Popcap has given notice that they will be closing down their Facebook game Baking Life on January 31st. In a notice given to people logging into the game, they announced that they would be closing the game, and that they would not be transferring or refunding in-game currency that was dedicated to the game.
PopCap’s Garth Chouteau confirmed to InsideSocialGames that they would be closing the game.
Unfortunately, we had to make a very difficult decision to shut down the game. The Baking Life player numbers have dropped in such a way that Baking Life is no longer performing well enough to justify continued support. As such, we are reallocating resources to games that we are developing for future release.
Graphs on ISG show that while the game was one of Facebook’s biggest hits, numbers have dropped sharply, coming down from a high of almost 1m monthly active users (MAU) down to 750K, and daily active users (DAU) droping from about 210K to around 100K since December. Retention is also down; AppData’s measure of retention – DAU as percentage of MAU – is down from about 22% to 13%. Regardless, frustrated users have been posting on the site’s official forums to complain about the short notice. As compensation, PopCap is offering a “free gift” to their other Facebook games, Bejewled Blitz and Zuma Blitz.
Baking Life was developed by ZipZapPlay in April 2011, and both companies were acquired by Electronic Arts in July.
Analysis: This is why the “freemium” fad is just that: the money of each gamer burns away, with nothing tangible to show for it, and once that game is no longer shiny enough, it’s gone, as is the money spent on it, which might as well have been lit on fire. On the other hand, I’ve got Atari games from the 70s that I can take out and play right now if I want to.
From a business perspective, this has EA’s footprints all over it. Competition is going to be fierce in this market, and the numbers were trending downward, so yoink; EA pulled the plug. Users had a right to complain, but honestly, they didn’t have too much right; they paid for their useless vanity items, and they got what they paid for in the end: absolutely nothing, short of a peck on the cheek and a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” from EA/PopCap. Actually, that’s not accurate; they didn’t even bother to kiss their users.
Enough people are going to get burned on freemium before they turn their attention away from a business model that is specifically designed to tweak them psychologically into purchasing beyond their means. I’m a natural pessimist, but the problem with playing mind games with people is that they eventually catch on.