Apr

22

Alarm Bells Ringing as EA Dumps 3 Social Games from Facebook?

Mark Stephens

Electronic Arts (EA) is big news; it is currently the fifth most successful social game developer on the planet, with approximately 33 million monthly active users.

So when it announces that it will drop three of its social games from Facebook, there tends to be a few shudders through the industry. Shares in Zynga, Facebook, and Electronic Arts all took a hit after the announcement.

Why is the developer taking this step and what does it mean in a wider sense?

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Isn’t Social Gaming Booming?

We’ve all heard about Zynga’s ills in the past twelve months, but that doesn’t disguise the fact that social gaming is otherwise experiencing a boom…isn’t it?

Most places we turn we see quotes like “by 2014 the games market will be worth $5 billion in the US” and “in the next two years it will grow by 30%”, and “50% of social networking users will be playing games by 2015”.

Facebook itself claims that gaming continues to grow too, with 250 million gamers each month – up from 235 million in August 2012.

The numbers can be confusing though. The latest data from SuperData Research shows that there are ten million fewer people playing social media games this month than last month.

Wherever these figures come from, the general consensus amongst developers seems to be the industry is relatively healthy. The flow of advertising dollars into the industry that we spoke about in the last blog also suggests this.

So why the withdrawal by EA of its games The Sims Social, SimCity Social and Pet Society, which will be removed from Facebook on June 14th?

SimCity Social has been active on the social networking platform for less than a year, while The Sims Social has a slightly longer history, being introduced in June 2011; Pet Society has been up for over four years.

We need look no further than EA themselves for an explanation. A statement read:

“After millions of people initially logged in to play these games, the number of players and amount of activity has fallen off….For people who have seen other recent shutdowns of social games (1), perhaps this is not surprising.

“We had to make the difficult decision to close down [these games] so we can reallocate development resources to other titles that we hope you’ll have just as much fun playing.”

(1) Zynga withdrew Party Friends, City Ville 2, and The Friend Game earlier this year. In 2012, it closed eleven other games.

So Where is Social Gaming Heading?

If people are not playing the likes of the Sim games anymore, but the industry as a whole is growing, what’s happening?

Is it that the casual gamers’ tastes have changed?

Certainly EA are keeping their most popular titles like Solitaire Blitz and_ Bejeweled Blitz_ and if we take a look at the top games played on Facebook we see the trend remaining for simple cascade/gem match and blast games, as well as the ever-popular casino card games.

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The harsh reality is that, if we don’t expect quick changes in this industry, we are probably in the wrong industry. It’s the nature of the “game.”

Social gaming is based on technology that is constantly evolving, so changes will continue to come thick and fast. It doesn’t mean that people are suddenly going to stop playing games; they will just play different games and they may play them elsewhere.

The social and mobile phenomena will continue to grow, and the social game market is constantly having to find a new level. Attention spans of users are generally short and they will move like butterflies from one flower to the next.

As CEO of the UK-based developer Playdemic says:

“What worries me is that as an industry we are good at having huge collective mood swings about platforms, business models and genres,” he says. “Only 2-3 years ago Facebook gaming was being hailed as the greatest opportunity in the industry and now the collective conscious seems to be ready to throw it out as a bad idea.”

“The truth as always is somewhere in the middle,” he continues. “Facebook is still an important platform for casual and social games and its power in enabling both discovery and engagement of players on desktop and mobile will be with us for a while yet.”

The developers that will survive and flourish are those that are constantly evolving and are staying ahead of the game, able to predict where the market is going; those that stagnate will get blasted off the board!