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App Friday: Why isn’t CityVille on the iPhone or iPad?

Have you played CityVille yet? As its name implies, it’s from the same company (Zynga) that made Facebook game FarmVille. But if the very mention of that makes you start ranting about friends spamming you senseless with ‘lost cow’ messages, stop. CityVille is much better, and besides, Facebook took steps a while back to cut down on those annoying wall posts if you’re not playing the games in question.

Anyway, CityVille is great: a more cartoonish take on SimCity, except built around social aspects so your friends can not only visit your city (and vice versa), but can open up franchises of their shops, send you gifts and generally help you build a thriving metropolis. Speaking as someone who never got FarmVille, I can say that CityVille is a lot more fun. More than 100 million players agree with me, too.

But here’s a question: why can’t you play it on your iPhone or iPad? Last year, Zynga launched FarmVille for iOS, and later hired a new executive purely to focus on mobile. It seemed to herald a new age where the company would bring its biggest Facebook games to mobile devices, using Facebook Connect to make the games run across both platforms, letting you dip in from whatever device you wanted.

Sadly, this isn’t yet translating into simultaneous launches for new games like CityVille, which for now is playable on Facebook alone. The good news? You can bet an iOS version will be along sooner rather than later.

For the last two to three years, anyone talking about ‘social games’ has generally meant Facebook. However, in 2011, every major social games publisher is thinking hard about iOS, probably Android, and maybe some of the other smartphones too. The best social games are a.) really addictive, and b.) reward regular play – meaning the ability to dip in while away from a computer is top of the request list from players.

The trend will work the other way too. There’s a new breed of popular social games on iPhone and iPad, including Smurfs’ Village, Tap Zoo, World War, Zombie Farm, We Rule, Bakery Story, Pocket Frogs, Trade Nations and many more. They have millions of players between them, and are making enough money from in-app payments to dent the upper reaches of Apple’s Top Grossing Games chart, even though the initial download is free.

They’ll increasingly be looking to jump across to Facebook, for people who want to play on their computers as well as on their mobile devices. We’re not far off a time when launching a big new social game (like CityVille) will involve spanning Facebook and mobile from the start.


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