'Floating core players' becoming a key battleground across the social network

Facebook games giants ‘suffer activity decline’

The biggest 20 games operators on Facebook are combating a steady drop in daily user retention, an analyst group has said.

IHS Screen Digest claims that, during the first three quarters of 2011, the likes of Zynga and PopCap noticed a downward trend in user engagement.

User engagement is a specific metric that measures the ratio of daily active users versus monthly active users.

If the ratio is in decline, as the new data suggests, it means that those who log on to Facebook games every month are doing so less on a day-to-day basis.

High user engagement is seen as an important metric for social games groups because it means more players are exposed to other games advertised across game networks and, in theory, are more likely to pay for virtual items.

Screen Digest has told Develop that the top forty Facebook games have on average fallen in user engagement by about one per cent, from 19-20 to 18-19 per cent. Hitherto the levels of user engagement had been either growing or steady.

“I think we’re seeing two things here,” said Steve Bailey, an analyst at Screen Digest.

“Firstly, the extent of competition is greater than ever before, and so more ‘floating’ players are moving on more quickly if they’re not successfully snagged. Games from top operators hit their MAU-acquisition peak very quickly, upon which the battle begins for retention, leading us to the second point: that is, the importance of more effective conversion and monetisation of the core audience of a game, an initiative that key operators – including Zynga and EA – appear to be making progress on.”

The total engagement ratio for the top twenty Facebook game operators had fallen from 18-19 to around 16-17 per cent, the analyst group said.

The second-biggest game in Facebook history, FarmVille, has fallen from thirty to twenty per cent throughout 2011. Bejeweled Blitz, meanwhile, dropped from 35 to 30 per cent in the same period.

“Given the age of both of these games, though, this continued retention is an achievement,” Bailey added.

“Big new launches such as CityVille and Empires & Allies haven’t been picking up the slack, at least not yet; it’s still early days, given the potential prospective lifespans,” he added.

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