Zynga is working to stem a decline in users of Words With Friends, asking players for their thoughts on possible new features to lure lapsed users back to a game which has lost 1.9 million users in the last month.
According to user metrics site AppData, Zynga's popular word game had 20.2 million monthly active users on April 8. Today it has just 18.3 million – a drop of 9.5 per cent. Zynga has also seen a decline in daily active users, from 7.9 million last month to seven million today, though it dipped to 6.7 million yesterday.
It appears that those declines have got Zynga pondering what can be done to turn things around, and a customer survey asks how long it has been since players last loaded up the game, why they stopped, and which of several possible new features could lure them back.
Among the fixes and improvements that Zynga suggests are for players to be given hints when they're stuck, tournament support, leaderboards and an in-built dictionary. Technical improvements include fixes for slow loads and freezes, the removal of advertising and requests to post on players' Facebook walls and, perhaps most intriguingly, the ability to play offline. Currently, Words With Friends is only playable on handsets with an active data connection.
It also seems Zynga is keen to find out whether Words With Friends' decline suggests growing apathy toward the game itself, or to mobile games in general. The survey asks how recently users have played a host of rival word games, including the EA-published Scrabble, as well as some of the most popular mobile games out there including Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Temple Run.
Even Zynga's own games are represented, with Zynga Poker, Draw Something – which is having some problems of its own at the moment, losing four million Facebook players in the space of a month – and both Scramble and Hanging With Friends mentioned.
While Draw Something's decline was expected – an overnight success like that is bound to be followed by some kind of plateau – the loss of so many Words With Friends players in so short a space of time is clearly a cause of some concern at Zynga.
With recent financial results revealing losses of $85 million, and the company now operating under the watchful eyes of investors and analysts following its December IPO, Zynga cannot rest on its laurels. While this is far from the first survey the firm has conducted, the questions asked show that Zynga is, at the very least, considering real changes to the game.
The question remains, however, whether any substantial changes can be made to lure users back to a game which is essentially Scrabble with asynchronous multiplayer. Unlike many of Zynga's other games, Words With Friends doesn't lend itself naturally to monetisation – there are no virtual items for sale, and it's hard to see how Zynga could get users to pay without breaking the game's balance. Would the company charge for hints, or even replacement letters?
Zynga acquired Words With Friends developer Newtoy for an undisclosed sum in 2010. The studio, formed by veterans of Microsoft-owned Halo Wars developer Ensemble Studios, was renamed Zynga With Friends after the acquisition.