Zynga has pulled the hit game FarmVille from MSN Games, suggesting a possible bump in the road toward its planned expansion beyond Facebook.
Zynga and Facebook have an interesting relationship. They're like the Liz and Dick of the videogame industry, a pairing simultaneously perfect and doomed. Facebook made some changes to its policies earlier this year that limited some of the features that helped make Zynga games such a success; Zynga responded by grumbling about moving on to bigger and better things, like making its games accessible through MSN. Before long, however, the companies announced a new five-year deal that seemed to mark the end of the bickering, at least for the moment.
Could that have anything to do with FarmVille's sudden disappearance from MSN? Nobody's saying, but it looks like a possibility. As Inside Social Games pointed out, however, traffic, or a lack thereof, could very well be the issue too. MSN apparently claims to bring in about 500 million monthly users worldwide with its Games portal and MSN Messenger, about the same number as Facebook, "but it appears that Zynga didn't find the traffic MSN produced meaningful enough to continue running FarmVille on the Microsoft platform."
How Microsoft could pull in a half-billion monthly users and still not be able to provide "meaningful" player numbers is a bit of a mystery, but it may be a simple matter of brand recognition: FarmVille, in the eyes of many, is a Facebook game. Another possible explanation for the disappearance is Google's recent investment in Zynga as part of its planned Google Games service, planned to launch later this year, which sources suggested could run as high as $200 million. Whatever the case, it's hard to imagine MSN not being stung by this. Maybe nobody cares about your stupid farm, but maximizing revenues in the increasingly lucrative digital era? You better believe people care about that.