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Analyst: Zynga's  Castleville  Success Offset By Other Declining Titles
Analyst: Zynga's Castleville Success Offset By Other Declining Titles
November 29, 2011 | By Mike Rose

A new report from analyst firm Cowen and Company suggests that, while social games giant Zynga has seen great success from its latest release Castleville, the decline in users for its other titles has offset much of the potential growth.

Castleville launched earlier this month, and two weeks after its release had already reached 17.4 million users, making it the sixth biggest game on Facebook, in terms of audience size.

Cowen's Doug Creutz notes that the title has achieved success, and is currently now tied for second place with Farmville with 6.9 million DAUs a piece.

However, the report explains that despite the increase in users, "November has to be a disappointment" for the company due to a decline in users for its other titles.

Zynga's other nine major Facebook titles saw a collective decline of 1 million DAUs in the two weeks before Castleville's launch. In the two weeks that followed, they saw further DAU decline of 2.8 million.

Creutz suggests that current Zynga gamers are simply moving from old Zynga games to new ones, rather than the game picking up brand new players or these current users playing multiple Zynga games at once. He also notes that while DAU growth for Castleville was 6 million in its first week, the increase during week two was only 900,000 in comparison.

The report adds to growing concerns over Zynga's future. Other recent reports suggest that Zynga employees are treated badly, while elsewhere it is noted that one of Zynga's latest games, Mafia Wars 2, has fallen relatively flat with players, dropping from a high of 2.5 million monthly users after its October launch to a current mark of 900,000.

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Larissa McCutcheon
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Of all the games Zynga makes, Cityville is the only one I might seriously say I play. I only play Cityville because Zynga is woefully behind the curve on actual game theory and design skills and the game is absurdly easy to break. There are some pretty ground level loopholes they forgot to close with Cityville. I found a sweet little trick that took my city population from 15k to 140k in about 2 weeks (it had taken me several months to get to 15k). Sadly, that's the only one they fixed.

I've dabbled in a few of the others and I've noticed the few friends I have in those games dropping like flies. Zynga's losing people because their changes since mid-October are more or less blatant cash grabs, which is terrifying when you consider how much of the Zynga games are cash grabs to begin with. There's a punitive sort of desperation to their game design now and it's driving off consumers. You can fool yourself into thinking it's a game, but it's not. There's almost zero content in most of the games, and they are so hobbled by the RMT mechanic that most of them become almost unplayable.

An example: Their winter quest. Collect 14 snowballs. You get them by clicking on houses. I got three in 114 clicks. You have 48 hours to do the quest (if I remember). With people on the forums reporting 0 snowballs in 50, 70 or 90 houses, it would be physically impossible to complete the quest even if you logged every 3 hours and used every single point of energy the game gives you. Oh, but for $5 you can skip that part.

Halloween, you need to unlock a zone on the map that is approximately 9 or ten zones away from the free spaces you are given. At higher levels, you need 40 zoning permits per unlock, meaning you'd need hundreds to complete step three of a 20 or thirty step halloween game. I'm looking at the few friends I have playing and balancing the possibly 100 permits I'll get from them before the end of the event with the several hundred I'd need. Oh look, special cash sale on permits. Yeah, I just used an exploit to make my way to the unlock.

Also Halloween, you need 9000 population to finish the content. You can grow population 200 - 1000 at a time (with the 1000 point unlocks coming partway through the event and unavailable for the first third) and each building requires you to spam the hell out of your friends list. Or, for $10 you can buy a building to give you most of that population right now. Probably a third of my friends who played CV quit over that. I used my handy exploit.

Zynga's losing people because people who play the game like to pretend it's a game and not a pyramid scheme and they are making it too hard to see the game. Mafia Wars 2 was unplayable without 10 friends. By about level 5, I could no longer progress the game because every one of about 15 quests required friends to complete. There was nothing left for me to do in game except recruit friends and none of my friends played the game. Castleville is heading that way. I'm looking at low level quests taking me upwards of a week of clicking one button a day to move forward, dead in the water until then. That's not a game, and it's not sustainable.

Megan Swaine
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Looks like they've hit the saturation point?

I mean, how many Facebook games can the average person play continuously at any given time? And with EA and Ubisoft now offering some competition...I think they've started to run out of steam. Which is a pity, really, with that whole IPO thing coming around.

I kind of liked Adventure World though.

Andrew Grapsas
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That's DAU, not MAU for Mafia Wars 2:

Jack Everitt
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I think it's a combination of: 1) Too much index-finger strain, 2) Difficulty in getting office mates and friends to play yet another one of "these", 3) Novelty of these games has been replaced by the work (rather than fun) required to level, and 4) This fad has peaked. It's been heavily milked. Time for the next new thing.