Thursday, July 14, 2011

Zynga’s latest game title affirms Facebook dominance

EL SEGUNDO, USA: Zynga’s latest title released for Facebook, “Empires & Allies,” has accrued more than 40 million monthly active users (MAUs) during its first month on the market according to the IHS Screen Digest Video Game Market Intelligence Service at information and analysis provider IHS.

Currently the second most popular app on Facebook, “Empires & Allies” is outperformed by Zynga’s “CityVille,” which has 87 million MAUs, but has recently surpassed another Zynga title, “FarmVille,” which has 40 million MAUs.

“The strong performance of ‘Empires & Allies’ is hardly surprising, given that Zynga’s pre-existing network of titles was already hosting more than 250 million monthly users,” said Steve Bailey, analyst for games at IHS.

“With this in mind, luring one-third of the player base of ‘CityVille’ to sample ‘Empires & Allies’ would be sufficient to provide 30 million monthly active users. In terms of debut-month figures, anything less than approximately 40 million MAUs would be below expectations, given Zynga’s capacities for leveraging advertising and cross-Zynga network promotion on Facebook.”

IHS does not expect “Empires” to match the success of “CityVille,” which peaked at 100 million MAUs during its second month on the market. “CityVille” was a stalwart genre play, iterating one of the most successful emerging categories of games on Facebook in 2010. “Empires & Allies,” in contrast, is somewhat of a departure, blending slightly more aggressive strategy elements around a resource-management basis.

This can be seen as a bulwark against a growing number of games that are attempting to capture a slightly more hardcore base of players—much like Kabam’s “Dragons of Atlantis” or Digital Chocolate’s “Army Attack”—which are seeing increased engagement and retention from slimmer but more dedicated user bases. Still, Zynga is no slouch in this regard, especially in the case of “FarmVille” given its age, with the company having successfully managed to retain the interests of a large audience to an above-average extent.

To be sure, Zynga’s release schedule is slowing, and “Empires” is the first Zynga game in more than six months, a far cry from its behavior in late 2009, a period of golden growth that propelled the company to the forefront of Facebook gaming. The role of “Empires” isn’t just to gain traction in an upcoming genre and find a new audience but also to combat churn: four of Zynga’s Top 10 titles have seen significant loss of foothold in the past quarter, and will need to be replaced or refreshed within an increasingly competitive environment.

Even with “Empires” performing strongly at launch, Zynga is currently 30 million MAUs short of the 300 million record high achieved by its portfolio at the beginning of the year.

Zynga’s performance during the past quarter, alongside those of other major gaming operators on Facebook, will be the focus of the next edition of the IHS Screen Digest Social Network Gaming Market Monitor, due in July.

Source: IHS iSuppli, USA.

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