[Updated with Zynga statement, Sunday 2 p.m. PST]
Zynga told its players a couple of days ago that it would shut down one of its oldest games, YoVille, by the end of March. The title has been around since 2008. YoVille is a casual game for people to play in a town-like community. It grew to a point where millions of people were playing it, and it spawned a whole series of “Ville” games, light-hearted simulations like FarmVille.
But Zynga’s troubles have caught up with it. The company has had a hard time transitioning from Facebook games to mobile releases on iOS and Android, which has resulted in a rapid decline of its audiences on the aforementioned social network. The developer has cut its work force dramatically and shuttered a number of other games. YoVille apparently was immune from that, until now.
Some “YoVillians” are taking it hard and have started a grassroots campaign with more than 5,000 signatures to save YoVille. They’re threatening to boycott Zynga altogether if it doesn’t save the game.
“We, the undersigned, vow to stop playing ALL Zynga games if YoVille is shut down. Sell the game to another company if you have no interest in maintaining it, but do not just pull the plug. If you do, you will lose us completely as customers.”
We’ve asked Zynga for comment. Zynga told players in December 2012 that it was not shutting down YoVille. The players said they paid for VIP memberships on the basis of such promises. Tall Tree Games (now Big Viking Games) developed the game.
When individuals log in to YoVille now, they’ll see a notice from Zynga about the difficult decision to shut down the game. The San Francisco firm is offering to give them gifts of virtual goods, like a bag of fertilizer, that they can use in other Zynga games: FarmVille 2, Zynga Poker, and Hit It Rich! Casino Slots.
If Zynga is planning to close down the game, as it has told players in its forums, then it appears the company’s efforts to turn itself around are still facing challenges. Don Mattrick, former head of Microsoft’s games business, joined Zynga as CEO last summer, with founder Mark Pincus moving to chief product officer. Mattrick has followed through on cost-cutting plans, but he didn’t immediately cut titles like YoVille. But it looks like the old game has finally fallen.
In a statement, the company said, “Zynga recently made the tough decision to sunset YoVille so we can put more time and energy into developing new games for our players. Over the years YoVille developed a truly passionate community, and we thank our players for their dedication to the game. We look forward to delivering new and exciting social games that we hope our players will love playing with their friends and family as much as they loved YoVille.”
Mattrick has said in two past earnings calls that he is in the process of reassessing and resetting the company’s product pipeline and that Zynga is working on new projects.