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EA backs off from Facebook in a big way
EA backs off from Facebook in a big way
April 15, 2013 | By Mike Rose

April 15, 2013 | By Mike Rose
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In a surprise announcement, Electronic Arts today revealed that it is retiring a number of its biggest Facebook games, including The Sims Social.

The Sims Social in particular has been extremely popular in the past, with 10 million daily active users recorded towards the end of 2011.

However, as the game threatens to leave the top 100 DAUs rankings with somewhere over 500,000 DAUs according to App Data, EA has now made the decision to shut the game down. It is also retiring Pet Society (in the same ballpark for DAUs) and SimCity Social (which has between 100,000 and 500,000 DAUs, according to App Data.)

EA says that while these games proved popular to begin with, "the number of players and amount of activity has fallen off."

"For people who have seen other recent shutdowns of social games, perhaps this is not surprising," the statement added.

Indeed, social games on Facebook aren't performing as well as they used to, with numerous developers now favoring mobile over browser games. Facebook recently said that it is looking to target core gamers in 2013, in a bid to become one of the more popular game platforms again.

As for the aforementioned EA games, all three titles will go offline on June 14, 2013. The company's biggest games on Facebook will then be Solitaire Blitz and Bejeweled Blitz -- both games from its PopCap subsidiary.

Notably, the company isn't offering any sort of refund on remaining in-game credit. Beverly Myshrall, senior community specialist at EA, posted on the official forums, "Players are encouraged to spend their remaining balance of SimCash in The Sims Social before the game is retired on June 14th. As of that date, any remaining SimCash left in the game will be invalid."

[Correction: This article previously said The Sims Social currently had over 6 million DAUs -- that's the figure for MAUs. DAUs stand at somewhere over 500,000. Apologies for any confusion.]


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Comments


Matthew Buxton
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is no refunds fully legal?

Maria Jayne
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Probably not, but with the changes in EULA agreements prohibiting class action lawsuits, it is far cheaper for the individual to accept the loss of a few dollars than try and fund a legal battle to get it back with the possibility of losing to EA's legal team.

Kyle Redd
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Right. Even if it isn't legal, with the kind of EULAs and TOSs we have to sign off on today, what are you going to do about it?

Tomas Majernik
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Well, this EULA provision is invalid in EU. Let's see what (and if) something happens.

Chuck Hunnefield
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I think EA is in 'Panic Mode', wiping clean anything not producing 'enough' profit. Simcity 5 was a huge disappointment for them (not that it's anyone's fault but their own), and now they have to cover it's expenses.

It's a shame. I enjoyed SC Social myself, and between this, and the SC 5 debacle, I don't think I can trust EA, or anyone with online gaming again. I've always known the plug could be pulled at any time, but I was kinda hoping they'd give it more than a year before doing so!

Michael Joseph
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good point. Might as well throw in the ripple effects of a disappointing SW:TOR as well.

Johnathon Swift
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Lol "It's not making enough money, aaaaand it's gone!"

Fredrik Liliegren
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All the companies that are doing these sun settings are creating a bad name and environment for F2P games. They must really have built an awfully expensive back end to have to CLOSE the games down. I understand you might not continue any additional development or new content support, but why close it down? You have to be making enough cash out of your current user base to support the server cost no? Even if you have to take a small hit on that why not keep the game live to show your players that their investment just wont go away, the PR value of that cant be underestimated. We have 'sunset' two games by stopping continued development but we would NEVER shut them down when it costs us very little to keep them up.

Andrew Pellerano
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It depends on what type of game you've made. Facebook games are typically content-driven and without throwing fresh content coals onto the fire its revs and DAU will quickly drop in a predictable way.

Even if a game is covering costs there's always a question of opportunity cost. "Dead" games in a large organization require frequent maintenance to keep them up to date with company-wide tech stack decisions (an always moving target) and these games must also stay in compliance with FB's frequently updating API and ToS.

Damir Slogar
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I agree with Fredrik, this really make no sense. Your remaining users are the ones with the highest ARPU, so as the traffic drops the cost of maintaining the game goes down. Only logical explanation would be that those games were never very profitable but this is hard to believe.

Alexis Prayez
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I guess it's all numbers for them: those games are still profitable but from an accountant point of view it might looks like
"we currently have xxx K$ mobilized on projects A, B, C with an average 9% return, but we have this new project that could potentially have a 15% return, our suggestion: discontinue projects A, B, C and shift investments to projects F and E"

Craig Timpany
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I have trouble believing the theory that it's because developing new games offers a higher ROI than running the old ones in maintenance mode without new content. Particularly if risk enters into that equation. Both their fixed costs would have to be huge and their per-user revenue unusually dismal.

It might be that they're worried about continued operation damaging the Sims and Simcity brands, (imagine if your first exposure to either was the FB game, ugh!) but that doesn't explain Pet Society, which has never not been a FB game.

Craig Timpany
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Wait a minute, I'm completely overthinking this. The same herd-following instinct in managment that brought them into FB games is leading them out again. Mobile is teh future! Desktop is d0med! etc.

David Paris
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My guess is simply that the profitability on these sorts of games is tanking as the market has been direly mistreated and polluted. What's worse, is that since many of these users were not gamers before exposure to the F2P social environment, the experience will sour them on gaming as a whole. In other words, these customers lost to this particular flavor of games will not be recaptured elsewhere.
rn
rnI'm not surprised to see EA scaling back. I was more surprised to see the PS4 trying so hard to plug itself as the facebook-like social network platform, when this style of gaming already seems soured and in decline.

Jay Anne
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It probably has more to do with a new lion leading the pride, now killing the cubs of his predecessor.

Keith Thomson
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The difference is that the PS4 is trying to bring social features to games that core gamers usually play, rather than trying to "invent" a new kind of gaming to attract non-gamers like Facebook games have, and like the Wii tried to do before it. (Or rather, recycling old BBS era Door game concepts for a new market.)

Harlan Sumgui
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"My guess is simply that the profitability on these sorts of games is tanking as the market has been direly mistreated and polluted. What's worse, is that since many of these users were not gamers before exposure to the F2P social environment, the experience will sour them on gaming as a whole. In other words, these customers lost to this particular flavor of games will not be recaptured elsewhere.

Just wanted to emphasize the above. Exploitative f2p do not develop a sustainable audience. There are some good ones though, like Jack & songpop, which do cultivate an audience. They aren't particularly profitable though.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Alan Youngblood
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Chuck - Valve has an implicit agreement to take care of its customers (and explicitly stated in their employee training). No other service has offered this yet, and it's no wonder Valve is doing quite well with Steam. Their business approach appeals to me professionally and personally as a consumer, it's a win-win.

Fredrik - You are right, it's a good customer satisfaction deal to leave the games running with no extra development. Many times gamers will take the control back into their hands if they feel that the original creating company is not doing a good job. They will find hacks and such to continue enjoying games they love. From a piracy prevention standpoint, this isn't a good thing on any side.

I actually appreciated EA more than many people before just recently - but all these cuts to (most likely) profitable and certainly well-liked games? It's questionable. Customer satisfaction and good will, let's call them "political capital" will be much needed for whatever EA does as a business going forward. My suggestion for EA is listen to people who bought your products and say they dislike you. They hold the key to your blindspot that you need to be watching right now. And also make gestures that show you are listening. (This is not bowing to their every command, instead listen and understand their needs and see how you may better meet them.)

Kyle Redd
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"Valve has an implicit agreement to take care of its customers (and explicitly stated in their employee training). No other service has offered this yet, and it's no wonder Valve is doing quite well with Steam. Their business approach appeals to me professionally and personally as a consumer, it's a win-win."

After over 6 years and more than 500 games purchased to date, it still takes weeks for me to get any help from Steam's support team, assuming they help at all (6 weeks and counting for my current problem). Valve has made... a ton of money from all of my purchases over the years. The day that all of that money and loyalty finally buys me a five-minute phone call so I can get my issue resolved is the day we can talk about Valve taking care of its customers.

K Gadd
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Does 'taking care of your customers' include refusing to give refunds under any circumstances and threatening to revoke all purchased games if a customer uses chargebacks to acquire a refund for a defective product? Because that's what Valve has done since day 1 (and still does) with Steam.

Ramin Shokrizade
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I see a big part of the problem being that these large gaming companies are being run by business executives that are not themselves gamers. They feel that they can sell games just like any other retail product. They also seem to communicate that they have a very low opinion of gamers in general, given the types of monetization models they embrace.

I think those companies that are run by gamers can often go to the opposite extreme, favoring artistic expression over commercial potential. To be successful there needs to be a balance, but this implies some sort of power sharing, which seems to be unsupported by conventional corporate structures. Steam is a good example of a company that has abandoned the typical corporate structure, and it seems to be doing well for them. Steam has other problems, however. One of their biggest is that they make games for themselves, not the groups of society that are currently most underserved by game companies.

Dimitri Del Castillo
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"They also seem to communicate that they have a very low opinion of gamers in general, given the types of monetization models they embrace."

Let me just take a stab at this but, could it be that all corporate models in the US are guilty of this with their client base? Goldman/Sacks? Lehman Bros.? Monsanto?

Corps are there to serve themselves and their shareholders, not their customers.

Jeferson Soler
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@ Ramin Shokrizade - "I see a big part of the problem being that these large gaming companies are being run by business executives that are not themselves gamers. They feel that they can sell games just like any other retail product. They also seem to communicate that they have a very low opinion of gamers in general, given the types of monetization models they embrace. " I believe that this was what ultimately led to the first Videogame Stock Market Crash.

@ Dimitri Del Castillo - Unfortunately, that seems to be the case and you are correct.

John Maurer
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@Jeff That's exactly what I've seen over the past 4 years. A great many parodies can be drawn from the game industry crash of '83 and the current market, and for the same reason: Big business pushing to many sub-standard products to market.

Sadly, I feel that the industry is going to have to fall before it walk again. I'm looking at the indies myself. There to small yet to make any real impact, but a handful are bound to survive, and I have hopes that it'll be they who restore it...that is, until they get to big and encorporate.

Josh Ostrander
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In my mind, the problem lies in the need for large public publishers to "go big" on every investment they make.

Companies like EA acquire successful start-ups who became profitable by managing overhead conservatively, growing organically, and learning from product successes/failures analytically. Once acquired, teams are forced into unsustainable growth patterns in order to deliver on products associated with big IPs with huge revenue expectations wherein only the most successful end results would allow the huge teams they build to retain. This sort of large-scale revenue thinking eliminates the advantages that made companies like Playfish successful and are the source of most of Zynga's current woes. Large publishers don't have the agility or infrastructure to balance 20-50 small companies into its portfolio, even though small teams are the ones clearly with the advantage in the current social/mobile space.

The end result is entire teams are being treated at the top-level as essentially contract workers under the guise of permanent employment. Even in scenarios where products are making profit--situations where small companies gain additional advantages and learnings over their larger competitors--anything below sky-high portfolio expectations result in dismantling of productive teams, a loss of knowledge, and having to start again from scratch, perpetuating the cycle all over again.

Unfortunate and sad.

Kyle Redd
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http://tinyurl.com/bu6by8k

"I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve made plenty of mistakes. These include server shut downs too early..."

Didn't take long for them to forget their own lesson, apparently.

Andrzej Marczewski
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It's as if they don't look at how other games on Facebook performed. Also, simcity social really wasn't all that good!

Lincoln Thurber
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Am I crazy, but isn't 500K daily users...good. Yes, it ain't 10 million, but I bet that number was people just browsing. Maybe those 500K are no long buying coins/currency and that makes it a losing proposition.

But, isn't it more likely EA is planning it OWN social space or social lvl of games on it own site? Doesn't that sound like a more likely scenario? Get people on ORIGIN and make that a destination instead of trying to capture a % of people time on Facebook. I'm not saying that would work, but I can see some deluded suit in a boardroom thinking they are giving away the cow by just having some cream end up on Facebook.

Bob Johnson
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Yeah I too would think the same folks that won't put their games on Steam also wouldn't want to be at the mercy of Zuckerberg and co.

I also am one not to trust DAU numbers without knowing how they count a DAU. Deleting spam could be counted as a DAU for all I know.

And I also believe there is an initial novelty to all gaming experiences that eventually consumers get over. Something new and fresh is eventually not new and fresh any more. And that's where we get to see if the emperor has clothes.


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