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How To Measure Social Games Success

PopCap's VP of social operations on why MAUs may not tell the whole story

The social gaming buzz, focused largely around the Facebook platform, has become something of a roar over the past 18 months. Debate rages on a range of subjects from how companies make money to game quality (are social games 'real' games?) to the futurespective of how the social space will evolve.

One of the most frequently asked questions is 'who will be the winner(s) in the social gaming space?' Is it as simple as looking at the plethora of data on the Facebook social game tracking sites and identifying who has the most daily or monthly players? We suggest there is more to it than that.

People often talk about the social games space as if there will only be one 'winner' but clearly the space is broad and deep enough to support multiple successes. How winners achieve their long-term success on social networks is still to be decided but what is clear today is that there won't be a single style of game that 'wins' the platform – social audiences are too vast and divergent in their needs and expectations to be satisfied by one game that meets everyone's expectations. Here I share some of the thinking behind how PopCap approaches the social space.

By the numbers

As is customary in today's market, one of the foremost authorities on social games metrics, AppData (, lists the top five games using the criterion of Monthly Average Players (MAU):

  • 1. Cityville
  • 2. Farmville
  • 3. Texas Hold Em Poker
  • 4. Frontierville
  • 5. Mafia Wars, 19th January 2011

The other frequently tracked industry criterion, also covered by AppData, is daily active users (DAU):

  • 1. Cityville
  • 2. Farmville
  • 3. Texas Hold Em Poker
  • 4. Frontierville
  • 5. Bejeweled Blitz, 19th January 2011

So which game should we consider the" fifth most popular game on Facebook" – Mafia Wars or Bejeweled Blitz? Do we go with Monthly Active Users (the most frequently cited stat in the industry) or do we dive deeper and look at Daily Active Users?

In terms of pure number volume, it would be easy to assume Mafia Wars is the fifth most popular game on Facebook with their 18.6 million MAUs – compared to Bejeweled Blitz's 11.4 million. However, if we instead ask which of these games has the best opportunity to become one of the winning game franchises on Facebook, then the analysis is arguably a lot more complicated.

Measurement by MAU

A first problem with MAUs is that we, as developers, typically share players between our games, so the idea of counting MAUs in aggregate for a particular developer "double-counts" a significant number of players who may or may not be engaged in more than one game.

While MAUs have been one of the key metrics used to measure a game's performance since the beginning of social gaming, we focus on DAUs and DAU/MAU engagement rates as a potentially greater portent of a game's staying power and long-term potential.

Bejeweled Blitz may have lower MAUs than the top five games, yet it's among the top five games in terms of DAUs. But what makes PopCap particularly excited about Bejeweled Blitz's long term potential on Facebook is its incredibly high engagement rate (i.e. the relativity of its DAUs to its MAUs). In a nutshell, while Bejeweled Blitz does not have as many players, it's doing a good job of retaining those it has. The higher DAU/MAU rating, the more engaging and 'sticky' the game.

Measurement by DAU/MAU

If you were to re-order the ten games with the most DAUs by this engagement rating, you would see a dramatic shift in the top games. In fact, by this metric, Bejeweled Blitz has considerably higher engagement rates than any other top 10 game.

  • 1. Bejeweled Blitz: 34%
  • 2. Farmville: 26%
  • 3. Millionaire City: 22%
  • 4. Frontierville: 21%
  • 5. Treasure Isle: 20%
  • 6. Texas Hold Em Poker: 19%
  • 7. Café World: 19%
  • 8. Cityville: 19%
  • 9. Pet Society: 16%
  • 10. Mafia Wars: 15%, 19th January 2011 avatar GamesIndustry International is the world's leading games industry website, incorporating and
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