I’ve written here a few times about the business model for social games and why I think this is a very good area to be working in. I continue to believe this is a large market in its early stages, with more people spending more on virtual goods in the past year, and with at least one recent study predicting incredible revenue growth over the next few years. We’ve all seen the meteoric rise in this sector in the past couple of years, both at the top end in Zynga, Playdom, and Playfish (now EA), and in the medium-size and long-tail developers.
But recently, some of the shine seems to have come off this area. This is most clearly seen in the dropping MAU and DAU in the top social games — Farmville for example has dropped from a high of about 83M MAU in March to 66M today. 66M is still a number that no one else can touch, but it’s also a huge drop in a game that had been rising steadily.
And it’s not just Farmville. If you look at the graphs for the top games that have been around for a while, rising continually (e.g., Texas HoldEm, Cafe World, Pet Society), each shows a peak and a subsequent fall-off. Notably, this isn’t just due to the age of the game: some more recent games like Treasure Isle and Hotel City show the same dangerous curve at around the same time, even though they haven’t been around as long. Some like Nightclub City show a rising MAU curve — but a daily users curve that has peaked, indicating that the trailing MAU indicator will show this soon too. Still others, despite strong PR-backed launches in what seemed like good areas, have fared much worse from the start (indicating among other things how critical repeat play is to the success of these games).
So other than the fact that simply putting out a social game isn’t a license to print money, what does this mean? (more…)