One developer’s underperforming social game is another developer’s treasure.
Social-publisher Zynga revealed today that is letting developer Big Viking Games take over operations on the social-city simulator YoVille. The transfer will port all of the game’s history and account details over to Big Viking’s servers by May 12. This transition will also see it drop its “Ville” branding, as that belongs to Zynga. Big Viking Games will now call the sim YoWorld.
“Thank you again for your continued support of YoVille over the last five years,” reads a Zynga letter to fans. “We are proud to have Big Viking Games, the original creators of YoVille, take the game over and help sustain the communities that many of you have nurtured over the years. We can’t wait to see what they do with the game and look forward to hearing about your new experiences playing YoWorld.”
YoVille debuted on Facebook in 2008 just as Zynga was moving into the heart of the gaming craze on the social network. In January, the company revealed plans to shut down YoVille, which was not one of its strongest performers. The publisher wanted to focus its resources on potentially more profitable projects.
The fans of YoVille — called “YoVillians” — started protesting the closure on Facebook, and Big Viking Games stepped in to save the day.
In early March, Zynga revealed that it would halt landing the killing blow on YoVille while it discussed potentially selling it to the original development team. We’ve reached out to Zynga and Big Viking Games for details of their agreement. We’ve also asked Big Viking Games about its plans for YoWorld going forward. We’ll update this post with any new information.
Big Viking posted a note to its fans today thanking them for their support:
We are very pleased to announce that Big Viking Games has successfully negotiated the acquisition of YoVille! On May 12th, the game will go offline for roughly 24 hours while all the necessary information is transferred to us. When it comes back online, it will be in our hands and will be known as YoWorld from then on.
In short: #Save_YoVille status: COMPLETE!
This turn of events is without precedent, and it never could have happened without your endless support and campaigning. We are blown away by your love and devotion for the game, and the fact that you never gave up hope. You have truly shown us what the community is made of, and we at Big Viking Games are both proud and honored to be lucky enough to work with you in ushering in a new era of the game.
This isn’t the first time that something like this has happened. Last week, Disney sold three of its Playdom social titles to startup developer RockYou. That situation is slightly different, however, as RockYou was not the original developer of any of the games it acquired.
As YoWorld comes online, Zynga is still in a transitional phase of its own. After making millions of dollars as the one-time top developer on Facebook, the studio has struggled as the audience has moved on from social to mobile platforms. Since 2012, it has lost more than 100 million of its monthly active users (MAUs), and it only recently released FarmVille (its highest-profile property) on iOS and Android last week. The company is hoping that mobile will help get it back on top.
Yesterday, former Zynga chief executive officer Mark Pincus stepped away from day-to-day operations at the company. After nearly a year under new CEO Don Mattrick, the company also started to show some life in its latest financial earnings report largely due to the performance of its mobile apps.