CityVille, which launched last week as the newest Zynga title and the first ever to go global from day one, was the company’s most successful launch to date.
Within 24 hours of the game’s release, over 290,000 people had played the game. Zynga’s previous most successful launch was FrontierVille, which attracted 116,000 users in its first day, less than half of CityVille’s milestone. Since FrontierVille now boasts 6.5 million players daily and nearly 30 million monthly, we can probably bet CityVille will see similar, if not higher, usage rates.
And no one should be surprised by CityVille’s latest achievement.
Inspired by, if not a direct clone of, other city-based social games on Facebook offered earlier by social gaming startups Crowdstar, Digital Chocolate, Playfish and Playdom, CityVille attempts to approximate the gameplay of Will Wright’s Sim City in a game as dead simple as Zynga’s most popular title, FarmVille. (Did anyone else catch the Sim-style loading messages like “building playgrounds” and “commencing commerce” while CityVille started up?)
Yet for all the intriguing complexity and addicting missions that compose SimCity, CityVille takes only the addicting missions and adds a social element that is almost overbearingly social. Every achievement in CityVille elicits an in-game pop-up, urging the gamer to share with friends. You built a house: let’s email all your friends! You named your city: let’s share the news on your friends’ Facebook feeds! You built a city hall: let’s elect your friends to office positions! In the beginning of CityVille, the game is less about teaching the user gameplay, which would be instantly obvious to anyone above the sixth grade, and more about enticing the user to add as many friends to the game as possible.
The screenshots above and below illustrate this point perfectly. The only main button at the bottom of each pop-up is for inviting (spamming?) users to play the game, and everyone who uses a computer automatically has a trained reflex to direct their pointer to that area. Zynga knows this. The only way around messaging your friends is by clicking the “x” in the upper right-hand corner.
And people wonder how Zynga grabs so many users in so short a time frame?
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just what social gaming startups have to do to survive. Zynga is not Maxis (developer of SimCity), Zynga is not developing for the hardcore gamer playing all by his lonesome on the PC. Zynga makes games for the masses on Facebook, already brought together on the most popular social platform in the world.
Maybe I’m just nostalgic and wish a game on Facebook could get 300,000 people playing in 24 hours just because it’s that fun, no tricks necessary.