The last couple weeks have seen a lot of very public controversy surrounding some privacy "slip-ups" (possibly deliberate) by Facebook and Zynga, the casual game developer behind time-wasting hits including FarmVille and Mafia Wars. According to the Wall Street Journal and at least one class action lawsuit, Zynga has secretly shared user information with third-party advertisers and Internet marketers, in violation of its agreements with Facebook and its users.
If you believe that consumers actually care about privacy issues, in this context you might expect to see a significant decrease in the number of Facebook members playing Zynga games. After all, these weren't isolated incidents but a wholesale transgression, affecting "tens of millions" of app users according to the WSJ. This would seem to suggest that the illicit data sharing was not accidental but planned and deliberate. Shock and outrage should ensue, right?
Nope. In fact, there has been nary a blip nor wobble in Zynga's user base -- aside from a slow, long-term decline which (I'm guessing) has everything to do with older games losing their novelty and nothing to do with privacy concerns.
Zynga's total monthly active user base has remained basically flat over the last two months: from 215 million in mid-September, it has slipped 1.4% to 212 million today. According to AppData.com, the combined number of players for its six most popular games -- FarmVille, Texas HoldEm Poker, Frontierville, Café World, Mafia Wars, and Treasure Isle -- has declined 5.3% from 190 million in mid-September to 180 million today.
These modest declines are part of a long-standing trend already in evidence well before the privacy revelations hit the press, reflecting the fact that casual games have a certain lifespan after which the novelty wears off and users migrate to new games. For example, FarmVille saw its total number of monthly active users decline from 84 million in March to 70 million in June, then 62 million in mid-September and 56.9 million today, according to AppData.