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Zynga overtakes Yahoo! Games to be the largest games “site” on the Internet

By on July 21, 2009

The analysis is, by necessity, rough, but there is a good chance that Zynga is now the largest web gaming business in the US. Zynga is growing, profitable and bigger than Yahoo. Does anyone still seriously claim that the free-to-play model doesn’t work?

Last week, ComScore put out figures showing that the playing of casual games was on the rise. It showed that 87 million Americans visited casual gaming websites in May 2009, an increase of 22% over May 2008.

The biggest site was Yahoo! Games, with 19.3 million unique visitors.

But is Zynga, one of the largest providers of free casual games on social networks like MySpace and Facebook already bigger than Yahoo?

How many users does Zynga have?

Zynga doesn’t show up on the ComScore stats, or on most of the other traditional web measurement tools. It doesn’t show up because Zynga’s website ain’t where the action is. Zynga is a distributed games publisher whose games are available on major social networks like Facebook and MySpace.

InsideSocialGames publishes a list of the top 25 games on Facebook and MySpace each month. I’ve pulled out Zynga’s games in the tables below:

Zynga’s Facebook unique visitors by game
Game Position Unique users
Texas HoldEm Poker 1 14,229,191
Mafia Wars 2 12,445,619
YoVille 6 7,857,944
Farmville 8 5,087,938
Street Racing 22 2,904,532
Vampire Wars 25 2,308,904
Zynga’s MySpace unique users by game
Game Position Unique users
Mafia Wars 2 12,270,381
Texas HoldEm Poker 5 5,867,598
Vampires 8 4,370,497
Street Racing 9 4,346,753
Yoville 10 4,208,107
Gang Wars 16 1,987,598
Dragon Wars 17 1,939,969
Fashion Wars 19 1,723,845
Friend Factory 20 1,566,993
Special Forces 25 1,330,808

How many unique users does Zynga have?

Of course you can’t just add these numbers together. ComScore looks at unique users, not the number of people playing each game.

But talking around the industry, it seems as if there is little overlap. If, in a given month, you are playing Mafia Wars, you probably aren’t playing Vampires. And the cross over between, say, Fashion Wars and Texas HoldEm Poker is minimal.

I’m going to estimate (and I believe this is conservative) that each Zynga user plays two titles a month, which means that Zynga’s unique users are half of the totals above. That’s 22,417,064 unique users for Zynga on Facebook and 19,806,275 unique users for Zynga on MySpace.

I’m also going to assume that the crossover between Facebook and MySpace is so close to zero as to make no odds, Adding the two figures together and rounding, I estimate that Zynga has approximately 42 million unique users across the world.

How many unique users does Zynga have in the US?

ComScore’s figures only cover the US. InsideSocialGames’ figures are global. So we need another estimate.

According to Alexa, 30% of Facebook‘s traffic is in the US. For MySpace, the figure is 66% (which incidentally, is bad news for MySpace in the long run, although possibly easier to monetise in the short term).

Assuming that Zynga’s unique users are distributed in exactly the same way as the platform on which it operates, that gives a grand total of approximately 19.8 million unique users in the US for Zynga.

So, does that make Zynga the biggest games website in the world?

According to my estimates, with some heroic assumptions, the answer is yes. At least, it’s bigger than Yahoo! Games, often quoted as being the largest games website in the world. Although I will throw in the caveat that this analysis (like so much Western analysis) leaves out usage in China, Korea and other fast growing countries.

But the key truth remains: Zynga is growing fast, and by my estimates is already the biggest games website in the US.

Does this spell the end of standalone websites for games? Have Facebook and MySpace truly become the platforms of the future?

Or are my assumptions completely unjustified?

Tell me what you think in the comments.

About Nicholas Lovell

Nicholas is the founder of Gamesbrief, a blog dedicated to the business of games. It aims to be informative, authoritative and above all helpful to developers grappling with business strategy. He is the author of a growing list of books about making money in the games industry and other digital media, including How to Publish a Game and Design Rules for Free-to-Play Games, and Penguin-published title The Curve: