Cityville – Next Big Thing?

my level30 cityville
A glimpse of EusoffWorks - joshuatj's Cityville town

Ya, it’s another game by Zynga. Somehow I didn’t manage to hop onto the Farmville wagon early enough last round. By the time I started playing Farmville, most of my friends are already way higher level than me and that sort of turn me off :p.

So here I am, checking-in to Cityville multiple times per day, just to check on your crops, click on the businesses and visiting your neighbours.

As much as it sounded pretty mundane and dumb – no doubt Zynga is really the master of creating addictive Facebook games. Every single round of Cityville will not take you more than 10minutes but once you’re on it, you find yourself constantly refreshing the page at stipulated time (depending on what you’ve grown and how long it takes for it to mature so that you can harvest). Somehow the features in the game are design such that you always find yourself telling yourself ‘just one more click!’, 5-10 clicks later you repeat the cycle. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on how you see it), there is a “energy” feature that limits the number of actions you can do per cycle. Many times I nearly found myself wanting to pay “real money” just to buy a few more energy so that I can continue to do “just a few more actions”. After all, it’s just 2USD for 15 Citycash, in which I can buy +12 energy with just 9 Citycash. (Sidetrack a little, the energy requirement reminds me of the “Stairway to heaven” exam question in CS1101S. In short, how many different ways can you go up the stairs with n steps given the ability to take either 1, 2 or 3 steps. An extension of the question included the energy requirement per step criteria. ).

As it is I have not gave in to the temptations of spending money for a few line of flash codes. I think my resistance is still quite strong, thanks to makmai for instilling the frugal mindset in me.  Fortunately for Zynga, people like me is not their typical users, if not they will be bankrupt within days. According to, Zynga have just gotten a $180million capital injection, that seems to suggest that the company is doing good and it will be around longer than most people expect. Incidentally, InsideFacebook has also reported that Cityville has been the fastest growing game on Facebook, the growth awe shocked everyone. Cityville surpassed FarmVille Zynga’s most popular game with 69 million monthly active users (MAU) as of 31st December 2010. Farmville’s growth plateau  at around 57 million monthly active users. It is also said in the same article that Cityville showed momentum to reach the 85 million MAU mark. If it does Cityville will be the biggest app on Facebook! A more detailed statistic over at InsideFacebook reveals that it has already hit 80 million MAU! Considering that Cityville was only launched 4 weeks ago, the growth is truly unbelievable. It proves only one thing, that there is still a large blue ocean out there for Facebook Games! You just have to get it just right and “BOOM!” you’re the next big thing! (can’t help but Mood Diary & Farm Wars came into mind….. What seem to be lacking? Why can’t we be the next big thing?)

Well, it seems such rapid growth does come at a great cost – the problem of scalability. I have been getting this pop-up more and more frequent lately

cityville seem to be experiencing technical difficulties
cityville seem to be experiencing technical difficulties

You would thought Zynga, such a big company would have thought of ways to handle the problem of scalability.

I’ve always dreamt of the day where Simcity/The Sims, KOEI Genghis Khan IV and all simulation games became social, and that cities I have built will be connected to other cities that my friends have built, sharing a complex ecosystem where every action that I take will actually affect the whole ecosystem. Although Cityville is still a far cry from that ideal, I think it’s starting to be heading towards that direction, where games are no longer you vs computer, people-to-people interactivity being built into the gameplay itself. Not unlike the already famous and popular Multiplayer Massive Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) genre. But as it is games are already getting more and more complicated, very soon a new batch of veteran facebook gamers will emerge. This is unlike the history of computer games, I believe a similar pattern can be observed by looking at the growth of arcade games into PC games and then online MMORPG. Maybe Facebook games is also following the same pattern, in that games are getting more and more sophisticated as time goes by. It started with casual games like Zuma & Bejeweled, then it evolved for a while into some kind of interactivity in the form of MSN messenger games, then came Facebook games (injecting social elements into gameplay), so what’s next?

So what do you think is Facebook’s next big thing?