Can Zynga Keep Succeeding?

Can Zynga Keep Succeeding?

The dawn of 2011 belongs to Zynga. Its most recent time-gulper, CityVille, became Facebook’s most popular app after a mere six weeks of existence. The game, which lets players build their own city and visit their friends’ metropolises, reached a regular player base of 86.2 million by January 4.

What range of feelings does CityVille‘s success inspire within your heart? Happiness? Irritation? Despair? It’s hard to feel neutral about Zynga; the company’s Facebook projects have irrevocably changed online communication–and the pastime of gaming.

But here’s one thing that’s worth wondering: How long can Zynga keep pumping out its hits, especially its popular “-Ville” games? Both FrontierVille and CityVille hit Facebook in the latter half of 2010, which makes it a pretty busy year. What comes next? SuburbVille, maybe? Eke out the best deals at Wal-Mart, and recruit your friends to help you mow your lawn in perfectly even rows?

Intriguing, but probably not an idea that’s destined for success. No doubt Zynga already has a premise for the next -Ville game in place, and is working out the mechanics. The question is, when the game comes into being, will anyone care?

Frankly? Yes. They will care, very much. But if Zynga doesn’t pace its releases, former FarmVille fanatics are going to feel overwhelmed and start giving up on the farm–or the city–or the frontier. How many Facebook games can you attend to on an hour-long lunch break? How many times can Zynga milk a basic idea until people get tired of big-headed characters with gooey eyes, adorable as they might be? In fact, CityVille is still young; the coming months will tell us how dedicated that “regular player base” actually is.

On the other hand, Zynga’s brisk release schedule will also benefit it for at least a couple more games down the road. Who brings in more money via micro-transactions: The veteran farmer doting over his or her thriving farm, or the harried virtual mayor who wants to pack a bunch of cool stuff into his or her city as quickly as possible in order to (ahem) show it off to visitors?

Zynga has a great thing going, but it still ought to slow down a bit. Even if it doesn’t cut open the goose that lays its golden eggs, that goose can’t keep laying forever.

There’s probably a FarmVille metaphor in there somewhere.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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