Faltering Farmville is a Sign of Social Gaming Woes

If you're the kind of gamer that frowns upon Farmville, enjoy this while it lasts: the game has fallen to second place among all Facebook apps in monthly users.

However, it's only a matter of time before Farmville regains the throne, and arguably, it was never lost to begin with. The new champion, Phrases, is a quiz and quote app, and as Inside Facebook points out, these tend to flare out pretty quickly as Facebook's privacy enforcers catch up with them. Phrases was recently suspended for American users, and already lags far behind Farmville in daily users.

Still, the fact remains that Farmville fell behind another app in monthly users for the first time in 13 months. This wouldn't have happened if the game weren't shedding players.

At its peak, Farmville had 84 million monthly users, according to App Data. But in March, Facebook tweaked its notification system to cut down on spam, and lots of social games lost daily users as they became less visible. Farmville now draws 53.9 million users per month, and falling.

You can't blame the loss solely on a policy change that's eight months old. Newer games by Zynga, the maker of Farmville, are also on the decline. Frontierville, which debuted in June, has nearly 8 million daily users, down from a high of nearly 9 million. Texas Hold ‘Em Poker has 6.2 million daily users, compared to a 7.5 million all-time high after launching in August.

No wonder Zynga's become more aggressive with new platforms and new games. Farmville is now available for iPhone and Zynga Poker is coming to Android. Zynga will likely play a big part in a social network from Google, and last week, the company announced a big new game, CityVille. Zynga reportedly has 400 employees working on new games.

But here's the problem: None of these games or platforms will reach the heights that Farmville once enjoyed on Facebook. It's like Zynga is scrambling to add more sources of air to a deflating bubble. The fact that a random quiz app could unseat Farmville from its top spot, even temporarily, shows that social games have seen better days.

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