchase. About 26 percent said they spend between $11 and $20 per month on Facebook games. Among social butterflies, 70 percent said they played a game for more than a week before spending money on it.

Arkadium also found that core gamers — those who play “core” strategy and role-playing titles outside of Facebook — were also likely to spend money on Facebook games. We reached out to Arkadium for specific titles they considered for this demographic, but have yet to hear back. About 62 percent of strategy players said they were likely to spend money on Facebook games, as did 61 percent of RPG players. However, 39 percent of strategy fans and 32 percent of  RPG fans were only willing to spend $10 or less a month on Facebook games. The majority of these users spent their money to unlock story or narrative content in games, gain a competitive edge over other players or acquire in-game decoration and customization.

This information about core gamers is in keeping with what we’ve heard from studios like Kixeye, which actively pursue the demographic. An example of this price point in action is the developer’s newly-revealed Club D.A.V.E. subscription for Backyard Monsters, which is going for $9.99 a month. Kixeye’s VP of Marketing John Getze tells us the subscription is designed to reward loyal Backyard Monsters players, but also provide incentive for new players to start paying into the game by providing bonus in-game content for their money.

The study was conducted with 1,576 users, split between a confirmed 986 females and 584 males. Readers can view the entire slideshow here.

Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds Friends gainer and loser among June’s Top 25 Facebook games

We’re two weeks into June, meaning it’s time to look at the middle games from our June Top 25 Facebook game list.

Even though the middle titles don’t change as dramatically as the games we looked at last week, these games still see a fair amount of change because their daily active users are often close. Although these games’ DAU numbers don’t usually shift by much, even small DAU changes can move the games up or down by a few spots.

Here’s what we’ve looked at so far this month:

  • June 7, 2012: No. 25 (開心水族箱) through No. 19 (Empires & Allies)

This week, we look at No. 18 through No. 13.

TIE-17. Slotomania- Slot Machines

Playtika’s Slotomania – Slot Machines seems to be recovering from the slight slump it hit at the beginning of the month, jumping to a new peak of 2.2 million DAU before settling at 2.1 million. Since it launched in 2010, the game’s traffic has improved steadily and it’s currently enjoying its best numbers to date. If Slotomania’s traffic is able to maintain these high numbers, it may move up a spot or two, but it’s tough to say for sure because games appearing on this part of the list are still fairly close in terms of DAU.

TIE-17. Pool Live Tour

Geewa’s Pool Live Tour is continuing its steady climb, returning to its peak of 2.1 million DAU after starting the month out at 2 million. Pool Live Tour is another game that picked up after a long period of steady growth, but it can’t seem to pass the 2.1 million line it’s been hitting since April. Based on how often the game’s been returning to 2.1 million over the past few weeks, it looks like Pool Live Tour might be able to set a new record this month. Even if it manages to reach a new high point, though, the game may not move up much in July (if at all) based on the traffic of the other titles on the list.

16. Monster World

Wooga’s Monster World has jumped up and down since the start of June, recently returning to its starting point of 2.1 million DAU. The game’s steadily gained traffic since it launched in 2010 and peaked in February with 2.3 million DAU and has returned to that point a few times since, but just hasn’t been able to crack that number. It doesn’t look like this will change in the next few weeks, since Monster World’s highest traffic point so far this month is 2.2 million DAU. If Monster World manages to climb up to 2.3 million DAU, it may move up next month’s list a little, but the game’s position may drop a little if it’s sitting around 2 million mark on July 1.

15. Angry Birds Friends

Rovio’s Angry Birds Friends is still losing traffic, down by 200,000 DAU since the start of the month. The game peaked in April with 3.4 million DAU but has been shedding players since then. Rovio recently brought the game out of beta with a new name and content, but the resulting traffic boost was only temporary. The game’s already down to 2.2 million DAU, which means it could very well drop to the 2 million mark before the end of the month. If that happens, Angry Birds Friends would probably drop a few spots on July’s Top 25 list.

14. المزرعة السعيدة

FunPlus Game’s المزرعة السعيدة (“Happy Farm” ) dropped to 2.5 million DAU at the beginning of the month, where it’s been holding steady for over a week. The game looks like it’s beginning to level out after dropping off from its March peak of 3 million DAU, as the traffic drops are becoming more spread out. The Arabic-language farm sim launched in July 2011 and steadily gained traffic until it surged by 400,000 DAU in March and then began to gradually lose users. If the game’s traffic stays at the 2.5 million, it’s unlikely the game’s position will change in July.

13. Candy Crush Saga

King.com’s Candy Crush Saga continues to gain by leaps and bounds, increasing from 2.7 million DAU to 3.4 million. King.com recently told us it’s the fastest-growing “Saga” title in the developer’s game catalog. Based on this growth rate, it’s possible the game could wind up hitting 4 million DAU in time for next month’s Top 25 list, which would easily move it into the top 10 games on the chart, and possibly close to the No. 5 spot.

All data in this post comes from our traffic tracking service, AppDataStay tuned for next week’s continuation of our Top 25 gainers and losers, when we look at No. 12 through No. 7 on the list.

Zynga Slingo and Hidden Chronicles this week’s gainer and loser among May’s Top 25 games

We’ve reached the last half of May, which means it’s time to examine the top half of May’s Top 25 games list.

The titles have significantly larger numbers of daily active users than games listed on the bottom half, so even though gains and losses can be much more dramatic, positioning isn’t as likely to change.

Editor’s Note: Due to a delay, traffic data hasn’t been refreshed for today; traffic numbers are current for May 23.

Here’s what we’ve looked at so far:

  • May 10, 2012: No. 25 (Candy Crush Saga) through No. 19 (Empires & Allies)
  • May 17, 2012: No. 18 (Bubble Island) through No. 13 (The Sims Social)

11. Bejeweled Blitz

EA PopCap’s Bejeweled Blitz is down to 3 million DAU after starting the month at a new peak of 3.4 million. As of January, the game usually hovered somewhere above the 3 million DAU mark; the recent peak came from a sudden traffic spike. The past six months show Bejeweled Blitz’s traffic regularly pulses, with small gains and losses, but overall traffic maintained a slow, steady increase. The game’s traffic may very well bounce up again within the next week and maintain the No. 12 spot. If it stays at 3 million DAU, though, Bejeweled Blitz might actually drop a spot, provided another game below it manages to keep on bringing in new users.

10. Zynga Slingo

Zynga Slingo shows strong gains since the start of the month, up by 500,000 DAU to 4.1 million. That said, this isn’t a noticeable increase for the game, which has been treading water at the 4 million DAU mark as of as of late March. The game’s daily active users haven’t grown significantly since that time, and  monthly active users are down to 16 million from an April high of 20 million. It seems unlikely that Zynga Slingo will gain much more traffic, but it may very well move up to the No. 10 spot anyway, since it currently has more DAU than Tetris Battle.

9. Tetris Battle

Tetris Online’s Tetris Battle is down from 3.8 million at the start of May to 3.5 million. This is another game that’s plateaued for several months and is starting to drop. Tetris Battle originally reached 3.5 million DAU in February, but any gains since have been small, gradual ones. Although the game tends to receive a traffic spike every few days, Tetris Battle probably won’t recoup enough DAU to bring it within striking distance of Zynga Slingo, so we expect it to drop out of the top 10 games for June.

8. Diamond Dash

Wooga’s Diamond Dash hasn’t been able to pass its early March peak of 4.7 million DAU, with  traffic now down to 4.1 million. The game started off strong for the month by shooting from 4.3 million DAU to 4.6 million. It lost most of that traffic in the last three weeks, however, falling as far down as 4 million. We did see Diamond Dash’s traffic drop to this point in early April, too, before beginning to climb back up, so it’s possible DAU might bounce back. Still, Diamond Dash’s placement on next month’s list doesn’t seem too likely to change unless it drops below 4.1 million DAU or it somehow gains more than 400,000 DAU in the next week.

7. FarmVille

Zynga’s FarmVille continues to gradually lose players, down from 4.6 million DAU to 4.5 million. This is a smaller drop than when it dropped from 5.2 million DAU to 4.9 million when we looked at the game in April. These numbers are a far cry from the game’s February 2010 peak of 32 million DAU, but Facebook’s game platform has dramatically changed since then and achieving numbers like that are next to impossible. Provided Zynga Slingo and Diamond Dash don’t see dramatic increases to their traffic, it seems unlikely that FarmVille will drop down on next month’s list. In fact, it may move up a spot if Hidden Chronicles continues its decline.

6. Hidden Chronicles

Zynga’s Hidden Chronicles is still bleeding users, down from 5.1 million DAU to 4.6 million. The decline began in March after it peaked at 7.4 million DAU. Based on this traffic pattern, Hidden Chronicles’s traffic may be lower than FarmVille’s next month, meaning it fall a spot to No. 8 on the June Top 25 list.
All data in this post comes from our traffic tracking service, AppDataStay tuned for next week’s continuation of our Top 25 gainers and losers, when we look at No. 12 through No. 7 on the list.

Zynga’s stock recovers as Facebook IPO looms

After starting off the week at an all-time low, Zynga’s stock is beginning to rise again while Facebook’s initial public offering approaches.

The stock closed today at $8.22 a share, down from its opening at $8.75 but still notably higher than where its price was at the beginning of the week. Since Monday, Zynga’s shares have opened above their closing point from the previous day. The stock could be improving as Facebook’s Friday IPO draws near. The social network will likely be valued at over $100 billion with a stock price between $34 and $38 a share.

Facebook recently revealed in an S-1 amendment that Zynga was responsible for 15 percent of its 2011 income. When Facebook’s February S-1 showed 12 percent of its income came from Zynga, the developer’s stock rocketed up to over $14 a share before starting to fall back to previous levels. If the social network’s IPO is as big a success as many believe it will be, Zynga’s stock will likely see an even more dramatic share price increase.

Zynga’s stock still hasn’t taken off like many investors hoped it would when it began trading in December; shares didn’t return to their original price until late January. The stock managed to stay above $10 for February and March, but began a significant slide in mid-April, especially after the company’s Q1 earnings call on April 26. Although the company reported record bookings, it also reported a net loss of $85.4 million and shares dropped from $9.50 to $8.52 the next day. Shares continued to drop over the past two weeks, hitting an all-time low of $7.45 last Friday.

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