Social game developer Zynga Inc. is suffering from a 53% plunge in user engagement in just under three years due largely to its focus on the declining simulation game market, says research produced by social game analytics company dystillr Inc . An analysis of Zynga conducted by the Halifax-based company shows that Zynga players interacted with one of that company’s games an average of 9.8 times per month in November 2009. From that peak, the number has decreased to 4.6 times as of October 2012.
dystillr launched this month and has demonstrated the power of its analytical tools by producing a report, “Volatility in Zynga’s Core Genre”, ahead of the release of Zynga’s third-quarter financial results on October 25. The PDF report is now available as a free download  on the dystillr website.
“The core of Zynga’s challenge is its dominance in the simulation-type games, where it has a 58% market share,” said Jay Aird co-founder of dystillr. “Since January 2011, simulation games’ share of Facebook game users has plummeted from 64% to 29% today.”
Zynga’s recent release, FarmVille 2, is a follow-up to FarmVille, the iconic simulation game. Data on FarmVille 2’s first 30 days shows the game rose to 6.8 million daily active users, a similar position attained by other notable Zynga releases after 30 days such as The Ville and current No. 1 ranking game ChefVille.
“What we’ll be watching with the whole ‘Ville’ franchise is whether Zynga is able to maintain the growth trajectory,” said Duncan Gillis, a co-founder in dystillr. “It could be that users are fatigued by the ‘Ville’ franchise, as suggested by the decline of the simulation genre.”
One bright spot for Zynga is gambling- and casino-type games, in which it commands a 60% market share on Facebook and claims three of the top five spots. This is important because gambling and casino is the fastest growing segment of the social gaming market, increasing by 96% in the past 12 months.
Facebook is experimenting with real-money gambling games in the U.K., with Bingo Friendzy launched in August. The possibility of a real-money version of Zynga’s Texas HoldEm Poker could provide new revenue opportunities for the company. Additionally, casino-themed games could represent an opportunity for the company to gain traction outside of the Facebook platform. “The gambling genre could provide Zynga with a model for consistency,” said Aird.
“Casual & Social Gaming is the fastest growing form of mass media of all time,” said Aird. “What we are seeing now is an evolution in the space as the most iconic genres appear to have peaked while new genres and competitors have emerged to fuel new growth.” Aird believes this opens up opportunities for developers to find new niches in social gaming.