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How Zynga's CityVille Drew 70 Million Players In Less Than a Month 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the none-of-us-are-as-dumb-as-all-of-us dept.
An article at Gamasutra takes an in-depth look at how Zynga's new browser-based social game CityVille managed to accumulate tens of millions of players in the relatively short time since its launch early this month. Quoting: "The Facebook interface induces a high degree of user blindness. It does not do a great job of exposing new games and applications, and lacks a directory or a 'Featured in the App Store' style of editorial (as Apple does for the iPhone), which means that for most developers there are huge problems in getting their games in front of users' eyeballs. With all of the free advertising channels on the platform now constrained or dead, this has meant that the Facebook economy has been acquiring an increasingly Darwinian shape. Where it used to be an egalitarian environment in which any developer could strike it big, over the last year it has become top-heavy with larger developers accruing exponential success, and cutting off oxygen to smaller companies by default."
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How Zynga's CityVille Drew 70 Million Players In Less Than a Month

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  • Yeas, and every other Zynga game is designed to reward you with cross-promotes to come play the new one. A better stat will be how many remain active players (although it will still be pretty high).
    • by leuk_he (194174)

      Yes, the game is designed that you need a number of contacts (facebook favorites) to reach a higher level. The game is designed to increase the number of players.

      But you have to keep in mind that creating "clone" accounts is not forbidden, it is even encouraged this way. So the 70 million figure is heavily inflated (i guess) by clone accounts. My better half is playing this games, as are my dog, fish, rabbit, bird, and.. well you get the picture. But even with a high number of clone accounts 70 millions is

      • by fedos (150319)
        By cross promotion, Sparrow1492 does not mean inviting your friends. What he's talking about is getting people who play one of their games to also go play other games. For example, if you play MafiaWars, you will occasionally find axes that you can use in FrontierVille. Or if you play FrontierVille there will be buildings that require parts that you find by playing the other games.
        • by andi75 (84413)

          Why hasn't Blizzard thought of this? Having a Protoss Carrier drop a "Bpne Fragment of the Queen of Blades" (item level 359 dagger) will instantly generate 5 million more SC2 sales...

          • They did, with the trading card game, though it does not add actual game-changing items. Blizzard is trying hard to have each be a legitimate e-sport, and doing that may make it look less serious.
          • by Machtyn (759119)
            Actually, they did. Owners of WoW who bought Starcraft could get a little zergling and/or protoss companion pet. Apparently, when two players meet and one has their zergs and the other their protoss, they'll attack each other in a zerg rush.

            /disclaimer... I may be wrong about the protoss thing. but I did see a picture of the thing happening (I'm not a starcraft player)
        • Re:Cross Promoting (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Machtyn (759119) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:12AM (#34698500) Homepage Journal
          Or another example. My wife plays FrontierVille and FarmVille. In order to complete a barn or basket or something, she had to collect 6 different objects. The final object was only obtainable by starting a CityVille account.

          Surprisingly, she said, "enough, I can only handle two time waster games," and didn't sign up.
          • Yeah, same here. My wife was prompted for that in Frontierville as well as other games like Treasure Island. It just adds to the advertisement, when the game you are currently enjoying prompts you for a quest that requires you to try something else out. And well, once they try out CityVille, I'm sure some may enjoy it.
      • Re:Cross Promoting (Score:5, Insightful)

        by realityimpaired (1668397) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:47AM (#34697322)

        Thus proving why I think Facebook should give you the option to block a publisher, rather than specific apps. I would *love* to be able to block everything by Zynga. Wouldn't think twice about it, either.

        • by Desler (1608317)

          Wouldn't think twice about it, either.

          You wouldn't even think twice? zOMG, you're pretty hardcore, bro!

      • by Dishevel (1105119)
        So you are here to confess to all at /. that you are in fact a pathetic loser?

        Why would you do this?

    • by tverbeek (457094)

      It helps to have a really large population of lemmings which can be attracted by shiny new objects.

      • by uncanny (954868)
        Omg can I play this on my iPad?
        • by julesh (229690)

          Omg can I play this on my iPad?

          No, it's a Flash game, so being able to play it would decrease the quality of your iOS user experience.

    • by Seumas (6865)

      I don't see where the mystery is, here. If you like *this* stupid shit, you're probably dumb enough to like this *other* stupid shit.

      • I don't see where the mystery is, here. If you like *this* stupid shit, you're probably dumb enough to like this *other* stupid shit.

        Precisely the strategy used by Hollywood, TV producers, dead tree publishers, computers games publishers, etc... etc... for decades. Why? Because it *works*.

    • by cil1mia (1165281)
      My wife is a MafiaWars junkie/addict! They got so many new users because if you were playing MafiaWars, you had to go to CityVille to complete a MafiaWars level. Rat bastards!
  • I must be especially stupid today as I got almost no information about the title topic from that quote.

    Is there a new trend about forcing the reader to RTFA that I should know about?

    • Re:Quote (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Adambomb (118938) * on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @07:55AM (#34697062) Journal

      Heavens, no. You're supposed to leap to some conclusions which you then proceed to approach as fact. Toss out some speculation based on this while forcing yourself to use unnecessarily obtuse vocabulary and include links to wikipedia concerning certain phrases and concepts you're proud of. Others will then do the same, with a variety of other points of view and argue rabidly. Still more will complain that this is the case.

      Thus do we generate page views and 'user generated content'. The article does not even need to really exist, as all this will still occur as well as others pointing out the lack of article!

      That is the law!

      • Re:Quote (Score:5, Funny)

        by Barny (103770) <bakadamage-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:01AM (#34697088) Homepage Journal

        Yeah, these games have absolutely no affect on the sex life of gerbils at all, what were they thinking? I would suggest the people who count up these numbers are nothing more than narcoleptic parrots, repeating things over and over without any sense or continuity.

        It all comes back to the legalisation of marijuana, your either part of the solution, or stupid! See here [wikipedia.org] for details.

        • by Adambomb (118938) *

          Thank you and goodnight!

          • by Barny (103770)

            Don't make me do it man, your making me angsty, you would like me when I am angsty... ... nobody likes me when I am angsty...

            -The Incredible Sulk

            Oh, and you had better reply with a similar post or I will have to invoke Godwin's Wrath upon your nazi arse! wait, crap.

      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        Heavens, no.

        They clearly made a secret deal with Facebook to promote their game while keeping the "good will" for being small.

        Deals like this one are creating a virtual monopoly [wikipedia.org] that cripple the smaller, more honest, dev teams that really maintain a fresh gaming environment.

        • Heavens, no.

          They clearly made a secret deal with Facebook to promote their game while keeping the "good will" for being small.

          Deals like this one are creating a virtual monopoly [wikipedia.org] that cripple the smaller, more honest, dev teams that really maintain a fresh gaming environment.

          You make a compelling argument. It's not fair, let's do something now - just let me investigate this Facebook thing first...[opens new tab, types in URL]

          Aw crap.

      • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

        You're supposed to leap to some conclusions which you then proceed to approach as fact.

        Or, you can go the other direction and be a sanctimonious jerk.

  • so, it took the route which all unregulated economic (and even political) social environments take ? surprise, surprise ....
  • by migla (1099771) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:03AM (#34697094)

    Q:How did CityVille draw millions?

    A: Like flies to shit?

  • by Lord Byron II (671689) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:24AM (#34697192)

    the Facebook economy has been acquiring an increasingly Darwinian shape

    Um, Darwinian evolution does not reward the most populous species, but the one that is best adapted to its environment. In Facebook terms, this would mean that the funnest game would be the best promoted. What's happening here is decidedly un-Darwin-like.

    • by malkavian (9512)

      If something isn't fitted to its environment, it won't prosper. In this case, the smaller devs may have excellent games, but their whole presence isn't fitted well to the environment (lack of visibility, lack of ability to exploit the user base etc.).
      Zynga are excellent at exploiting the environment, which is a great way to prosper. Prospering means greater population base. That really is part of Darwinian evolution (if you prosper, you're doing well at exploiting the environment).
      Note, they do mention i

      • And since nature relies on Darwin's principle, we see parasites thrive.

        My personal explanation why there is no God. At least no benevolent one. If there was, he'd have stepped in (like, say, a benevolent government wanting its subjects to compete on even grounds) and tossed those spongers.

        I'd really wish our society wasn't so Darwinian...

        • Oh, there's a God all right. The problem (if you want to see it that way) is that He gave us Free Will.

          Any problems with the system are our own fault.

          • So you're saying God is just playing a very advanced version of The Sims?

            Fuckin' lazy bum! He should get off his tush and do something. I mean, ok, he's created Earth, but since?

            That dude sure has a great PR department. Worked for a whole friggin' 6 days and gets worshiped for it forever.

    • the Facebook economy has been acquiring an increasingly Darwinian shape

      Um, Darwinian evolution does not reward the most populous species, but the one that is best adapted to its environment. In Facebook terms, this would mean that the funnest game would be the best promoted. What's happening here is decidedly un-Darwin-like.

      This one of those evolutionary plateaus... (I hope)

    • Um, Darwinian evolution does not reward the most populous species, but the one that is best adapted to its environment. In Facebook terms, this would mean that the funnest game would be the best promoted. What's happening here is decidedly un-Darwin-like.

      um, the most populous species is the best adapted to its environment. it had to be in order to become the most populous species in the first place...thats by the very definition of Darwinian evolution, survival of the fittest and all...

      now if there is another species, that appears to be more fit for the environment, but can't get a foothold because the old populous species is crowding it out, then that new species really isn't as well adapted as you thought, because that old populous species has become par

    • Darwinian evolution does not reward the most populous species, but the one that is best adapted to its environment. In Facebook terms, this would mean that the funnest game would be the best promoted.

      Well, on earth, how many more ticks and roundworms are there in this earth than eagles and antelope? Many have renounced creationism for darwinism because of guinea worms, smallpox and a host of other organisms that they cannot picture a loving god creating. It is disingenuous to claim evolution promotes the good, it simply promotes those who exploit their environment the best. Was the haast eagle not powerful and glorious? Is the Black Rhino not an awe inspiring beast? Yet the world is full of cockroaches,

    • by Machtyn (759119)
      No, this means that Zynga has adapted to its environment by promoting its games in a way that will continue to draw users, despite roadblocks being placed in its way. Darwinian evolution is the strongest survive, or as you stated, those that best adapt. I've rarely seen "fun", "most functional", "most features" be a metric of strongest survivability or best adapted. (See Beta vs VHS war, HDDVD vs Blu-ray, Visual Basic. Why VB has been allowed to survive for so long...)
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      What makes you think "funnest game" is an import factor in fitness let along the only factor?

    • by Fjandr (66656)

      Zynga has adapted to the Facebook environment incredibly well.

      Many people underestimate the competitive advantage that colonizers have, and after an ecosystem is developed they ask, "Why in the hell did X become dominant here? Y is so much more superior." Well, X got there first and adapted well enough that they could leverage their position as colonizer to remain dominant in the face of a superior, but later, competitor. It's common in biology, and it seems that many fail to recognize the impact of it simp

    • You're assuming a "fun" game is a "successful" game. Zynga's games aren't that much fun... they use some pretty nifty psychological tricks to get you hooked, kind of like WoW and EverQuest, only for a more casual audience. The design of the games is extremely clever, not from a game-design point of view, but from a B. F. Skinner point of view. They are designed to make you want to play not because they are fun, but despite the fact that they really aren't all that fun.

      Zynga figured out how to drill right

  • A game of personal user information marketing, advertisement networks, trackware and high financial stakes. Did I mention hookers and blow for high-level execs?
  • ....which is having its 'Oxygen Cut off', by Zinga.

    Remember 'Owned!' on facebook, the game where you traded your gallery pictures, but moved to MYB about a year ago?

    My game, 'Possessed', aims to fill the void left. However, I don't have the same viral marketing means that Owned! had at its disposal since Facebook have all but made 'player invite' requests useless, so have just a few 100 players. But, now this is posted on slashdot, I'm hopeing to have millions more in the next few hours!! (in my dreams

    • If 70 million slashdot users sign up in the next few hours, then I can post a new slashdot story "How Tony's Possessed game Drew 70 Million Players In Less Than a DAY"...

      • If 70 million slashdot users sign up in the next few hours, then I can post a new slashdot story "How Tony's Possessed game Drew 70 Million Players In Less Than a DAY"...

        Or just lie and say they did, then maybe they will.

        Not that *that* could 'ever' happen.

      • by Bigbutt (65939)

        Well since most of us are at work and certainly some percentage of works block things like Facebook (well mine does anyway), you'll have to live with 30 mil now and 30 mil after work :)

        [John]

    • by ShadoHawk (741112)
      From the rumblings on your review board... I don't think I would try. Aside from all the name calling it looks like it uses an economy of some sort with no real way of getting money into the economy.
  • Not only Zenga. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Lumpy (12016) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @08:41AM (#34697288) Homepage

    I am helping a friend make a "facebook game" and within 1 week in alpha status with ONE post to friends we already have 10,000 players. He is studying Zenga's money making setups and asking how we can replicate them. I suggested lower prices to entice the dollars out of the wallet faster.

    Honestly, if you can find some half-assed coders and a http server with mysql and php on it and have a game idea that is somewhat fun you can get a million players easily. I suck at PHP,HTML5, JS and it's working. IF he actually hired some skilled people and some skilled artists, he would be doing far better.

    The number of facebook games out there that are crap are amazing and they have players..

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PopeRatzo (965947) *

      I am helping a friend make a "facebook game" and within 1 week in alpha status with ONE post to friends we already have 10,000 players. He is studying Zenga's money making setups and asking how we can replicate them

      Why don't you do something of use to society instead, like deal drugs?

      • Utilizing existing infrastructure to generate wealth with no more investment than personal time is of benefit to society. Creation, even of trivial objects, is of more benefit than blind consumption.

        All of that is to say, making a shitty Facebook game is of more societal benefit than posting snarky comments on Slashdot. But just barely.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) *

          Utilizing existing infrastructure to generate wealth with no more investment than personal time is of benefit to society.

          By itself, no, it's not.

          • With the reasonable expectation that a certain percentage will be returned in taxes and increased spending that will then, in turn, be utilized in some part to maintain the existing infrastructure, it is.

            Dollars come from somewhere and go to somewhere, and a bit is lifted off the top every time it changes hands. That's what keeps the wheels turning.

      • by slapout (93640)

        There's a difference?

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        Maybe he likes the outside of a jail better.

    • Your game idea will be stolen and replicated "slightly" better by Zynga shortly and you will lose half your player base.
    • by Orleron (835910)
      I find that hard to believe. Maybe it's not impossible because your game may be really good, but I've personally been feeling the Zynga oxygen cutoff for my games. It's taking a helluva lot more than one post to friends. What's your game called?
  • by Is0m0rph (819726) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @10:29AM (#34698050)
    Cityville is like crack. I played it for a couple days and can see the appeal. It's a social Simcity. You can also send gifts and invites directly to your Farmville neighbors in Cityville so it quickly converted millions of FV players to CV players.
  • The name cityville means "city city". I wouldn't play the game on the stupid name alone.

  • i've spent days playing it starting on the commodore 64 where it was just a bunch of squares. farmville and others are just slightly altered versions of Sim City and Civilization. so many people play them because they are on facebook and don't need to spend $50 plus extra DLC money to play the game

    • Actually those games are nothing like Civilization and only superficially like Sim City. There is really no strategy at all, it's basically a matter of putting in the time to get the levels. If you work at it, there's no way you can "lose" because you can always continue with a little more time and effort (or take a shortcut with money).

  • Zynga spends literally tens of millions of dollars per year on advertising. If you look at their player curve, the number of players stayed at less than 200 for almost a month during pre-release, and then the day they turned on their advertising, it shot up to millions. In short, they bought players.
    I have two facebook games Rogue Agent [rogueagentonline.com] and World of Avlis [worldofavlis.com] and I have a bear of a time getting players for them:
    1) Because I don't have tens of millions to spend on ads
    2) Because I don't have the flashy fla
    • by Machtyn (759119)
      The other problem you have that they don't is player-base size. They don't have to spend anything* to say: "To get this cool object in Farmville, join Cityville!"

      * They don't have to spend advert dollars to do that. Yes, they do have to spend coding, art, and QA dollars to get said object in the game.
  • by sootman (158191) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:04AM (#34698388) Homepage Journal

    Where it used to be an egalitarian environment in which any developer could strike it big, over the last year it has become top-heavy with larger developers accruing exponential success, and cutting off oxygen to smaller companies by default.

    Interesting, so it's like that thing... what's it called? Oh yeah: EVERYTHING, EVER.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @11:12AM (#34698498)

    I was playing Farmville happily and suddenly Facebook said, "give us your mobile account number or you can't get back into your account".

    Not a big problem- create new account that doesn't require mobile number- point friends at it, continue (well at least for now). But any progress made in Zynga games lost. So now I view Zynga games as something that can be lost arbitrarily without warning at any time.

    So I quit. Took about a week and now that time is filled mostly with other equally dumb things. OTH, I am drawing again a little too.

  • as populations move off the farm and to the cities.

  • by GWBasic (900357) <slashdot@nosPAM.andrewrondeau.com> on Wednesday December 29, 2010 @12:38PM (#34699670) Homepage
    After reading two pages of the really long and drawn out article; I didn't see any mention of the simple social gaming metric that the industry talks about: Cost per user acquisition: It costs every game about $1-3 per user they acquire, usually through direct advertising.
  • I'm not sure how, but somebody in Ireland got my credit card info and tried to spend about $140 at Zynga. Fortunately, my card company contacted me and we canceled the card. What the charge was for, I have no idea; I don't really know/care how Farmville (or etc.) works, but I just hope actual money wasn't about to be wasted on virtual crops or something...
    • by nedlohs (1335013)

      How does that make zynga the devil?

      • Well, that in and of itself doesn't. Personally I already hate them because of their worthless, time-wasting Facebook apps that everyone seems to be suddenly using. This just made me annoyed even more, despite the fact that it's not directly their fault. In all honesty I couldn't think of a good title for the post. *shrug*
  • Supposedly Zynga says I have 250 CafeWorld "neighbors", but half of those are "vacant" Zynga accounts.

    They had some forced activities that drew everyone into CityVille, so their total numbers - based on looking at the many hundreds of "potential neighbors" my new CityVille shows - have about HALF of those accounts not playing - e.g. level 1 or level 2. You get to level 2 within the first game session tutorial.

    And they provide no easy method to "drop" inactive "neighbors" to buff up their numbers.

  • CityVille is requesting permission to do the following:

    * Access my basic information
    Includes name, profile picture, gender, networks, user ID, list of friends, and any other information I've shared with everyone.

    * Send me email
    CityVille may email me directly at myemailaddress@somewhere

    * Post to my Wall

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