Zynga, looking beyond Facebook, to launch its own game platform
Social games juggernaut Zynga Inc. has announced a slew of new products aimed at diversifying its business beyond Facebook and reaching even more consumers than the 142 million people who currently play its games.
In its first major announcement since declaring in July its intent to go public, the San Francisco company said Tuesday that it plans to launch a site separate from Facebook where players can congregate and play its games.
Dubbed "Project Z," the initiative is significant because it represents a major push by Zynga to divert players away from Facebook, whose 750 million active users have formed a rich pool of customers for Zynga. The new site would import players' Facebook contacts so users won't have to re-invite friends, officials said.
"Project Z is a Facebook Connect-enabled platform, giving you a tailored environment just for games," John Schappert, Zynga's chief operating officer, said at a news conference.
The move to expand beyond Facebook's site appears to have the social network's blessing. Facebook's head of games, Ethan Beard, was in attendance at Zynga's announcement.
Neither company would talk about how Zynga would share revenue from the players who migrate to Zynga's site from Facebook. Zynga currently shares with Facebook 30% of the sales it generates from games played on the popular social network.
Zynga also declined to disclose when it would launch the new site – except to say it would be “soon” -- or which games would be available on it.
The company, which has held off on its initial public offering of stock amid the stock market convulsions, also unveiled four new games -- CastleVille, Hidden Chronicles, Zynga Bingo and Dream Zoo. It also formed an umbrella franchise called Zynga Casino, which will encompass its popular Texas HoldEm poker game, Zynga Bingo and future casino games.
Zynga put the spotlight on CastleVille at the news conference, calling it "Zynga's most beautiful game to date." When launched it will join Zynga's popular suite of "Ville" games, including FarmVille, CityVille and FrontierVille, which attract 114 million players a month, according to AppData.com, a site that measures traffic on Facebook.
With higher production values and more sophisticated game features than those in Zynga’s first, simplistic titles launched four years ago, CastleVille boasts music played by a 75-piece orchestra, according to Bill Jackson, the game's general manager. The story-driven game also will have graphics that look more like Hollywood animated films than the cartoony style prevalent in its current lineup.
Overall, Zynga's lineup of new products is designed to cement the company's current dominance in the rapidly growing market for social games, said company Chief Executive, Mark Pincus.
"We're committed to one vision, one mission that hasn't changed, it won't change," Pincus said. "We want to be the biggest macro bet on social gaming."
-- Alex Pham
Photo: CEO Mark Pincus speaks at a Zynga event in San Francisco. Credit: Associated Press