Zynga, Electronic Arts Shutting Down Games on Facebook

As part of a previously announced slate of cost-cutting measures in October, Zynga has begun to sunset some of its least popular games. But it’s not the only one.

closed_signThe social games maker, which started losing ground earlier last year, had previously earmarked 13 undisclosed games for closure. Last week, TechCrunch identified 11 games which were either already shut down or close to it.

Some of the titles include PetVille, Mafia Wars 2, ForestVille, Vampire Wars and Indiana Jones Adventure World. A Zynga spokeswoman declined to comment, but when you try to visit the games on Facebook, there’s a message redirecting players to check out some of Zynga’s other games, like CastleVille, ChefVille, FarmVille 2, Mafia Wars and YoVille.

There’s a reason why these games eventually must be put to sleep.

The mechanics simply don’t work anymore if a lot of people aren’t playing them — after all, they are social games. If friends aren’t around to tend to your crops or visit your pet when you are away for too long, the games simply break down.

Having a large enough base of players to continue momentum is a problem that extends to other game publishers, too.

For instance, Electronic Arts has a Web page where it lists a running tally of games and services it has either shut down or plans to close. Some Facebook games that have already been cut include World Series Superstars, as of Dec. 31; EA Sports PGA Tour Golf Challenge, on Oct. 25; and others, like Monopoly Millionaires and Age of Immortals.

But as more games become services and are played against other people, instead of computers, other services are being shut down on game consoles, mobile phones and the PC. In January, EA said, it plans to shut down a myriad of services, like FIFA Soccer 11 Ultimate Team for PlayStation 3 and Xbox, and Madden NFL 11 for all three major consoles.

On Zynga’s chopping block, the most popular game is PetVille, which continues to attract a million users every month and 60,000 users daily.

The others are significantly less popular, such as Mafia Wars 2, which has as few as 200,000 monthly and 10,000 daily visitors, according to App Data. Compared to its top-performing titles, like FarmVille 2, which gets 43.5 million monthly and 8.1 million daily users, that’s clearly not very many well-loved pets.

At least two more games are to be discontinued, and that likely doesn’t include other titles that are flagged as underperformers. For instance, Zynga also said that it was no longer investing in The Ville, which performed poorly shortly after the game’s launch in June.

As part of the cost-cutting measures, the San Francisco company also reduced headcount by 5 percent, including some of the developers in Austin who were working on The Ville.

The company’s stock did not respond favorably to the plan, and continues to trade at $2.36 a share, down from a high of nearly $16 over the past year.

Perhaps it’s because investors don’t just want to see how it can cut costs, but how it can generate new streams of revenue. In other words, can Zynga can innovate in new areas that span beyond the ’Ville genre and Facebook? A new hit is what the company has been sorely lacking for the better part of 2012.

By freeing up resources, it at least has a chance.

About halfway through 2012, Zynga started prioritizing new game categories, like mid-core gaming and the casino genre. For instance, in mid-December, it launched Elite Slots on Facebook.

Electronic Arts is also clearly deciding where best to spend its resources, and Facebook is not a favorite. As part of its earnings call in October, it disclosed that the number of people actively playing its games on Facebook dropped by more than half in the past year. Therefore, it was reducing the number of Facebook games it was building this year.


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— Om Malik on Bloomberg TV, talking about Yahoo, the September issue of Vogue Magazine, and our overdependence on Google