SimCity Goes Social On Facebook, Eyes Zynga's Empire
July 7, 2012

SimCity Goes Social On Facebook, Eyes Zynga’s Empire

Enid Burns for — Your Universe Online

Rome wasn't built in a day. But that's because there was no social network in the eternal city. Electronic Arts hopes that Facebook users will make the move from Zynga's CityVille to EA's SimCity Social to build and nurture their houses and socialize.

SimCity Social went live on Facebook this week. The online game was created as a collaboration between two of EA's properties. Maxis is the studio behind all things SimCity, originally founded by Will Wright. PlayFish is a social gaming site run by Electronic Arts. The two subsidiaries of the game publisher came together to build the city that might take down Zynga's empire.

"SimCity Social will entice a new generation of urban planners with its easy-to-use tools that allow anyone to expand and grow their own unique sprawling metropolises and watch as it comes to life in fun and unexpected ways," said Jami Laes, vice president of Global Studios for PlayFish at EA.

"SimCity Social is about playing with your friends. Whether you do that with kindness by helping put out a fire or through mischievous acts like helping a criminal escape, the decisions you make with your friends will determine how the story of your cities plays out."

It remains to be seen how SimCity Social's story will play out. While the Sims franchise has generally enjoyed success, the debut of The Sims Online was a big flop. Much like the early massively multiplayer online world of SecondLife, The Sims Online was a bit ahead of its time. SimCity Social on Facebook could be considered a do-over for Sims Online. But is there a foundation to build on?

SimCitySocial competes directly with Zynga's CityVille. Yet the audience has recently cooled somewhat on Cityville and other Zynga properties. Last month Zynga's stock price dropped. Around the same time it was noticed that the popular game publisher, that runs several -ville games on Facebook such as CityVille and FarmVille, saw its audience drop as well.

Current data from AppData (as of Friday, July 6, 2012) show that Zynga holds the top spot for App developers with an audience of 246 million monthly active users, though that figure is actually down from the roughly 250 million monthly active users it averaged in mid-June. CityVille engages 27.3 million monthly active users. It's rural neighbor FarmVille brings in 21.7 million monthly active users. The numbers have actually fallen since last month, when mid-June data stated CityVille had 32 million, FarmVille had 22 million, and Castleville had 20 million monthly active users.

If Zynga is losing audience there are two possibilities for SimCity Social. Facebook users who are tired of the -Ville games might be looking for another empire to host them, and flock to EA's new town. The other possibility is that Facebook users are tired of city building, or even playing games on the platform. If that's the outcome, SimCity Social along with an empire of -Ville games will be Facebook ghost towns.