The Sims Social, which clicked past FarmVille as the second-biggest social game on Facebook back in September, has cemented its No. 2 rank in recent weeks.
How? The Sims managed to lure players away from Zynga, whose games (such as FarmVille) have long dominated the leader boards of Facebook applications, according to a survey released Wednesday by Raptr, a social network for game enthusiasts.
Electronic Arts Inc., the developer of The Sims Social, "has stolen 10% to 25% playtime from Zynga's top games," Raptr reported, based on a survey that tracked online game activity of its 10 million users. "The negative impact to Zynga's game is notable."
FarmVille players, for example, reduced their time on the game by 25% on average when they started to play The Sims Social, Raptr found. In addition, about half of the 66 million people who played The Sims Social in the last 30 days were Zynga players, Raptr estimated.
There's a flip side. The Sims also is cannibalizing EA's other games, including Pet Society and Bejeweled Blitz.
But that's part of the brutal nature of social games, one that Zynga has learned to turn to its advantage. Within weeks of starting a social game, players will get bored and swing to another game. What Zynga has been so adept at is making sure that the next game players defect to is another Zynga title.
Up until recently, Zynga has had the field largely to itself, occupying four out of the top 5 games on Facebook and happily shifting its players from one Zynga game to another.
Now, however, players have a popular alternative in The Sims Social. What's more, EA can now play the same game and begin shuttling Sims Social players to its growing portfolio of social games, including Restaurant City, Zuma Blitz, Dragon Age: Legends, Madden NFL Superstars and FIFA Superstars.
EA, through its acquisition of PopCap Games, also has a number of franchises it can convert to social games and bulk up its portfolio further, including Peggle, Plants vs Zombies and Bookworm Adventures, Raptr noted.
But EA may need to step up the pace. Zynga, whose logo is an outline of a bulldog, on Tuesday promised to "unleash" four new games and a new casino franchise in the coming weeks to increase the odds that whatever people are playing next would be a Zynga game.
-- Alex Pham