Facebook news and research experts, Inside Network, in their monthly Inside Social Games report shows that market leader Zynga is starting to face competition from new player Digital Chocolate. The researcher has revealed that while Facebook gaming is still dominated by Zynga, holding the top six slots, Digital Chocolate has expanded its game, ‘Millionaire City’, by 8 lakh users this month. Digital Chocolate was founded by Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins in 2003, and has now overtaken rivals Playfish and PopCap.
While Zynga remains on top, across its titles it has seen a loss of over one million users, with only FrontierVille experiencing growth of 88,000 users. Inside Social Games suggests the sophistication of new Facebook games is contributing to the presence of new titles in the chart, as older titles experience “the natural decline of age”.
However, Zynga India Country Manager Shan Kadavil feels that there is no reason for the company to worry as yet. He maintained, “Zynga games continue to be popular with people across multiple platforms with 320 million people having played Zynga games to date. If you look at the top games on Facebook this month, seven out of 10 are Zynga titles. At any point in the day, four of your friends will be playing a Zynga game.”
At the same time, the draw of new games is one that is clear to Zynga as well. As people (who did not traditionally play video games) have gotten used to the way a game like FarmVille or Mafia Wars is played, they now seek out more interactions, and a greater sense of involvement in the games that they are investing time, and often, money in.
While advertising in social media games is an upcoming trend and could help build a lot of attachment to brands and reach out to people in a way that integrates into the overall experience, this is still a reasonably new phenomenon, and Zynga’s main revenues still come from people who use real world money to buy in game money to buy virtual goods. You can do the same things without spending money, but it takes time and effort, while paying costs very little. However, all these micro transactions add up to a very large amount of money.
For Zynga, therefore, it is important to keep people playing their games, and improve their numbers. To do that, they are working on new games with improved features in a bid to keep people from switching to their competitors. Kadavil said, “Adding to our already popular list of games, Zynga recently launched CityVille, which is our most social game to date, with new features that allow players to build a city, interact with friends’ cities and build franchises with the help of their friends. With these new additions, Zynga will continue to connect the world through games.”
Whether Zynga remains number one in the field, or is replaced by another idea whose time has come, will be seen over the course of several months, as the lead its games hold over the competition is still very strong. However, the message is clear for Zynga and everyone else watching – if you stop innovating, you lose users. The Internet audience is fickle, and you need to keep doing new things to keep them interested.