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Facebook Games See User Dip As Notification Rules Change

Changes in Facebook notifications have caused many of the most popular games on the social network to hemorrhage users -- as titles like Zynga's FarmVille lost more than 4.4 million monthly players.
Recent changes in the way Facebook manages notifications has caused many of the most popular games on the social network to hemorrhage users -- Zynga's FarmVille alone lost more than 4.4 million monthly players in the past four weeks. 18 of the top 25 social games on Facebook (determined by monthly active users) lost players in April, and 12 of those relinquished at least one million users. MindJolt Games, which serves as a portal for more than a thousand casual titles, suffered the biggest losses as it ended the month with nearly eight million fewer gamers, now sitting at 13.1 million. The shedding of players can be traced back to Facebook's decision to limit application notifications starting in March in an effort to make interactions with apps "more streamlined, clear, and less spammy for users". Unfortunately for the developers of the games affected, many titles relied on those notifications for the viral growth of their user bases. Even FarmVille, Zynga's most popular game and Facebook's most popular app, wasn't immune to the loss of players; the farm simulator went from 82.8 million monthly active users in the beginning of April to now 78.4 million gamers, according to a report from Inside Social Games. Other big losers this week include RockYou's Birthday Cards (which seems more like an app than a game, though it's listed in the Games category), which dropped to 34.3 million monthly players after losing 5.6 million; and CrowdStar's Happy Aquarium, which now has only 19.5 million monthly users after losing 4.2 million. Digital Chocolate CEO and Electronic Arts founder Trip Hawkins noted last month that developers will need to find new ways to grow their user bases without notifications: "The formula last year was viral growth through aggressive spam, but that no longer works." He continued, "The spammy viral spread was also a free marketing department. With no more free ride, growth can only come from an efficient combination of legitimate virality and efficient marketing to help spread the good word."

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