The social gaming industry, servile to Facebook’s dominion, is comprised of both big and small players trying to stay afloat amidst the viral stagnation caused by removal of Facebook notifications. With K factors drifting under 0.5, the fantasy of going viral has taken a vacuous shift towards extraneous engagement models slowly harmonizing an appicide. Even Zynga is not immune – experiencing a drop in its user base for a second straight week, which is also partially due to a spanking from Facebook over a tarnishing relationship. Facebook’s love affair with app-minions may be over, and industry insiders are attempting to predict what will result of it. Read more after the jump.
Notifications were paramount in user retention and the holy grail of ‘viral’. But Facebook had to focus on its user experience as many users complained of the spam. Games such as Bejeweled Blitz and Scrabble relied on notifications to inform users when their friends had gotten a higher score then them or when it was their turn to move. MindJolt Games has suffered a tremendous loss of more than 7.9 million users, indicating the resounding needs of portals to leverage spontaneity that seems to be drowning by the day. Although Facebook users may now be looking to settle down from their Magellan-like spirit clicking away, a sense of silence seems to loom the Facebook waters.
Zynga’s eminent Farmville also experienced a loss of 4.4 million users, leaving it with only 83 million users. Its other games also suffered a loss. Keyword: only. The vanquishing of notifications and the cavalier brevity of Facebook credits have aggrandized Zynga’s vexation and the titan may soon make the leap to its destination site known as Zynga Live. The chart below compiled by Lou Kerner of SecondShares.com, shows consecutive decline in the number of unique users on Zynga games over the prior 30 days.
“The spammy viral spread was also a free marketing department,” said the CEO of Digital Chocolate in his blog post, emphasizing, “With no more free ride, growth can only come from an efficient combination of legitimate virality and efficient marketing to help spread the good word. Again, as we look forward, many game companies on Facebook lack the financial resources to do enough advertising and lack the scale to cross-promote well. And even more of them have games that don’t monetize enough to justify the advertising in the first place. Maybe it didn’t matter last year when growth was free, but now it does.”
Many discussions at events such as Social Gaming Summit ponder Life Outside of Facebook, and the majority don’t seem to be ready to venture from the Pridelands into the Elephant Graveyard. Facebook’s tenacity is analogous to a kid becoming cooler and not wanting to hang out with his old friends. Does Facebook know what its doing? We would assume so – there’s a lot of talent Facebook possesses. Despite insight into our brains, Facebook can still risk stifling innovation if it doesn’t at some point support the indies out there. As Facebook’s love affair shifts to big brands and IP companies with brand equity, it cannot forget that big media takes most ideas from the smaller guys and the need for an innovative, capitalistic spirit is essential to bring new experiences or risk boring users.
It’s too early to say how or when Facebook will revamp its mission to curtail virality or what Zynga’s move will be, but one thing is for sure: Facebook wants to work with brands and it wants to make a lot of money. Think about it. Would Facebook risk its relationship with a company like Zynga unless it had commitments from other big players set in place? As for other developers, the best advice would be to best utilize the allotted communication channels and realize that positioning and brand equity will become increasingly important.