Zynga to shut down YoVille game

Zynga is shutting down YoVille, one of its oldest games.

The company informed players on Friday via one of its message boards that it plans to close the virtual world game on March 31. Zynga said it was shuttering the game to focus on developing new ones.

“We know game closures can be tough and we do not take the decision to sunset a game lightly,” the company said in a Web page giving answers to frequently asked questions about the closure.

Zynga is offering YoVille users a “bonus package” if they sign up for another of the company’s games.

Despite that effort to appease players, Zynga’s move disappointed many of them. Some players expressed their frustration with the company by formally pledging to boycott all Zynga games if the company carried through with its plans to shut down the site. As of midday Monday, the petition page on which players announced the boycott had more than 6,000 signatures.

“Sell the game to another company if you have no interest in maintaining it, but do not just pull the plug,” the petition read. “If you do, you will lose us completely as customers.”

Big Viking Games, which originally developed YoVille before selling it to Zynga, announced on its Facebook page that it had contacted the social gaming giant to express its interest in buying back YoVille.

“We appreciate the amazing community effort that YoVille players have put together,” Big Viking said its Facebook post. “We hope to be able to help if possible.”

The shutdown comes as Zynga is in the middle of a turnaround effort. The company’s revenue has slumped markedly over the last two years and it has posted frequent losses.

Over the last 18 months, Zynga has laid off workers into two major rounds of layoffs and has seen the departure of numerous executives. Last summer, it brought in former Electronic Arts and Microsoft executive Don Mattrick to be its new CEO to lead the turnaround effort.

Zynga acquired YoVille from Big Viking in 2008 At the time, it had some 150,000 active users. By the next year, it ranked among Zynga’s top three games in terms of sales generated, accounting for 11 percent of the company’s total revenue.

But the site was the subject to a hacking attack two years ago that compromised some users accounts. More recently, some users have complained that Zynga had ceased updating the site regularly with certain features unavailable for months.

Photo of Zynga founder Mark Pincus courtesy of the company.

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (256 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.